Southwestern Explorations

The second part of our vacation was a road trip to visit some of the amazing national parks in the Southwest. I was excited to visit these parks as I had wanted to explore them for a long time, and I finally had the opportunity to do so.

Day 1

The first park we visited was Joshua Tree National Park.


We left early in the morning from San Pedro to get to the park. After leaving the traffic of Los Angeles, the roads became much more relaxing to drive. When we got to the park, Jun and I had fun exploring the Joshua trees and the rock formations there. We both enjoyed walking around them without having to deal with other people and just simply explore the unique landscape. It was really beautiful and serene. While we were a bit early, we also did get to see the start of the wildflowers blooming at the park.

After a few hours there we soon were on our way to northern Arizona to get to the Grand Canyon. It was strikingly different from Joshua Tree. When we got there in the evening it was significantly colder with snow on the ground. We were quite glad when we got to our room and turned on the heat!

Day 2

Jun and I woke up early so we could start our exploration of the Grand Canyon. When we got inside the park we soon found our way to Mather Point and were awed at the natural beauty before us. All the pictures and videos of the Grand Canyon only capture an iota of the magnificence of this place.

Jun and I soon started to walk around the southern rim and enjoyed the vistas we saw there. We also had a bit of fun with the snow.

For the rest of the morning and most of the afternoon we continued our explorations of the park before ending our visit at the Desert View Watchtower. The inside of the watchtower was beautiful with the Native American murals, and the views from the area were great. It was a nice way to end our visit before our next destination.

From the Grand Canyon we drove to Page, Arizona. The drive there was nice and we soon arrived at the town. We initially had wanted to visit Horseshoe Bend outside of the town, but when we arrived at the entrance we saw that there was construction going on and we weren’t sure if we were allowed to visit. We decided to first go to our hotel and then do a bit of research.

After getting into our room, we searched online and found that there was indeed construction going on at Horseshoe Bend that required parking some distance from the site and then taking a bus. That system, however, ceased operations at 5:00, but it was possible after 5:00 to try to find a parking spot in the construction area and hike to the site. I was skeptical that we would be able to make it in time before sunset, but Jun was optimistic that we should try.


When we got there we had to wait to find a parking spot. We got lucky that someone was leaving just as we started to try to find a spot and we were soon walking to see Horseshoe Bend. The area is beautiful, and we got to experience a wonderful sunset. We also discovered that there were a lot of flying insects there during that time of day. Even with them annoying us it was a great way for us to end our day.

Day 3

We started the day by going to Antelope Slot Canyon Tours by Chief Tsosie in Page for a tour of Antelope Canyon. A little after we checked-in, we were soon in our van headed towards the canyon. Our tour guide took us through the slot canyon. It was really neat to see the play of light on the canyon walls. While there was a lot of people visiting the canyon, it was still a remarkable place.

After returning to Page, we had a quick lunch and soon found ourselves back on the road on our way to California. On the way we drove through Zion National Park on the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway and spent a bit of time enjoying the beauty there. Since we were trying to get to Barstow at a reasonable hour, we didn’t spend too much time at Zion. As we drove through the park we did stop at a number of spots to wander a bit before continuing our drive.

We ended our day in Barstow to get ready for our next adventure the next day.

Day 4

Death Valley National Park was our destination for this day. As soon as we got to Stovepipe Wells Village, we sought a place to have lunch. We ended up at Badwater Saloon for a simple lunch since the power was out. The wraps we had ended up being quite tasty and was healthy as well. So a good way to prepare for the rest of the day at the park.

From Stovepipe we went to the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes. This place was really fun to walk around. It was a calming place. Trying to walk up and around the dunes required a slower pace to ensure we kept our footing.

From the sand dunes we drove out towards Harmony Borax Works. We walked around the area and learned a bit more about the industrial history of Death Valley National Park. Borax was one of the few natural resources that early Californians could develop for profit, but it still didn’t have a long history in Death Valley.

From there we took a drive through Artists Drive to see Artists Palette and the different colored rock formations of the area. It was a nice drive, and Jun was able to tell me of similar places in China.

The last thing we did that day was to take a hike through Golden Canyon. We hiked for at least a mile and half before we turned around. During that hike we enjoyed the play of the late afternoon sunlight on the canyon walls.

As we drove back to Barstow, we were treated to a beautiful sunset near Owens Lake. That was a nice way to end our day.


Day 5

Our last day in the United States before flying to Colombia. Since we didn’t have to get to LAX before 5:00, we decided to have an easy day by spending it around the Miracle Mile. We first went to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art for lunch and to go around the outdoor sculptures. One of the sculptures we saw was Chris Burden’s Urban Light. We then went to the Farmers Market and the adjoining Grove to do some shopping and to enjoy some ice cream from Bennett’s Ice Cream.

Afterwards we walked back to our car and then went to the airport to begin the next part of our trip. So far our trip had been amazing, and we were excited for the next leg of our journey.


A Southern California Spring

Two weeks into my two month break from work, Jun and I started our month-long trip in Los Angeles.


Our flight into LA went smoothly and we even arrived early. Our plane, however, had to wait 20 minutes before we could park at our gate. When we did disembark we then had to wait for about an hour to pass through immigration. All this waiting occurred near midnight; Jun and I just wanted to go to sleep. Everyone was professional and kind to us throughout the whole process. It was just tedious to wait.

After we had gotten our bags, we went straight to pick-up our rental car—still another line to wait—and then off to our hotel in San Pedro. When we got there our check-in was quick and we were soon in our room asleep.

Day 1

After a nice long sleep, Jun and I started our trip to Los Angeles by going to the Getty Museum. We first had to traverse the LA road system to get there. This experience would be the first of many on the reality of driving in LA. When we got there we were amazed at how beautiful the grounds of the Getty Center were. The natural beauty combined with the architectural beauty of the various buildings created a tranquil place to spend a few hours. Jun and I wandered around the place and enjoyed our time there. I especially enjoyed experiencing Vincent van Gogh’s Irises.

From the Getty Museum we then drove down to Santa Monica to spend the afternoon near the ocean. We had a late lunch at Azulé Taqueria and then walked around the area. We went to the pier and walked along the beach until sunset. It was a nice way to start our trip.

We finished the day with a seafood dinner at a really nice restaurant—Cassia—before heading back to our hotel and calling it a day.

Day 2

Out second full day in LA we experienced more of the touristy things of LA and we ended up going to Hollywood Boulevard in the morning. We first parked our car near Hollywood Boulevard and then walked the area for a bit. We saw the TCL Chinese Theatre and the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

After experiencing Hollywood we took the metro into downtown LA. We first went to grab some lunch at Grand Central Market and then took a walk to see the Walt Disney Concert Hall. From there we crossed the street and visited the Broad. The Broad had a nice collection of contemporary art and it was a nice visit.

We then walked down to the Last Bookstore to wander around the stacks. I had to reign myself in from buying all the books that I wanted to buy. From there we walked past city hall into Little Tokyo. After perusing the area we went to Union Station to take the metro back to Hollywood to get back to our car.

From Hollywood we drove up to Griffith Observatory and hiked around the area to see the Hollywood sign and experience the super bloom there. We then went and visited the observatory until sunset and the wonderful views of Los Angeles from Griffith Park.

After sunset we went back to San Pedro and picked up a pizza and watched TV in our room before calling it a night.

Day 3

On our third day we went into Orange County to visit Mission San Juan Capistrano. The mission was beautiful and the gardens were blooming in the spring weather. Jun and I really liked how they have preserved the historic mission since Spanish colonial times to the present. Afterwards, we walked around the town and had lunch at Bueno Bueno Mexican Kitchen. The town itself was quite lovely.

The rest of the day was spent looking for a pair of shoes Jun saw at a J.Crew in Santa Monica. He decided in the day since we had been there that he would like to purchase them. As a result, we went to a J.Crew near San Juan Capistrano. We went there and they didn’t have the size Jun needed, so we then went to another one where we did find the right size. We then did a bit more shopping there.

After we had finished that bit of shopping, we went back to San Pedro and ended up watching sunset at Point Fermin Park. It was a really beautiful way to end the day.

And that essentially ended the first part of the trip. The next day we began a road trip around the Southwest to visit different national parks and other sites for the remainder of our time in the U.S. before we flew to South America.