anticipation & preparation: the four corners area

Early this year, I felt compelled to plan a road trip circling the Four Corners area of the southwest USA. The trip will ultimately encompass four states: Colorado, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico.  Leaving home on May 1, I’ll drive three 8-hour days across country from Virginia, arriving in Denver May 3, where I’ll begin my perimeter trip.  I’ll return home by May 25.

I started by looking through guidebooks, beginning with DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Southwest USA & National Parks. I read the chapter on the Four Corners, the only place in the U.S.A. where four states meet at a single point. The actual Four Corners is least interesting to me, but all the spots around the perimeter are enticing.


Guidebooks, maps and nature guides

I also dove into reading novels set in the four states.  I read The Never Open Desert Diner by James Anderson, which takes place on the desolate Utah highways.  I adored Jim Harrison’s books (The English Major, which is inspiring me to write my own fictional road trip novel, and The Woman Lit by Fireflies, a book of three novellas, only one of which, “Sunset Limited,” takes place in New Mexico).  I also adored books by Kent Haruf, whose tales take place in the fictional town of Holt, Colorado.  Years ago, I read Plainsong (Plainsong, #1); I recently finished Eventide (Plainsong, #2) and Benediction (#3).  I just finished reading The Professor’s House by Willa Cather which creates a mystique around Native American cliff dwellings in mesas.  I’m also currently reading Animal Dreams by Barbara Kingsolver. The books I don’t finish by the time I leave, like Sycamore by Bryn Chancellor, I’ll take along with me.


My reading list for the Four Corners

The next step was to get a map and circle all the places I wanted to see.  There are a lot of amazing parks, canyons and charming small towns in this area! I plotted out the roads I’d drive, measured the distances between places using Google maps, listed them on an Excel spreadsheet, and determined where I’d need to spend the nights. I systematically booked all my accommodations. The numbers on the map indicate the places I’ll stop for the night, sometimes for more than one night.

My itinerary is spelled out on an Excel spreadsheet. I hope I included enough time to take hikes in each stop.

  • May 1-3: Virginia > Richmond, Indiana (511 mi) > Kansas City, KN (558 mi) > Lakewood, CO (near Denver) (608 mi).

Mike flies to Denver and arrives May 4.

  • May 4-7: Lakewood, CO > Grand Junction, CO (Visit our son & hike around Denver, Colorado National Monument and Grand Mesa)
  • May 8-10: Grand Junction, CO > Moab, UT (Arches National Park, Dead Horse Point State Park, Canyonlands)
  • May 11: Moab, UT > Bluff, UT (Natural Bridges National Monument, Hovenweep National Monument, Monument Valley)
  • May 12: Bluff, UT > Tuba City, AZ (Monument Valley, Navajo National Monument)
  • May 13: Tuba City, AZ > Flagstaff, AZ (Coal Mine Canyon, Blue Canyon)

On May 14, Mike drives from Flagstaff to Phoenix to fly home, while I continue on.

  • May 14: Flagstaff, AZ > Holbrook, AZ (Petrified Forest National Park & The Painted Desert)
  • May 15: Holbrook, AZ > Gallup, NM: (Second Mesa – Hopi Indian Reservation, Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site, Window Rock)
  • May 16-17: Gallup, NM > Farmington, NM (Canyon de Chelly, Chaco Culture National Historic Park, Bisti Badlands)
  • May 18: Farmington, NM > Durango, CO (Aztec Ruins National Monument, Baker’s Ridge)
  • May 19: Durango, CO > San Juan Skyway Scenic Byway, CO > Telluride, CO (Durango, Silverton, Ouray)
  • May 20: Telluride, CO > Mesa Verde National Park (Canyon of the Ancients National Monument, Four Corners, Mesa Verde)
  • May 21: Mesa Verde National Park (tour in morning) > Pagosa Springs, CO
  • May 22: Pagosa Springs, CO > Pueblo, CO (Crestone & Great Sand Dunes National Park)
  • May 23-25: Pueblo, CO > Kansas City, KN > Richmond, IN > HOME!!

Of course, I had to prepare my journal, which was a lot of work since I’m going so many places.

I bought a wide angle lens for my Canon EOS Rebel SL-1 so I can challenge myself with a new lens.  I also hope to play around with my camera, taking some black & white photos (inspired by the famous Ansel Adams), and be more aware of point of view.


Fun stuff to carry along

Here are my INTENTIONS for this trip:



The entire reading list for each of the four states is on my page: books | u.s.a. | I didn’t get to them all, but hopefully I will finish some of them on the journey or by the end of this year. As for the acrostic and the abstract poems, I was inspired to try these poetic forms from The Teachers and Writers Handbook of Poetic Forms.

Of course, I also made a playlist, Four Corners Road Trip, as I’ll be spending long hours in the car.  Here are some of my favorites:

  1. “The Painted Desert” by 10,000 Maniacs
  2. “Oceans Away” by A R I Z O N A, Sam Feldt
  3. “There is No Arizona” by Jamie O’Neal
  4. “Never Been to Spain” by Three Dog Night
  5. “Tune Out” by The Format
  6. “Desperado” by The Eagles
  7. “O, Fair New Mexico” by Rick Pickren

On Wednesday, I bought my National Parks Senior Lifetime Pass, so I’m all set for our national parks!

This coming weekend, I’ll spend packing. Luckily, I’m driving, so I can throw anything and everything into the car.  All my guidebooks and maps, my journal, a coat for cold desert nights, a rain jacket and umbrella, my camera and voice recorder, and hiking boots and clothes.

My biggest challenge for warmer weather is finding pants that fit.  No matter that I’ve been walking more than ever to train for the Camino: my belly and behind keep expanding!  My pants seem to get bigger with each year. I hate myself in shorts but it will be hot, so I’ll wear them anyway. Someone someday needs to invent the perfect summer pants for women of a certain age! The past several weeks I’ve spent way too much time on this task, searching for the perfect pants, with purchases and returns, going to and fro. Argh!

I apologize in advance that I will miss your blog posts while I’m away, unless you link to one of my invitations, which I’ve scheduled for the appointed dates.  Otherwise, I’ll have to catch up when I return! 🙂


“ANTICIPATION & PREPARATION” INVITATION: I invite you to write a 750-word (or less) post on your own blog about anticipation & preparation for a recently visited or a future particular destination (not journeys in general). If you don’t have a blog, I invite you to write in the comments. Include the link in the comments below by Thursday, May 24 at 1:00 p.m. EST.  When I write my post in response to this challenge on Friday, May 25, I’ll include your links in that post.

My next post will be about preparations I made for my month-long trip to Spain and Portugal in 2013.

This will be an ongoing invitation, on the fourth Friday of each month. Feel free to jump in at any time. 🙂  If you’d like to read more about the topic, see: journeys: anticipation & preparation.

I hope you’ll join in our community. I look forward to reading your posts!

the ~ wander.essence ~ community

I invite you all to settle in and read posts from our wandering community. I promise, you’ll be inspired!

  • Pit, of Pit’s Fritztown News, writes how he and his wife prepared for what he calls a #railtrailsroadtrip – to hit the road for “normal” sightseeing and to add a few more states to their list of states in which they have bicycled at least 10 miles. He and his wife get the car prepared, collect printed maps and pick the scenic routes for their travels.
  • Shia, of Tales from the Romulan Neutral Zone, tells a clever tall tale about getting herself and her military brats ready for a trip to a fancy hotel with horses and a spa in the Austrian countryside.
  • Meg, of Warsaw 2018, writes of preparations for her surprise visit to Warsaw to visit her family and to make sure her grandchildren keep their English-speaking ability.  She is a master of interweaving lists and using mind maps and Gantt charts to plan her journey.

Thanks to all of you who wrote posts about anticipation and preparation. 🙂