Blue. Ridge. Parkway. There’s a reason this 469 mile drive through the Appalachian Mountains is consistently ranked one of America’s most scenic drives. The winding road has spectacular views of gradient blue mountains at every turn. We spent nearly a week driving north and east on the parkway, eventually stopping in Shenandoah National Park. Met up with old friends to hike the Old Rag trail and spent the night in their wonderfully secluded creekside cabin. From there, our trip into Washington D.C. was timed perfectly with the blooming of the famed cherry blossoms. Capping of this installment of our trip with a visit to New York City for all the good food and sightseeing thanks to some friends!

We continued our way up the east coast out of Florida and into Georgia and the Carolinas. Sampling all the tasty southern food and exploring as many natural things as we could, from unlimited hiking trails in North Carolina to the caves of northern Alabama. Saw plenty of friendly faces along the way, making the trip even better with each visit. Even caught a couple NCAA basketball games in Columbia, SC before continuing north.

Florida: vacation destination and goldmine for wacky news stories. Thankfully we stayed out of the local news. The gulf coast gave us sun, beaches, and visits with friends and family. Everglades National Park was our only National Park stop in Florida and rivaled our Glacier NP number for animal encounters. MichelVangelo made the drive all the way to Key West and mile marker 0 before traveling up the Atlantic side. Happily visited more friends and family along the way. Ocala National Forest blue us away with its ridiculously clear blue springs.

A quick trip home to Iowa for the holidays to see as many family members and friends as we could was just what we needed. Returning to Arizona, we were energized and ready to hit the road. Unfortunately, the government shutdown was still in effect, forcing us to skip several national monuments and parks that we had our sights set on. We found other ways to explore through New Mexico, Texas, and Louisiana, meeting some friends and family along the way. Southern food definitely did us in but, it’s just too damn good.

Nothing like a quick pit stop in Vegas to make you wish you were back in the friendly confines of the natural world. Utah was a spot we were greatly looking forward to and it did not disappoint. We wish we could have stayed longer but, had to head south due to frigid nighttime temperatures. The landscapes of Zion and Bryce Canyon already have us planning a return trip. Spending a full 3 weeks in Arizona, we explored mightily, including a fishing trip south of the border with family and friends.

California has incredible natural beauty everywhere you look. Starting in the redwood forests of northern Cali, we hiked among the towering giants and found our way to the beach to relax in the sun. From there we headed east to the Sierra Nevadas, hiking our way through Lassen Volcanic National Park, Tahoe, and Yosemite. We found the coastal redwoods’ inland relative, the giant sequoia in Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks before leaving California through Death Valley. Our time in Cali was a whirlwind of activity and epic wilderness.

Limping our way back into the States with a list of van repairs to get fixed, Washington opened its arms and its repair shops to us. Once MichelVangelo was back in shape, we explored all the Pacific Northwest had to offer! Four amazing national parks, the pacific coast, delicious beer, and all the banana slugs in between. Washington and Oregon were packed with fun and adventure!

After Glacier NP, we crossed the border to visit Waterton Lakes NP before heading north  to Banff and Jasper National Parks. Canada is big and wild. So much to see in those two parks alone! We eventually traveled west through British Columbia to explore Vancouver Island, taking our van on it’s first ferry ride. We loved every minute of our neighbor to the north!

Riding high after our travels through Idaho, we took MichelVangelo due east into Montana. After spending a few days in the smokey public lands outside Glacier National Park, we passed through the entrance gates and didn’t want to leave. The mountainous, wildlife filled landscape is exactly what we thought of when we pictured the “west.” We hiked, avoided bears, spotted moose, and relaxed while watching sunsets. It’s easy to see why this area is dubbed the “Crown of the Continent.”

From Grand Teton National Park, we traveled west into the great state of Idaho. Often, when we say we’re from Iowa, people say, “Oh yeah, you guys have a lot of potatoes, right?” Nope, that’s Idaho. And while we drove by countless potato fields, Idaho should be known for it’s boundless wilderness, especially the Sawtooth Wilderness area in central Idaho. We explored as much as Katie’s injured leg would let us. We also made a pit stop in Missoula, MT to see a lifelong friend before visiting northern Idaho.

From North Dakota, we ventured southwest into Wyoming to explore some of America’s greatest and most popular parks. Starting in Yellowstone National Park, we spent 5 days enjoying the wild and volcanic landscape. From there, a short drive south led us into neighboring Grand Teton National Park where we were greeted by towering peaks and an abundance of wildlife. It’s easy to see why these two parks are some of the most visited in the country.

The first leg of our adventure in MichelVangelo took us to the great northwoods of Wisconsin and the plains of North Dakota. Our stops included but weren’t limited to: Apostle Islands National Lakeshore (WI), Tettegouche State Park (MN), Voyageurs National Park (MN), Itasca State Park (MN), and Theodore Roosevelt National Park (SD). Take a look at a few of the highlights!