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Living in the Capital of World Politics (III)

Happy New Year, dear blog readers and fellow colleagues from BAFF!

Hope you all are doing well and enjoying your well-deserved winter break. It’s hard to believe we are stepping into 2017 in just in a few hours! So before we raise our glasses to the New Year, I would like to wish you all new adventures to enjoy and new memories to create!

Additionally, I wanted to share some of my thoughts about the Thanksgiving holiday and some new places I visited during the last month. Hope you will enjoy reading!

America the beautiful

More than a month ago, millions of Americans celebrated Thanksgiving weekend, which is a very important occasion for families to gather together, to feast and to enjoy being with one another. The history of Thanksgiving brings us back to 17th century when the religious refugees from England invited the local Native Americans to a harvest feast after a particularly successful growing season. It is also worth noting, that more people in the United States celebrate Thanksgiving than they do Christmas because it is a secular holiday in a country which officially separates church and state.

Over time the traditional holiday has begun to look much different than it did back in the day. Today, not all Americans gather at the table to taste delicious turkey or go crazy on Black Friday, the day following Thanksgiving, which has been regarded as the beginning of the Christmas shopping season. Many American families choose to travel and use the holiday weekend to explore their country. So we did, too.   

Frankly speaking, when one Lithuanian journalist asked me to share some thoughts on how Americans celebrate Thanksgiving, I realized that maybe I am missing one of the most unique American experiences, since there is very little chance of getting turkey while driving through the desert in Nevada. Nevertheless, I think I experienced Thanksgiving differently, like many other American families, by hitting the road to explore new places this country has to offer.

9 days, 6 national parks, and 4 states

You may think it sounds crazy to drive more than 2000 miles in 9 days, visit 6 national parks, climb the highest mountain peaks and cross 4 states, but it’s absolutely doable and definitely worth doing . We started our journey by visiting Yosemite National Park located in California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains. The park is well known for the granite cliffs of El Capitan and Half Dome, deep valleys, waterfalls, and glaciers. Although it was almost freezing, cold weather didn’t stop us from camping and hiking. And it was so much worth doing that. I guess the pictures below speak for themselves.  

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Yosetime National Park, CA

After spending a day in Yosemite Valley we headed to Sequoia National Park, which is located couple of hours away from Yosemite, in the southern Sierra Nevadas.  Seeing the General Sherman Tree (the biggest in the entire world!) makes you feel really tiny and reminds you of what a small place you occupy in the world. After visiting the park we also climbed t Moro Rock (see the picture below). If you have ever wondered how it feels to stand on the edge of the world – I can guarantee this place is the best to experience it!

 

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Sequoia National Park, CA

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Meeting the General Sherman

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View from Moro Rock, CA

Driving through the desert was the most pleasant part of our journey. Believe it or not, the scenery in Nevada is amazing. Death Valley is well known for its extreme temperatures and a mysterious-looking landscape, bringing us to the land of sand dunes and canyons. Nothing except the beauty of nature. 

 

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Death Valley, NV

After crossing Death Valley, we visited Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon located in Utah. Bryce Canyon welcomed us with snow and really cold weather (wellbelow zero). However, I guess we saw what not every tourist is able to see – amazing formations covered by snow. Actually, the snow even helped to better reveal the beauty of the canyon. Icy trails were challenging sometimes to hike, but the views were worth hiking for.

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Bryce Canyon, UT

Have you ever heard about the place called “Angel’s Landing”? If not, then I would strongly recommend adding this place to your bucket list. Zion’s Angel’s Landing trail is one of the most, if not the most thrilling hikes I have ever had. The narrow rocky overlook takes some effort to reach, but you will be rewarded with views of amazing valleys and mountain peaks all around you. You may wonder why this place is called “Angel’s Landing,”. The place got its name when Frederick Fisher, exploring Zion with friends in 1916, said that “Only an angel could land on it”. Later, the hiking trail was built enabling people to experience what it is to “land on the top of the rock”.

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Top of the Angels Landing, UT

Finally, we ended our road trip by visiting the king of the canyons – the Grand Canyon. I don’t think I need any introduction since this place is very well-known and attracts thousands of tourists each month.

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Grand Canyon, AZ

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Mules

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Burning Arizona

Although I have already said it once, but I will repeat myself again – the greatness of this country definitely lies in nature. I was fortunate to see so may incredible places this year and hope to see many more of them until the end of my time here in the United States. My advice to all newcomers would be – travel as much as you can. Embrace your journey. It will help you understand the customs and unwritten rules of American culture which is amazingly diverse and colorful.   

 

See you all in 2017!