Finally I’m doing my Trek America post or should I say thebesttwoweekstravllingamericawithfriends post. This is going to be a long one and honestly, it probably won’t do it justice this was one of the best experiences of my life and I would highly recommend it.
As I said on my last blog post here, I was lucky enough to do Trek America when my Disney ICP ended. I had been looking at Trek America for so long after daydreaming about their Trailblazer Trek so always kept them in mind when looking into travelling. I knew I wanted to travel the West Coast and my main goal was to visit the Grand Canyon as it had always been on my Bucket List! So thats when I found the Westerner 2 trip, so I requested and got a quick email back from someone from Trek America who said that it was booked for the dates I needed (because of my visa) but they had the BLT, this is exactly the same trek but its hotels/hostels/lodging instead of camping. Unfortunately this was just out of my price range so I emailed back basically saying thanks anyway, when the wonderful guy at Trek America must have sensed the budget issue and offered me discount! Fortunately for me, the Trek America sale (which they do often) was on therefore he bundled them together and I got 2 weeks of travelling the West Coast in lovely accommodation for £1234 instead of like nearly £1500!
This turned out to be a great thing because not only would I have been AWFUL at camping but also I got to meet some of the nicest people from all around the world! Honestly that is the highlight of the Trek for me, I was travelling alone as I wanted to do different things to my roommates and because I’m an utter stresshead I wanted to get things booked and organised. This was kind of scary at first as it was my first solo trip, so there was so much piece of mind knowing I would be with a group. I went to Disney on a ‘Cultural Exchange Program’ (which I loved) but it turned out I would learn more about other cultures on this 2 week trek! I was so lucky with the group and genuinely still keep in contact and hope to visit them all in the future.
Anyway, to the trek itself.
The Westerner BLT 2 took us from LA and back again. I flew from Miami to LA and stayed in the LA Custom Hotel where the trek departs from. The hotel offers a free shuttle service which was a relief and was really easy. I met my roommate Valérie because to keep the cost down I decided to share a room on the first night. This was really nice because I felt like I had a friend before we even started and it made me feel much better going to meet everyone the next day. So the trek departs nice and early at 7am and after lots of paperwork and getting to know each other we were ready to set off in the van – which you grow to love. LA was definitely a fleeting visit so if you plan to see the sights I would recommend a couple of days either side of the trek. We did get to see some highlights, like the Walk of Fame and the LA Observation Deck where we stopped for our first group selfie and some good pictures of the Hollywood sign.
Then off it was to San Diego! This first drive is about a 3-4 hour drive with a stop for lunch so you really get to know everyone. We decided to go to Balboa Park which was a beautiful Park full of gardens and museums. Then we headed over to our hostel which was really nice, it included breakfast and had washing facilities which made me very happy! So off we went for a group dinner, which was of course Mexican food, its safe to say I ended up living off the stuff. Then we explored the Gaslamp District and after a brief stint in a bar some of us decided to head back.
Day 2 started off by heading the Coronado Beach which was gorgeous and had the softest sand ever! Then we went over to Mission Beach for a sunbathe and then when boredom hit we decided to visit Belmont Park which was the amusement park on the beach. After a ride on the big dipper and the Octotron we decided to do a spot of shopping. When we were bored of the sand we headed over to a grass area where we ended up playing Volleyball with some locals and it turns out, I’m not very good..
That night, the hostel was offering free spaghetti which we took advantage of whilst having a giant sing along before heading to Seaport Village. We ended up getting there pretty late so didn’t have much time to explore but what we did see made me want to live in San Diego. With fairy lights and quirky stores, which included many of the homeware variety *dies*, I fell in love with San Diego! A quick stop at the Cheesecake factory for a gorgeous s’mores cheesecake that I couldn’t even finish before heading back to the hostel.
Day 3 was another early start and ended up being a really long drive, like really long. We were traveling from San Diego – Salvation Mountain. CA. – Laughlin. NV. After genuinely believing we had pulled up to the weirdest place ever, I realised it was actually just the Salvation Mountains.. still the weirdest place ever. A couple of hours later we arrived in Laughlin which is almost a mini Vegas – full of casinos and hotels, located on the Colorado River. We had another group dinner and stayed in the Aquarius Casino and Hotel.
I just had to share this shot of the Colorado Belle which is a famous casino/hotel on the short strip
Day 4 was so exciting as we travelled from Laughlin. NV. – Route 66 – then to Grand Canyon National Park. AZ. I was so looking forward for this day! Before heading to the Grand Canyon we stopped off in a small town named Seligman which is on the original Route 66. Now you might not have heard of this town before, but if you’re a Disney fan like me you might know it better as the town ‘Cars’ is loosely based on. So after a stop to look at the quirky stores and a Milkshake at the Snow Cap Drive In, it was time to get back into the van and go to the Grand Canyon. We got there, left the trailer and then Cara (our Tour Leader) presented us with bandanas for our eyes before leading us to a gorgeous viewpoint of the Canyon. This was breathtaking and almost looked fake! After seeing this I decided I definitely wanted to do the Helicopter tour and lucky enough for me there was a space! This was the highlight of my Trek, the Canyon was so vast it was impossible to have seen it all so doing this tour gave me an insight to the scale of it. It was so interesting and the Geography lover in me was all kinds of excited that you could see the different tectonic plates aligning. After this it was back to the hotel for another Mexican Restaurant and an early-ish night.
Day 5 was an even earlier start, we all wanted to see the sunrise at the Grand Canyon, so ready for a long day we arrived just in time. After taking all of that in and making time for breakfast we got ready for our hike. Most of us decided to do the Bright Angel Trail, now although this goes all the way to the Colorado River I decided the Three Mile Resthouse was good enough for me. After a hefty hike back up and an almost run in with a Rattle snake, all that was left was to go back to the hotel for an ice cream and a dip in the pool. That evening was another highlight, we got pizza and arrived back at the Canyon where we all watched the sunset. It just made the long day worth it.
I also have a gorgeous Timelapse of the sunset if you’d like to see it here.
Day 6, Vegas Baby. We headed there but decided to stop at the Hoover Dam where it was 52 degrees, seriously. As amazing as it was to see, the heat was something else but is definitely the reason for my forehead tan right now. We stayed at the Golden Nugget on Freemont Street and everyone came to our room for food and pre drinks – and some even got a makeover from a me! Then it was time for the Party Bus that took us to all the Las Vegas sights, we got to see a typical Vegas WeddingChapel, the Famous Las Vegas Sign and even the Bellagio Fountains. Now the night is kind of a blur even for underage me so we’ll leave it at that shall we.
Day 7 was a relaxing day of shopping at the outlets (where I may have got an amazing deal on Nike Trainers) and the pool where there was a shark tank with a slide running through it! We ate at Hooters, naturally, and walked down the strip stopping at some of the landmarks and even a ride of the rollercoaster in New York, New York which was a stunning view.
Day 8, also known as ‘Van appreciation day’ was the ride to Yosemite. This day allows me to have the knowledge to give you one great tip, make sure you come prepared with many road trip games. We arrived at the Bug Lodge and settled for food and a night of watching The Maze Runner.
Day 9 after honestly an awful night sleep, someone turned the AC to 52 fahrenheit which is around 11 degrees celsius, its safe to say I was not in the mood for a hike. My mood completely changed as I was lucky enough to see a wild Black Bear! Scary at first but looking back I realise how lucky I am, it was so cool. We decided to do the Mist Trail to see the Vernal and Nevada Falls which was gorgeous. We skipped swimming in the lake because we wanted to hike Mirror Lake and swim there, only to find that it was completely dried up. It seems all of us had forgotten California was in a Massive Drought.. We decided to eat at the National Park then went back to the lodge for s’mores and a campfire singalong under the stars!
Day 10 was another highlight, having always wanted to visit San Francisco! Driving over the Oakland Bay Bridge and into the city made me so happy. I loved seeing the rural side of America having spent 2 months in one of the biggest tourist destinations in the world, but nevertheless I’m a city girl at heart and even the view from the bridge told me this was going to be amazing. We drove to the Golden Gate Bridge where Cara dropped us off at one side and met us at the other. It was cold and windy, so exactly how I expected and we even got to see wild dolphins migrating! Dolphins are my favourite animals so I was beyond happy to see them in the wild from the bridge. Then we went to our hotel before heading to China Town for food, it was lovely and just what all of us needed. What was even cooler was that as we came out of the restaurant there seemed to be an dance/exercise class taking place on the grass, so we joined them and had a great time.
Day 11 was spent exploring San Fran where Valérie, Thor and I decided to get the Big Bus so we could see as much as possible. One of the places we visited was Haight-Ashbury which is known to be the origin of Hippies. It was so vibrant and full of colour, there was always something to see and so fun for people watching, I would highly recommend visiting there. We did a full loop, then another spot of shopping which concluded in a splurge thanks to Valérie’s amazing style inspo. We went to Fisherman’s Wharf for food then to see the sea lions (Amazing) before going on a sunset boat cruise under the Golden Gate Bridge. Things got very fun when the alcohol started flowing and although it was freezing, it was so fun for us all to do together. Two of the girls hadn’t eaten so some of us stayed while they tucked in to some Clam Chowder which was amazing. We got the cable car back to the hotel, which was unique and fun.
Day 12 was largely a drive that took us down the Pacific Coast Highway and the Big Sur. After seeing the dolphins, I was desperate to see more wildlife and luckily so was the rest of the group. We stopped off by Monterey Bay Aquarium where there was boat races and more sea lions and then went to Monterey itself which was just gorgeous. We tucked into our Ghirardelli ice creams and I dreamed about one day retiring to here!
We headed to McWay Falls for another great view and the chance to see more Whales before ending in San Luis Abispo.
Day 13 was another day at the beach and a chance to do some more shopping! This was a relaxing day spent by the beach and was a lovely final night out, when we all ate together and shared our favourite moments of the trip!
Day 14, our final day together! We went to the weird and wonderful Venice Beach, which is great for people watching. We enjoyed a nice walk to the pier and literally spent forever watching people on the monkey bars they have there, sounds boring but was so fun to watch. A bite to eat at Bubba Gump and we raced back to the van for our last ride together. We were dropped off at the Custom Hotel for an emotional goodbye. Turns out it was so emotional we all ended up staying together, even Valérie bought a hotel room for the night just to be with us all! After Thor and I made some prank calls to the other group members, we decided to go for some sushi before a boring night of packing.
I couldn’t recommend Trek America enough, whether you were travelling alone like me or in pairs like a lot of my tour group! I honestly met friends that I hope to visit all around the world and got to see so much that wouldn’t have been possible without the trek. I know this post is long but it needed to have the detail it deserved and even 2500+ words later, I still haven’t done it justice.
Now the trek is expensive and it definitely doesn’t get better whilst your on the tour, but as my Dad always says –
you won’t be thinking about how much money you spent, you’ll be thinking of how much fun you had.
I definitely agree with that, the two weeks was worth every penny. So if you’re even considering doing a trek, just go for it!