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  • Writer's pictureJenn Bakos

Images From the Road | USA & Canada Road Trip 2017

“Open spaces, quiet places, and allowing the mind to drift past the chaos to return to what is important. There are a few things that really matter in life, and a whole lot of things that don’t. It’s places like these that help to distinguish between the two.” – Elise Sterck 

Oh what a year it has been! It’s really gone by so fast and I haven’t had much time to get much up on the blog but something big that I accomplished this summer was my second cross country road trip. Due to some illness I had to cut the trip shorter than I had meant to, but I was still really thankful I could go at all. (If you haven’t seen my posts from my first road trip, here’s one, two and three.)

In what seemed to be a quick 3 weeks, I had driven many miles and through many different climates and landscapes. My friend Anne came with me for 2 weeks, which was great! It was nice to have some one to share the experiences with, especially the ups and downs haha. We defintiley kept each other laughing!

Our journey began in Cambridge, MA and we headed west through upstate NY and into Canada. We wanted to stop at Niagara Falls and then make our way over to Michigan through our country to the north!

Michigan was so much more than we expected. We traveled there knowing little about what we would find and experience but quickly realized it was a place we would need to come back to!

A lot of the trip was planned on a whim, and ended up being more than we hoped for! The small town of Ely, Minnesota was some what in the middle of nowhere. It was surrounded by national forests on all sides, little development, and no cell service, but once you got into Ely, it was magic. The little town had such big personality and an incredible sense of community. We went to a couple cafes, a farmers’ market, and an ice cream hut and we still talk about how great it was to this day. Something about those small towns…and we would have never known about it if I hadn’t booked us a campsite up there on just the thought alone that the surrounding area would be really beautiful. We were not wrong!

The great lakes were unreal and crystal clear! They reminded us of Maine in a lot of ways, but just a little different. We have plans to return one day!

We trekked west toward the Dakotas and noticed miles of sunflower fields. We couldn’t help but stop for a few photos as the sun was setting!

Upon reaching the Dakotas, the landscape really started to change. Up until then it really could have looked like anywhere in New England but out here our eyes and brains got to experience new views!

We arrived to Badlands National Park at sunset and the colors amongst the pale rock formations took our breath away. I also dropped one of my lenses down this hill which incredibly survived with out a scratch. Yikes!

Cool nights and warm days. The desert-like ecosystem was something we weren’t used to back home. We did a 5 or 6 mile hike around the canyons that day and it was just beautiful. Badlands is great because it’s so different and there’s not as many tourists (at least when we were there) so you get some time alone and have plenty of parking ;) It’s quiet and gorgeous and I had so much fun photographing it.

After the Badlands it was time to head to some real elevation. Our sights were set on Grand Teton National Park and we were excited to experience some cooler weather. We were a little worried that the visibility would be limited due to the many forest fires that threatened the area over the summer. I also remember this as being the longest drive of our trip (something around 12 hours) and my car overheating. Such is life on the road!

The Grand Tetons excited us! We hiked around Jenny Lake with the tallest peaks looming above us with snow patches and jagged rocks. Due to the rain storms the day and night before, we actually had decent views. We enjoyed the hike looking at different flora as well as contemplating the different types of birds that flew in and out. We even saw the happiest marmot sunbathing on a fallen tree. The best.

After Teton we made a brief stop in Yellowstone and then headed for Glacier National Park. The rockies never cease to amaze and Montana remains one of my favorite states in our Country. Open spaces, tall mountains, wildlife, and the ever present elements and delicate balance of preparing for a long winter.

While we camped most of the way, some places threatened with harsh weather and we got lucky enough to snag a cozy cabin.

Glacier showed us the ever present cycle of wind, rain, and fire.

If you ever go to the rockies, I encourage you to keep following them north. Canada has SO much beauty to offer that I really would have never known about if it weren’t for social media. Yes, seems silly, but Instagram actually made me aware of the glorious National Parks that exist up there. Banff National Park and Jasper National Park. Both with many glaciers, peeks and the iconic teal blue lakes. (Also lots of forest fire smoke at that point in time)

The smoke from fires was at it’s worst in Jasper National Park. I have vowed to return to the Icefields Parkway because I know there was so much to see that could not be seen! I was so excited to be driving through this area but the smoke was so thick it was nearly impossible. A place that was voted one of the best routes to drive was under a thick haze. At one point we got out of the car and it smelled like we were literally in the fire..even though it was many, many kilometers away. It has been a rough year for forest fires. I was still in awe at what I was seeing so I can only imagine how emotional I’d be on a clear day in these places. Until next time!

On our last day in Canada we had to make a little trip to go apple picking because it was still summer in our minds but autumn in our hearts! Upon returning home we wouldn’t be apple picking for weeks so we wanted to go for it. The farm was also home to one of my favorite food bloggers (@kelsey_thefarmersdaughter) and it was wonderful to actually meet her in person and chat a bit about food and photography! She was the sweetest!

Next up was Mount Rainier National Park. An iconic park full of beauty! We took a trip to the Grove of the Patriarchs to walk amongst the giant trees. We commented on how it felt old and full of wisdom. A great spot to meditate. Survival against the elements.

We took a loop trail with amazing views of the snow covered volcano which had an incredible contrast against the colorful alpine flowers below.

And finally, we hit the West Coast. Golden and beautiful.

“If you’re really listening, if you’re awake to the poignant beauty of the world, your heart breaks regularly. In fact your heart is made to break; it’s purpose is to burst open again and again so that it can hold even more wonder.” – Andrew Harvey

After camping on the ocean, seeing the dark sky with millions of stars, experiencing the hype of the eclipse, and dining in Seattle, it was time for Anne to head back to Boston and for me to begin the trek back east. I was sad to see my friend go but I was happy to have spent the last few weeks with her and then to spend some time alone on the road with my thoughts.

Onward to the Grand Canyon.

There’ a ton of hype and expectation when it comes to the grand canyon and I wasn’t sure if it would be disappointing when I actually saw it with my own eyes. It. Was. Not. It is every bit of exciting and amazing as you would think. To really see that it is as big as it is and know it exists is really something. I only had a short time there but it was just unreal to see how magnificent it truly was!

Heading away from the Canyon, I wanted to stop in Monument Valley, which I missed out on my last trip due to time constraints. This time though, I had made a point to include it and though I was in a rush, got to my campsite at night, slept on the hard ground, and experienced some tough heat, the sunrise I got the morning waking up there was perfection and made it all worth it. The iconic views I had only seen in photographs on a screen for so long came to life and I was so happy I had made it there.

As much as I loved the desert beauty, the lush greens and little rain showers of Colorado were such a welcomed experience! I also quickly stopped at another place I had wanted to visit for some time…Great Sand Dunes National Park. Such a strangely wonderful place. Just a bunch of sand dunes at the foot of the Rockies. Want to feel like you’re on a different planet? Go there! I got there a little after sunrise and was excited to take pictures with the sun and shadows of the hills. The contrast of the sand and blue sky made for some great images. I had so much fun walking this and didn’t want to leave!

Back to the East I went and drove through the Smokey Mountains and Shenandoah National Park. It was lush and green and windy switchbacks. Lots of deer and elk and streams. At the time I was listening to the book A Walk In the Woods so the timing was perfect. Another beautiful area I didn’t spend enough time in, but very much want to come back to. I stayed in a little AirBnB in North Carolina with views of the mountains and in it’s own little quiet woodsy town. The owners were naturalists and passionate about conservation land. They were also working on building up a goat milk farm and left me some goat cheese and goat milk caramel sauce. More reason to love Airbnb!

And just as quickly as I had left, I was back home again and I was thrusted into a crazy busy month of photography, weddings, and end of summer fun. It was good to be home but I’ll always love the freedom of the open road. //


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