Roadtrip from Montreal to Santa Cruz

September 2013

Day 1: Montreal, QC -> Ann Arbor, MI

We left Quebec, drove through Ontario, crossed the boarded in Detroit, and stayed in Ann Arbor, Michigan. It was a 12 hour drive, including food stops, bathroom breaks, and getting really lost at the end.

Day 2: Ann Arbor, MI -> Sioux Falls, SD

Overall this was not the best day. It was a 14 hour drive and it was wicked hot/humid. BUT we did stop to see one thing that was super cool: the world’s largest fireworks store! This was somewhere in Indiana.

We asked them how they knew it was the world’s largest fireworks store. They said they just had a feeling.

Our car was riding pretty low (must have been all the fireworks)!

We stopped for dinner in the Walmart parking lot. We thought the candle was a nice touch. Really we just desperately wanted the drive to end and we didn’t feel like doing a long detour to find a restaurant.

Day 3: Sioux Falls, SD -> Badlands National Park, Interior, SD

We woke up at sunrise and packed up camp. We stayed at a Yogi Bear campsite. I think we were the only tent!

As we were driving, we must have sign several hundred kilometres of billboards advertising the Mitchel Corn Palace, Mitchel, SD. We had to stop and check it out. It was pretty much a building with murals made out of corn. We also stopped by the Wall Drugs shopping centre and Dmitriy got a big camping knife and I got a water skein.

This is the original corn palace, built in 1892.

We got to the Badlands! This has to be one of the coolest places I’ve ever been to.

We found a fossilized jaw bone! We told the park rangers and they told us it was an oreodont jaw. Oreodonts’ most closely related extant relatives are camels and pigs.

For some perspective on size:

At some point, I picked up a rock and realized that when I shook it, it rattled. This is what was inside:

We camped at a KOA near Interior (the closest town to the park). Interior has a population of 67. This is the town jail:

At night we made a big bonfire and looked at the stars.

Day 4: Badlands National Park, Interior, SD

We did the Castle Trail (16km). We ran the first half.

We took a break and found more fossils! Inlcuding a seashell and an oreodont skull (below). Dmitriy was super excited to have his photo taken (ha).

After the Castle Trail we were exhausted. We drove to a scenic look out spot to catch the sunset.

Day 5: Badlands National Park, Interior, SD -> Golden, CO 

We left the Badlands at sunrise via the scenic route.

We popped out of the car to look at the prairie dogs. They were super loud! Also, apparently they can carry sylvatic plague and there were warning signs up about it being present in local rodent populations.

We took a detour to see Mt Rushmore.

After Mt Rushmore we headed for Lakewood/Golden. The tree main highways were flooded and closed so we had to take these weird small roads through farm land. We got super lost, and at times were on dirt roads so flooded we were worried our car would get stuck! Here is a photo we took once we were finally in Colorado on a real highway – we’re pretty sure this was usually forest land with no water.

Day 6: Golden, CO

We climbed the mesa in back of one of Dmitriy’s old homes.

We visited Golden.

And Red Rocks. Unfortunately we couldn’t go into the amphitheater because there was a concert that night.


There was this hole in the rocks that looks like a sunset. I think it is pretty cool.

Day 7: Golden, CO -> Arches National Park, Moab, UT

We went to Arches National Park and got there just after a thunderstorm had passed through. We wished we had gotten some rain because it was very hot.

This was the only way to get us both in the photo with the arch, and is one of our favourite photos from the trip.

We hiked the Devil’s Garden trail. The end point is the Double Arch. We both climbed up on the side to go stand on top!

This photo was taken with a self-timer, and it was one heck of a sprint!

We got to Moab in the late afternoon, but wanted to see as much as possible so we went hiking anyways. The return portion of our hike was done in the dark. The moon was soon bright there were shadows, and there were a million stars out.

Day 8: The Sand Flats and Canyonlands National Park, Moab, UT

Us in front of a crater. The following image is of a sign explaining theories as to how it formed.

We have a lot of nice photos of Canyonlands… however, this is what the day actually felt like. It was insanely hot and you couldn’t find shade anywhere! I’m not entirely sure why, but I didn’t really like Canyonlands very much. My best theory is that the scale is so huge that it is hard to appreciate or really feel like you are a part of it.

After Canyonlands we went to the sand flats outside Moab. It was a very worth-while trip, and if we ever go back to Moab we want to spend more time there, possibly biking around. There were a lot of bike paths and it looked super fun!

Once the sun started to set, the colour of the rocks changed. It was incredible! These two photos must have been taken only ten minutes apart and reflect the real colouring (no photoshop or anything).

Day 9: Moab, UT -> Lake Powell, Page, AZ

En route to Page we passed through the Valley of the Gods. There were such strange rock formations and vast expanses of fields. On either side of the highway there are barbed wire fences because it is Navajo land, and if you cross it is tresspassing and punishable by tribal law.

We stayed on Lone Rock Beach near Page, on Lake Powell. It is a primitive camping site. There were some strange reviews about it online that we read before the trip, but we loved it! It was super refreshing to be somewhere with cool water after being in the desert for so long, and we were also very tired from setting a gruelling travel schedule. Lake Powell was supposed to be a little rest stop.

We pitched our tent, went for a dip, played soccer on the beach, and watched the sun set.

Most of the photos that I post are devoid of crowds but they don’t always reflect reality. This is a very popular RV camping site. Our tent was at the far end of all the RVs, so we had a bit of privacy.

Day 10: Antelope Canyon and Lake Powell, Page, AZ

I played around with the sand while waiting for Dmitriy to get up. It was just past sunrise.

We went on a tour of Antelope Canyon. It is on Navajo land so you can’t just go on your own. The tours need to be booked several days in advance during off season and way in advance during the peak tourist season. For a narrow range of days in the spring, the light comes in just perfectly and illuminates the canyon with rays of light.



After seeing Antelope Canyon, we went back to our campsite ready to relax and enjoy the rest of the day. This photo is my favourite one of the trip!

We made a little tent to hide from the sun and had lunch under there. We had a whole watermelon :)

Then a sand storm struck. The sand is very fine so it blows EVERYWHERE (including through the holes in the fabric of our tent), and both the tent and the car were too hot to hang out in. We were grumpy.

Day 11: Page, AZ -> Grand Canyon National Park, Grand Canyon, AZ

We arrived at the Grand Canyon!

We spent the day wandering around on the South Rim. We saw some interesting flora.


We saw the Colorado River winding through the canyon. It’s hard to believe that such a seemingly small body of river carved out the entire canyon.

Our trusty tent.

We wanted to go to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and back up again in the same day. We woke before sunrise to get to the trail head super early. We ran most of the way down and brought something insane like 10L of water. There are warning signs everywhere saying not to do this because people die every year from heat stroke and dehydration.

I could not get over the cacti.

VICTORY!!! We made it down to the bottom in 2h10min and spent some time at the bottom swimming, snacking, and exploring. Wow was the water cold! It is strange since its coming through very hot desert to get here.

I loved this view.

We made it back up by mid-afternoon. We were very tired. Our roundtrip time was 5h30min not including time spent at the bottom and our lunch break at Indian Gardens. This must be one of the absolute best hikes ever, and the perfect way to wrap up our road trip!

Day 12+

My camera died, which is okay since the Grand Canyon was our last landmark on the schedule. We made it to Santa Cruz a day or two later.