M I D W E S T A M E R I C A
R O A D T R I P
by Francesco Camillo
I grew up watching many of Sergio Leone’s spaghetti western movies set in the desolate lands of the Mid West. This region was always on the top of my list of places to visit. Traveling through the United States is an experience that feeds your imagination in many different ways. This is a journey through the vastness and emptiness of the valleys of the American Far West where old memories can come to your mind in every direction you take.
We started with the incredible diversity of landscapes that Death Valley offers; giant sand dunes, never-ending salt lakes, painted hills and the darkest skies that you can witness. We were not aware we were passing through the lowest area in the United States - the roads were so straight and the perception of changing levels was basically annulled until we started to drive through the mountains of Nevada, Arizona, and Utah. The Valley of Fire was our next stop, a must-see visit if you are close to Las Vegas. These incredible rock formations really turn red for few seconds during sunrise and sunset. You can’t miss this show, whether you are a photographer or a nature lover. The more we drove towards the east and the more the topography changed. The horizon was hidden by giant mountain peaks until we got to Zion National Park, an incredible mix of grey big mountains and green forests bonded together by the majestic Virgin River that flows throughout the valley. Bear in mind this park requires several days to explore it properly. An early wake that put us back on the road towards Bryce Canyon. This place exceeded our expectations and the last few patches of snow melting created an even more impressive panorama. It was completely covered by these incredible works of art by Nature called “hoodoos”, some giant stack of thin rocks which looked like they were about to fall at any moment. The weather conditions here were pretty rough, with cold temperatures and strong winds, but this did not hinder our experience.
Once we arrived at Page, in Arizona, we felt we had entered the desert that made many movies famous. After a compulsory stop at Horseshoe Bend and Antelope Canyon, we finally arrived in the land of the “Buttes”, also called Monument Valley, and here we were captured by another magical vibe which surrounded us. We could not stop imagining John Wayne, trotting on his horse over the plains in search of new adventures. The landscape is so flat and so beautifully characterized by these rock formations that you can try using as many lenses as you wish, pointed to the same direction, that you’ll always obtain a different spectacular shot.
The last two stops of our journey were meant to be the Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, but we decided to have a quick trip down to New Mexico to see with our eyes the new Instagram-famous Shiprock formation. And the detour was absolutely worth it. In fact, what unfolded in front of us was a 5km dinosaur’s spine looking like rock formation terminating with a giant volcanic neck. No wonder why they used this location for the new Jumanji movie! Our trip ended in Denver but before arriving there, we enjoyed 3 intense days between balanced rocks and delicate arches following the Colorado River in the Canyonlands.
I must admit, these 16 days were very challenging from many aspects (logistics, distance, weather conditions and temperatures, etc..) but I would do this trip over and over again. We explored some of the most amazing places in America and I think the main lesson we learned here was to respect the fragility and vulnerability of Nature. Tourism is growing fast everywhere in the World and we need to be aware that it is so easy to alter the localecosystems; so let’s be gentle and respect every aspect of the life of our Planet.