Our readers share tales of their rambles around the world.
Who: Kristin Springfield of Danville, Va.
Where, when, why: I traveled across the country on a solo road trip from Sept. 6 to Nov. 10. The goal: visit national parks and hug a tree a day. An opportunity to take an extended break from my career showed up, and I took it to go on what I called my “Womanly Journey Tree Hugging Tour 2015.” I wanted to challenge myself with something that would scare me in order to push through my comfort barrier. Traveling alone for pleasure was certainly new and made me nervous. Therefore, off I went on an 11,324-mile road trip to meet new people, visit places I have never been, be immersed in nature and hug trees all over the country. The trip started and ended in Virginia. Along the way, I visited 15 states (Kentucky, Illinois, South Dakota, Wyoming, Idaho, Montana, Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, Tennessee and North Carolina) and 14 national parks. I found trees to hug every day!
Highlights and high points: The changing landscape along the trip astounded me. Every state and national park has unique features that stand out. The Midwest offers open fields and a never-ending landscape. Sunflower fields are spectacular in the breeze as the bright colors wave as you pass by. Wyoming was the first sight of mountains that seemed to touch heaven. Montana, Idaho and Colorado revealed mountains even more spectacular. Then I arrived in Sedona, Ariz.: The red rocks were enchanting. All of the colors and landscapes across this incredible country made my eyes almost bleed trying to take it all in. I shed tears of gratitude and awe at almost every turn.
Cultural connection or disconnect: I have never felt more connected to humanity than I did on this trip. My friends and family were concerned for my safety because I was traveling alone. This experience reminded me of the beauty in this country. People were kind, loving and helpful. I had a rough schedule of what I planned to do in each area, yet those plans were abandoned because of the ideas and recommendations of the locals. These spontaneous adventures led me to incredible galleries and museums, spectacular hikes, and delicious meals. The only disappointment on the trip was that it came to an end.
Biggest laugh or cry: Early on in my trip, I was feeling a bit lonely and offhandedly said aloud while in the car that I wanted to be kissed by a male. The universe quickly aligned to provide just that within hours. Notice that I said “male,” not “man.” It just so happened that the place I was staying at in South Dakota had donkeys. Yep, you guessed it: The male donkey took a liking to me and kissed me on the mouth while I was scratching his ears. The next place in Idaho had a male Great Dane. That male also took a liking to me and did not even say hello before planting a kiss. Montana offered the most male kisses in one place; there were three male horses and huge Great Pyrenees. I laughed as this seemed to happen repeatedly. Finally, I said, “Thank you, but no more kisses, please!” The universe complied, and the kisses stopped.
How unexpected: Moro Rock in California’s Sequoia National Park took me by surprise. I had walked several miles through the giant trees. The reality of how old these trees are is difficult to wrap my brain around. It’s a short, steep hike, with 400 steps to get to the top of this giant rock. The day was beautiful, the sun was shining, and it was in the 70s. As I continued to ascend, more mountain ranges came into focus. I walked to the highest point of the rock, and then to the edge, to get the best view. It felt as if I were physically close to heaven; the scenery up there is breathtaking from every direction. Tears flooded my eyes as I wept in the presence of Mother Nature’s creation. People have created spectacular beauty, but it is nothing in comparison to nature. I went on to see more spectacular sites, yet this place touched my soul in a surprising way.
Fondest memento or memory: I collected heart-shaped rocks along my trip. I have a bowl full of them on my coffee table in my home. You can find me holding a piece of Montana while driving. This way, I can hold on to a piece of my trip every day.
To tell us about your own trip, go to washingtonpost.com/travel and fill out the What a Trip form with your fondest memories, finest moments and favorite photos.