America The Beautiful Day 1: Zion National Park

It’s hard to believe that 2015 is more than half over, and that I have been writing this blog for almost a year! Although posts have been more sporadic than I like, I continue to write and share this digital diary in hopes that it may inspire you to get out and explore locally or abroad.

As I look back at my Creating Travel Abundance post, it’s thrilling to see all of the wonderful adventures I have taken this year. The last several years I did not make exploring or travel a priority, and my Happy Index was low, real low. Even through some life changes, financial woes and other roadblocks, I have fulfilled every trip on the list, as well as some local adventures to the beach, camping, and visiting friends. I am grateful to all my people that have contributed in many ways to making these adventures possible.

I have just returned from {another} epic road trip, this time with my sister, through the southwest. When plans were falling into place to gather in Las Vegas for her husband’s 40th birthday in July, she suggested a sister road trip a week before the celebrations. Her tireless planning resulted in routing out our trip through Nevada, Arizona, and Utah, reserving unique sleeping arrangement including cowboy cabins and covered wagons, and EPIC road trip play list, and insuring we were always knee deep in adventure.

Zion National Park

DAY ONE: We arrived at LAS and picked up our rental car, then headed to Walmart {yes, I know} to stock up on hiking essentials– fruit, trail mix, granola bars, water -and I’m sure there was some candy and booze thrown in the shopping cart too- a quick stop for burritos, and we were off! 20150712_140933

We traveled Interstate-15 through the Moapa Indian Reservation and the winding Virgin River Gorge, noticing dramatic changes in the landscape the further east we drove. Rugged and impressive rock formations surrounded us, ever-changing in size and color. IMG_1803-01

As we neared Zion, a one-word road sign caused us to pullover. Grafton. This name triggered a 10 minute online search that confirmed my sister’s excitement: ghost town. We turned around and drove over the one-lane bridge, and up a sun bleached dirt road, negotiating pot holes and steep inclines. 20150712_170048-01

Grafton Cemetery


Established in 1859 as an agricultural settlement a la Brigham Young, the town experienced severe floodings, illness, and alleged Indian attacks. The last resident left in 1944, and today visitors can navigate the small town and its remaining buildings, learning bits of history from plaques located throughout.

Our whip, in all her glory, enjoying the open road

As our surroundings became more sheer and prominent, we decided to put the top down on our Mustang convertible– did I forget to mention, that was our sweet ride for the week??– We slowly drove through the twisting, turning switch-backs through the park, catching flashes of wild rabbits, lizards, and big horn sheep scurrying into the brush.


With our unobstructed view, we could fully embrace the magnitude of the giant sand and lime stone walls towering over us. The park forms part of the Colorado Plateau, and over millions of years, water, wind, erosion and sedimentation have contributed to the landscape seen today. 20150712_164127-0120150713_070401-01

Pioneer Wagons– electricity not included!

In wide-eyed appreciation, we made our way to Zion Ponderosa Ranch and settled in to our pioneer wagon.

Meta star gazing

We ended that first night of our sister road trip star gazing and sipping whiskey, allowing that understated energy found only in the desert, to take us over.

*All photos belong to Graveyard Shift Travel and Beth Olson Creative*

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