If you have read our guide on how to backpack in the US National Parks, you already know Couchsurfing is not only a mere website you can use to find a place to crash and spend some memorable time with locals, no. Remember we last told you we were having a blast in Vegas with Kim and Brandy? All good things come to an end and we had to start thinking about what our next step would be. Out of ideas, Lily scrolled through the “Las Vegas event” section on Couchsurfing.
“A Roundtrip – Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce…“ That sounded interesting. The event was summarized as quoted here:
Sitting in a car while someone drives and visiting National Parks? Sounded like something we could do.
Neven (25, Bulgarian), Hilton (27, Chilean) and Rocinante (28, Japanese) picked us up from our temporary home in Vegas on a sunny Monday morning.
Before telling you about our roadtrip, let’s clarify some things:
The Oxford Dictionary defines roadtrip as the following: “A journey made by car, bus, etc.”
Let’s all agree to disagree here for a second. We unquestionably believe that whoever wrote the definition of a roadtrip never actually went on a roadtrip.
Let’s pretend the dictionary was like Wikipedia where you can freely edit definitions; this would be ours:
“Small, old, smelly car transporting tall young smelly travelers eating too much crisps and candy”
Yeah. That sounds about right.
Only 5 minutes after we met we were facing our first challenge as a team; trying to fit everything and everyone in the car. We rearranged things, unpacked, repacked, left some things behind and the magic happened. You could almost believe Marry Poppins had helped us along the way.
We hopped in that complete stranger’s car without thinking twice, gladly swapping the miles of walking into miles of driving.
Now that everyone was sitting almost comfortably, we were ready to see if Rocinante could face her challenge of the day: start and, preferably, drive. Neven inserted the key. Click, tired stutter. Engine dies. “Don’t worry; she does that all the time!” That’s some reassurance.. All right, second attempt. Key turning, tired stutter… Start! And drive we did, to the grocery store.
When we were packing up for groceries, Neven really intrigued us with his love for vegetables; he was on a whole new level: lettuce, avocado, carrots, chickpeas, tomatoes, … He took it all.
Back in the car on our way to Zion National Park, everyone introduced himself. From the very beginning we both made it clear to Neven and Hilton that we were a lot of fun. We slept. Within the first hour. Like that. Nope, no shame. Just zzzZZleepinezzZZzzZzZzzzZ.
We quickly figured everyone had something in common with someone else. Neven and Lily shared pants. Lily shared a particular talent for frisbee with Hilton (Neven, I hope you read that. F*** you. Love – Lily) Kenzi and Hilton shared an obsession for food. Neven and Hilton shared a passion for The Beatles. Kenzi and Neven shared a way of fixing world hunger. Kenzi and Lily shared well, a tent.
We also learned about everyone’s weird habits. Neven likes to analyze every single ingredient of bread. Hilton, on the contrary, couldn’t care less. As long as it looked like bread, he would stuff it in his mouth from breakfast to dinner. He likes to tell everyone it’s a Chilean habit but we suspect him of broadly generalizing it to make it look as if there’s nothing wrong with him. Kenzi likes to sleep and eat snacks in-between his naps and if Lily could, she would make everyone eat dry pasta 24/7 to make the whole trip cheaper.
Neven and Hilton wanted to see as many National Parks as possible in 7 days, so to the parks we raced! We would usually drive to a park, hike, find a free spot to pitch our tents, hike again in the morning if possible then drive to the next park. In between that busy agenda we took occasional frisbee breaks.
Zion National Park was our first stop. We had forgotten it was spring break and seeing that many parked cars surprised us all. The two of us were so used to wandering by ourselves on the Arizona Trail that hiking the excessively packed Angel’s Landing trail even felt disturbing. But the thrilling and strenuous hike up to the top was well worth feeling like a hoard of sheep pushed through the fields by a herder.
We then drove all the way to Bryce Canyon. Call it vanilla-chocolate ice-cream wonderland. The fascinating rock formations have an intriguing resemblance to little towers of vanilla ice-cream topped with chocolate – which is red rock. Can you see what we mean? Okay, maybe we were just too hungry.
During our cooking ritual at the end of the day we talked about finding a place to sleep and Kenzi came up with an ‘amazing’ idea.
“We can sleep in the toilet!” Everyone raised their eyebrows, looked at Kenzi thinking “What the hell is wrong with this guy?” and returned to their cooking chores, pretending they hadn’t heard him.
“Guys, I am serious, let’s sleep in the toilet” Kenzi repeated. It was no joke; he really wanted to sleep in the toilets. We all thought it was really funny.
“But seriously, it’s warm in there and we can put our mattresses on the floor.”
He made a pretty good point. It was warm in the toilets and freezing cold outside.
“And finding a camping spot now will be hard.”
Another point made. It was really late, really dark and we didn’t know where we could camp for free. As inviting as Rocinante was, it was impossible for the four of us to sleep in the car.
The joke turned into a “maybe we should do this” discussion. At first we thought about the four of us sleeping there together, but Neven being afraid his car could be towed if he left it parked within the National Park boundaries, he and Hilton took Rocinante and went sleeping in her, outside of the park. And this is how the two of us ended up sleeping in the toilet of a National Park.
We set up our sleeping pads and bags, locked the door and went to bed, ready to enjoy our long, warm and comfy night of sleep. And the stress and tension started popping into our heads. “What if someone comes?” The door was locked, that was ok. “What if a ranger finds us there?”
Luckily, nobody did besides the inebriated janitor coming in at 6AM and literally walking over our stuff before realizing we just spent the night there and telling us in a very demented voice to get the hell out of the toilet.
After seeing Zion and Bryce we didn’t believe the landscapes could become better. But the beauty escalated from gorgeous to mouth-dropping. Canyonlands was like no other place we had ever seen. And because a picture is worth a thousand words – and we already wrote too many – we’ll just share a picture with you.
Heading to Flagstaff, we concluded our Park Race with Arches National Park with, you guessed it, plenty of naturally formed arches and finally Monument Valley.