A Southwestern Road Trip
35mm Film Photos and Text by Jackie Barry
My girlfriend Gwen and I have accidentally turned the Balloon Fiesta into a yearly tradition. We went last year and had so much fun that we wanted to go again this year, but take our time getting there.
Here is a guide on how to get to the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta the long way.
The first stop of our 3-week trip was Moab. We got to Arches just in time for some stunning sunset views in the Windows portion of the park, near the main entrance.
After staying in a shoddy little campsite lot in town, the next morning we woke up early to seek out a favorite camping spot at Dead Horse Canyon some friends back in Denver clued us in on. It quite easily topped the list for me of “Coolest Places I’ve Ever Slept.”
After setting up camp and filling our tent with rocks to make sure we didn’t come back to our tent having blown in the canyon, we set out to explore more of Arches.
After a long day of hiking in the hot desert sun, hotdogs, sauteed veggies and beer is the perfect finale. Oh, and the 2,000 ft tall canyon is okay too.
The next morning, we started off to Lake Powell, about a 5 hour drive, where Gwen’s family is.
Lake Powell was unlike any other lake I’d ever swam in. Growing up going to the lakes of the northeast; Lake George, Lake Winnipesaukee — I was used to seeing lush greenery, forest, and murky water. The stark contrast of the white/tannish rock faces against the bright blue water was absolutely breathtaking, and certainly a welcome oasis in the southern Utah/northern Arizona desert.
We camped that night about 30 miles outside of Bryce at Kodachrome Basin State Park.
From there, there’s a gap in the story, as we headed all the way down to Phoenix/Tempe/Cave Creek to spend a few days in the warm beds of our family’s houses.
After catching up with relatives and being spoiled by their generosity, we headed north to Prescott, AZ to spend more time with friends.
Hiking Thumb Butte, a quick and dreamy 1.75 mile hike that allows you to look over all of Prescott and Prescott National Forest.
From Prescott, we headed to our final destination, Albuquerque.
We went last year for the International Balloon Fiesta and had so much fun that it became the impetus for our entire road trip this year. For those of you who haven’t been, I highly recommend it. Nowhere else have I been where I’ve witnessed so many adults, mouths agape, staring at the sky in complete childlike amazement. It’s refreshing.
That said – – 2 years of the Fiesta, 0 years of actually getting in a hot air balloon. 3rd year’s a charm?
After a few days of wishing we had our own hot air balloon, it was time to head back to our home, Colorado.
On our way home to Denver, we camped in Great Sand Dunes National Park. Piñon Flats Campground in the park offers over 80 campsites which makes for better chances of snagging one of their first-come, first-served spots, especially in the off-season.
Cheers to your own meandering adventures.
Photos (C) 2015 Jackie Barry
Jackie Barry draws, illustrates, photographs, screen prints, and creates textiles. She is inspired by the hand made and tactile, as well as the artistic community in her city of Denver, Colorado. She is the co-founder of Front Range Flag Co., where she makes custom flags and pennants celebrating Colorado and the great outdoors. You can follow along through her social media accounts: