Joshequoikingsemite Adventure Guide

  • Thursday, December 16
    • Grace flies to Phoenix
    • Anna takes her last final exam of graduate school
    • Grace and Maddie hike Camelback Mountain (2.4 miles, 1322ft change) for sunset
    • Anna flies to Phoenix and the gang drives from PHX to Joshua Tree NP (4hrs, 7min)
  • Friday, December 17: JTNP
    • Wake up in Jumbo Rocks Campground in Joshua Tree National Park
    • Maddie chops our gifted firewood
    • Hike from our campground: Skull Rock and Discovery Trail loop (.7 miles + 1.7 miles)
    • Hike Ryan Mountain trail (3 miles, 1050ft change)
    • Stop to become Junior Rangers at the visitor’s center before driving north through Bakersfield to Sequoia and Kings Canyon NPs (5hrs, 52min) to carve out a spot for our tent in the snow at Azalea Campground
  • Saturday, December 18: SKCNP
    • Wake up to an amazing sunrise amongst the trees and put chains on the car
    • Snowshoe up the road to Panoramic Point (approx. 5 miles, approx. 1000ft change)
    • Hike the General Grant Grove (.3 miles)
    • Campfire in the snow
  • Sunday, December 19: YNP
    • Attempt to find Big Stump in the snow (do not succeed, unfortunately)
    • Drive north to Yosemite National Park (3hrs, 16min)
    • Set up camp at Camp 4
    • Enjoy Tunnel View and hike the base of to Yosemite Falls from our campsite
  • Monday, December 20: YNP
    • Take the bus to Curry Village
    • Hike to Vernal and Nevada Falls on the JMT (10.4 miles, 2000ft change)
    • Hike to Mirror Lake (2 miles, 100 ft change)
  • Tuesday, December 21: YNP
    • Drive and walk through the valley on the audio tour from the National Parks app
    • Hike back to Yosemite Falls
    • Begin the overnight drive to Phoenix (11hrs, 10min)
  • Wednesday, December 22
    • Enjoy coffee and donuts with John and his family
    • Brunch with Matthew in PHX
    • Grace and Anna fly home

How to survive in a tent (in the snow): Camping in the snow was to be a new endeavor for TGOT and for our good friend, Grace Muldoon, who has incidentally known both Anna and Maddie for longer than the have known each other. Step one, as always, was research. Step two was gear acquisition. Maddie bought chains for her car and everyone got crampons for their boots and new ski pants/bibs. Maddie also bought an INTENSE shovel with a second handle for leverage, which proved very useful in SKCNP. Step three was plotting a way to insulate our tent from the elements. We started with a thick, old school sleeping bag, then layered our sleeping bags, then us in our sleeping bags, then blankets on top, and finally used our snow pants and coats to add extra warmth on the sides of the tent. Truthfully, we all shed layers each night, so we may have done the job TOO well.

How to go for a hike (in the snow): Poles! Crampons! Snowshoes! One of the finer moments of trip planning was Anna’s parents chiming in to mention that the Petersen family owns three pairs of snowshoes already. Nothing hits like the superiority of skipping the rental line and heading on up the road in your own snowshoes. Nothing, that is, except strutting past tourists slipping around the paved trail in their street shoes in your crampons after hiking ten miles. A word of warning, however, hiking in crampons or in snowshoes is physically harder than just plain hiking. Your body is working harder because you aren’t actually on the ground — your gear and the snow is lifting you up, which is more work on your muscles. And with snowshoes, be warned that you might get a little stuck in snowbanks if you aren’t careful.

How to drive overnight to make the most out of your vacation time: Don’t. Just kidding — make sure your wonderful boyfriend (s/o John) and his family (s/o the Kellys) have donuts and coffee waiting for you. And be sure to drive in shifts; teamwork makes the dream work.

Roadblocks: It just wouldn’t be TGOT without them. Anna got food poisoning the night before the trip, which meant not only flying after throwing up all night, but also that she took her last final exam of her master’s degree from the bathroom floor. Maddie and Grace saved the day by bringing soup and Blue Gatorade to the Phoenix Airport. OUR BEAR LOCKER FROZE CLOSED!! With all of our packs and food inside! Maddie sacrificed her hands and 30+ minutes of her time to crack it open while Anna and Grace tried to warm water in the bathroom Dyson Airblade to melt some of the ice. 0/10 locker design, would seriously reconsider. On our Vernal and Nevada Falls hike, all three of us decided to be in pain and genuinely angry for a few minutes each, despite being on one of the most beautiful adventures of our lives. The pain persisted – Grace got more than a few blisters, and Anna’s knees decided to no longer participate. Luckily, a relaxing day in Yosemite Valley was scheduled right on time. Maddie’s old enemy, fog, hounded us all throughout the lowlands of central California. The worst part of this was Maddie was already locked in for a summer in Bakersfield; our drive through did NOT get her excited for the summer. And, unfortunately, Bakersfield did not end up being pleasantly surprising. Lastly, the JTNP visitor’s center gave weird vibes, and one of the rangers was the first we have EVER met who was weird about grown-up kids wanting to be Junior Rangers. I thought learning about conservation and the national parks was supposed to be a lifelong pursuit??

Highlights: driving through tunnel view and seeing the valley for the first time — climbing on Jumbo Rocks — looking like Real Hikers with our elite snow gear — Fireball shooters at the top of Nevada falls (please sponsor us) — trees on trees on trees — dazzling a group of age-appropriate young men because we were sleeping in a tent — Maddie outdoing herself in the campfire department by building on snow — using the shovel — looking out over the High Sierra from Panoramic Point — visiting the nation’s Christmas tree in our Christmas sweaters — sunrise and sunset from our high country camp in spending lots of quality time snuggled together in our cozy lil tent. Thank goodness for lifelong friends.

Maddie and Anna’s Ultimate Adventure Roadtrip Playlist

Rolling up to the Canyonlands Regional Airfield to pick up Maddie.

Maddie’s Picks:

  • She sets the City on Fire / Gavin DeGraw
  • Closer / The Chainsmokers
  • Amie / Pure Prairie League
  • Sweet Arizona / East Love
  • Feeling This Bad Never Felt So Good / Tai Verdes
  • FFYL / Quinn XCII
  • Fool’s Gold / Niall Horan
  • In His Arms / Jack Ingram and Miranda Lambert
  • Hell / Two Friends
  • Priest / Group Project
  • Problems / A R I Z O N A
  •  Smack That / Akon
  • Hell of a View / Eric Church
  • Brandy / Looking Glass
  • Ophelia / the Lumineers
  • Jolene / Dolly Parton

Anna’s Picks:

  • Meet Me in the Woods / Lord Huron
  • Pictures on a Wall / Ira Wolf
  • Blow Away / Fine Frenzy
  • Treacherous (Taylor’s Version) / Taylor Swift
  • Tokyo Drifting / Glass Animals and Denzel Curry
  • Never Forget You / Noisettes
  • UFO / The National Parks
  • Give Myself to You / The Dreggs
  • Feathered Indians / Tyler Childers
  • Welcome Home / Radical Face
  • Young Blood / The Naked And Famous
  • Sweet Escape / Gwen Stefani ft. Akon
  • Cut to the Feeling / Carly Rae Jepson
  • Golden / Harry Styles
  • Wildflowers / Tom Petty
  • Come Sail Away /Styx

Moab Utah, Adventure Guide

Our Itinerary:

  • Thursday, May 13:
    • Drive from Tulsa, Oklahoma to Frisco, Colorado
    • Pick up our friend Mikayla from Denver International Airport
    • Stay at The Snowshoe Motel, get a voucher for free beignets
  • Friday, May 14:
    • Cash in for our free beignets (and gumbo!) at The Lost Cajun, go for brief hike in the forest/foothills around Frisco
    • Drive from Frisco, Colorado to Moab, Utah
    • Pick Maddie up from Canyonlands Regional Airfield
    • Set up camp at Ken’s Lake Campground
  • Saturday, May 15:
    • Hike and explore Mill Creek Trail (1.8 miles each way, plus dicking-around mileage)
    • Change and go for a wine tasting at Castle Creek Winery
  • Sunday, May 16:
    • Explore the Island in the Sky District of Canyonlands Nt’l Park
      • Grand View Point (1.0 mile each way)
      • Mesa Arch
      • Upheaval Dome (2.0 miles each way)
      • Murphy Point Trail (1.7 miles each way)
  • Monday, May 17:
    • Hike Devil’s Garden in Arches Nt’l Park (7.9 miles)
    • Pick Brooklyn up from Canyonlands Regional Airfield and get dinner at the Moab Food Truck Park
    • Sunset at Delicate Arch in Arches Nt’l Park (1.5 miles each way)
  • Tuesday, May 18:
  • Wednesday, May 19:
    • Hike to Tower Arch in Arches Nt’l Park (1.7 miles each way)
    • Return to Delicate Arch in Arches Nt’l Park (1.5 miles each way)
    • Drive the La Sal Mountain Loop State Scenic Backway
  • Thursday, May 20:
    • Hike Elephant Hill to Squaw Flat, Big Springs, Squaw Canyon Loop (12.5 miles) in The Needles District of Canyonlands Nt’l Park
  • Friday, May 21:
    • Drop Maddie and Mikayla off at Canyonlands Regional Airfield
    • Drive from Moab, Utah to Tulsa, Oklahoma

There’s no better way to kick off the summer than a week in the desert! Maddie and Anna figured out the exact days they would both be free from school and work, invited all interested parties to come along, and set off to explore some of the best that Southeastern Utah has to offer. It’s hard to come to Moab and not see amazing things that make you feel like you’re on another planet, but we’re here to tell you some of things we think you really can’t miss AND how to make the most of your trip.

Step One: Where will you stay? Moab is literally surrounded by BLM campsites. If being the closest to the action is most important to you, look for sites on HW 128, headed toward Castle Valley. These sites are north of Moab, so you don’t have to drive through the town to get to Arches and Canyonlands Nt’l Parks. However, they are first-come, first-serve. We wanted to be able to guarantee our spot before arrival. We also knew we wanted to spend time in the Needles District, which is an hour’s drive south of Moab. For these reasons, Ken’s Lake Campground was the perfect home-away-from-home (even when the wind was so strong that it broke BOTH of our tents!).

Step Two: The National Parks. You could easily spend years exploring Moab without ever stepping foot in Arches or Canyonlands National Parks. But you wouldn’t. We spent two days in each park and absolutely still have unfinished business in both. Our number one recommendation for Arches–get up before the sun. Even with the new timed entry program, Arches National Park sees a lot of people every day. We started our Devil’s Garden hike at 6:30 am and were one of maybe five cars in the parking lot. By the time we finished the loop around 10, there was a line of cars out the parking lot and down the road. Other ways to avoid the crowds in ANP: get off the beaten trail (Tower Arch is 8+ miles down a gravel road; needless to say, we didn’t have to share with many other hikers) and take advantage of lulls in the crowd (we braved the heat and exposure to hike to Delicate Arch at 2pm and were rewarded with having the most crowded place in the park to ourselves). Our number one recommendation for Canyonlands National Park is getting off the pavement. Even in Island in the Sky, which is the most visited district in the park, hiking to Murphy’s Point was far less crowded than Grand View and just as spectacular. The Needles district was our favorite adventure from our trip. As previously learned in GCNP, we believe that you can’t just view a canyon from the top. There’s no better feeling than being amongst it. The Needles is also far more isolated and rugged. Maddie worked to combine trails and maximize our experience/mileage in the district but even with careful planning and signage, it was a little difficult to navigate (pro of being raised by Glen Petersen–you learn to be really good at reading maps, even in the age of phone navigation). Don’t forget your maps on the trail!

Step Three: Other things to see and do. Moab is an adventurer’s dream; we truly only scratched the surface and CERTAINLY didn’t bring enough gear to do the desert justice. Some of our favorite experiences in the area were outside the parks. Maddie heard about Mill Creek from a local on her flight, and it was the perfect introduction to the area. In addition to getting our feet wet in the waterfall, we explored the cliffs and found a naturally-occurring rock tunnel. Castle Creek winery is possibly one of the oddest places we’ve ever been, but where else could we live out our Moira Rose fantasies? Dead Horse Point left us all speechless with an unmatched sunset. We got to see petroglyphs and pictographs that reminded us of the original stewards of the land. And, of course, no trip to Moab is complete without time dedicated to the Colorado and Green Rivers, which have shaped the landscape, sustained life for millennia, and continue to anchor the area’s natural and cultural history. Avery, our rafting guide, also just happened to be a fellow John Wesley Powell fan (he literally had JWP merch). All in all, if you’re spending time in Moab, don’t forget to explore all the area has to offer outside the national parks.

S/O to the Moab Adventure Center for the souvenir water bottles.

Step Four: Safety first (or fourth). We are so fortunate to be able to recreate in wild spaces, but we can only do so when we remember that they are wild. spaces. Bring a lot of water wherever you go. If you think you have enough water, bring a little more, just in case. Any time you have an opportunity–in town, at the park Visitor Centers, and at Lions Park at Junction 191 and 128 –refill your water bottles. In addition to being hot and dry, (classic desert), most of the hikes we took in Moab were really exposed. Which leads us to safety tip number two: sunscreen. We packed sunscreen on our hikes to reapply throughout the day. Anna and Maddie both tend to tan instead of burn, but our sweet, sweet friend Mikayla was not so lucky. So, we also packed an extra shirt to cover her shoulders when needed and bought spray-on aloe to use anytime the sun won. Even in the car, the sun was incessant. Anna’s right shoulder ended up way darker than her left because of the open sunroof. As always, we want to recommend asking the rangers for recommendations and safety tips before going out on any trails. We also learned how important it is to bring and be able to understand your map in the backcountry.


Once again, we were unable to avoid a few absolute clusters. Firstly, both of our tents broke because of the gust-level winds. Maddie fixed (?) hers with duct tape and hair clips before ultimately throwing it away on our last morning. Anna didn’t realize hers was broken until she tried to set it up to use for Articulation Bootcamp, but both tents have since been replaced and upgraded. Anna’s check engine light also decided to turn on for a little while, just to keep the gang on their toes. Maddie got temporarily stranded on a cliff face that she tried to climb upfront, instead of taking the trail (which, while she was clinging to the rock, several older adults traversed the actual path with ease). Possibly most disappointing about the unsuccessful rock climb is that she actually got about a foot from the top before getting stuck, and then had to backtrack with Anna trying to coach from the top. Anna threw up profusely the second to last evening at camp, which tragically had to be cleaned up with plastic spoons. And, just like in GCNP, our perfect weather came to a close on our last morning, when we were woken up to buffeting winds and rain at 4am. Instead of trying to go back to sleep, we decided to just pack up, throw away Maddie’s tent, and leave town a few hours ahead of schedule. This worked fine for Anna and Brooklyn, who were driving, but it meant that Mikayla and Maddie had to sit outside at the Airfield until it opened. Thank goodness Olivia Rodrigo had just released her debut album that day.


  • Devil’s Garden: a nice lil primitive trek, plus SO! MANY! ARCHES!
  • Ladders on the trail in the Needles
  • Finding our own naturally-occurring City Museum at Mill Creek
  • Getting to fan girl about JWP and learning about female explorers and cow bandits from Avery (the one that got away)
  • Maddie surprising Anna by bringing a graduation cap on the trail because Anna skipped her make-up graduation ceremony to come explore the desert
  • Meeting a river god (we think) while hammocking and cooling off in the Colorado river
  • Seeing a sunset proposal at Delicate Arch and taking swigs from our Fireball flasks to celebrate (because shooters are illegal in Utah). Fireball, once again, we are begging you to sponsor us.
  • Watching the most perfect sunset and seeing the stars slowly come out at Dead Horse Point (and realizing Mikayla and Brooklyn have the same eye prescription–soulmates)

Grand Canyon National Park Travel Guide

Our Itinerary:

  • Monday, Nov 23:
    • Drive from Tucson, Arizona to Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
    • Watch the sunset from Mather Point
    • Set up camp at Grand Canyon Camper Village
  • Tuesday, Nov 24:
    • Sunrise at Mather Point
    • Junior Ranger Program & Trail Advice at the Visitor’s Center
    • Hike the Rim Trail from Mather Point to South Kaibab Trailhead (2.3 miles each way)
  • Wednesday, Nov 25:
    • South Kaibab to Bright Angel Trail (17 miles)
  • Thursday, Nov 26 (Happy Thanksgiving!):
    • Bus tour from Bright Angel Lodge to Hermit’s Rest
    • Sunset hike from Yaki Point Road to Cedar Ridge (5 miles)
  • Friday, Nov 27:
    • Drive to Tulsa, Oklahoma

Please recognize that we mean no disrespect when we say this, but not everyone can do South Kaibab to Bright Angel in a day, and, if we’re being honest, not everyone should want to do this hike. It’s hard. Seventeen miles is already a daunting task, but the elevation gain is brutal, not to mention the reversal of the hike (usually you get to coast DOWN the mountain for the second hike; the nature of hiking in a canyon is that your second half is when things get really hard). What we can say is that, if it is physically accessible to you, no trip to the Grand Canyon is complete without going down the Canyon at least a little bit. From the rim, the Grand Canyon seems almost like a canvas background, like it isn’t quite real. Once you descend, even a little bit, the scale and grandeur take on new meaning and your experience of the Canyon is far more intimate (and less crowded). Our recommendation to you? South Kaibab Trailhead to Cedar Ridge. This 3 mile loop gives you amazing views, is steep but attainable, and allows you to see what it’s like to be within the walls of the Canyon without killing yourself. We made it to Cedar Ridge for sunrise on our full hike and returned for sunset on our last evening. Because why watch the sunset from the rim when you can just hike another quick five and get it all to yourself?

We love hiking poles, ya ya ya

For anyone hiking in GCNP, but especially you full senders who want to try to full hike in a day, there are a few must-do things. Take lots of water. Pack trail food; our go-tos are Cuties, Nature Valley granola bars, and applesauce packets. Dress in layers because the temperature changes throughout the hike are no joke. Bring hiking poles. Let me say that last one again, because, until this trip, I (Anna) kind of thought hiking poles were for old people. However, for once in my life, I was wrong. They saved our knees on this trail. I seriously do not think I could have done it without them. We are now forever advocates for poles.

We also recommend going to the Ranger Station or Visitor’s Center before hiking. The National Park officially has to recommend that hikers do not do the full trail in a day, for obvious safety reasons, but staff and rangers will give you off-the-record assurances or alternate suggestions. When we went to ask about ice conditions and whether or not we needed spikes for our shoes–another important question for would-be hikers–the woman we talked to sized up our group before explaining what we needed to know to be successful. While her belief that we could do the hike ended up being the last push we needed to take the plunge, we would have made different plans if she was adamant that we couldn’t do the trail. Trust the rangers’ opinions and recommendations; chances are they know more than you. We also, as always, highly recommend reading AllTrails reviews. They are super helpful for determining challenge level from various real-person points of view. They also have details about the trails that maps and guidebooks don’t; the more you know going into a hike, the better.

I mean, come on! Nothing can beat sunrise 3 miles into the Grand Canyon.

Lastly, if you are committed to making it down and up in day, you need to consider logistics. When we went in November, the bus services were limited. This means that the shuttle that goes all the way back and forth to both trailheads in the summer only ran one way and only ran part of the way. Check what buses are running and when before your trip. Luckily, we had two cars, so we could drop one off at the end of the trail and then come back to the bus stop at the Visitor’s Center that would bring us to South Kaibab. If you don’t have a second vehicle, you may need to hike extra mileage to get back to your car or to the bus station. The Rim Trail has pretty much no elevation change and runs from South Kaibab to Hermit’s Rest, hitting the Visitor’s Center and Bright Angel along the way, but it does require the additional walking after an already pretty sinful trek. Another important detail is timing. We did our hike in 9 hours (8 hours of trail time with an hour at the bottom), but we planned our day around the possibility of it taking much longer. Starting predawn allowed us to not worry about time and to enjoy the sunrise on the trail. Our last recommendation? Train. We technically didn’t, but we finished a trail outside Tucson the Saturday before that was shorter but had the same elevation gain. Using this trail as a frame of reference helped us realistically determine if we could handle going down and up in a day.

Should you go in November? We say, overall yes. Here’s what you need to know.

  • Yes, it might be 12° at the Rim when you start hiking or go to watch the sunrise. However, it also might be 78° Indian Gardens (the halfway point on Bright Angel) come noon. We say these particular numbers because that was the temperature change during our hike. If you pack nothing else (except hiking poles) bring clothing that layers.
  • Check ice conditions before you hike. Talk to rangers or look at the weather report written at the bus stops.
  • Even in the cold, bring more water than you think you need. During the winter months, there is only water available at Indian Gardens and Phantom Ranch. This means there is no water available on the recommended day hike portion of Bright Angel and no water at all on South Kaibab. Our trick? Bring and refill disposable water bottles because they’re lighter and can be compressed once you don’t need them. Just make sure you recycle afterward 🙂
  • Check bus routes before you arrive in the park for the day. We mentioned before the potential challenges associated with going point to point. In November, Hermit Road is also closed to private vehicles, so you can only get to Hermit’s Rest or any of the other waypoints on the bus line. We loved this as a day-after-the-trek activity.


Any adventure has a few bumps in the road, and this trip was no exception. Our first problem was traffic; we were delayed hours between Tucson and Phoenix because a horse trailer crashed and released several horses to run around the interstate. We ran into traffic again right outside the park. Between the delays, we had to pick between seeing the sunset at the Canyon and setting our camp up with the last rays of daylight. We picked sunset (and no regrets!!), but that we meant pitched our tents in the dark. Roadblock number two was forgetting the hammer for our tent stakes. Maddie used her law textbooks instead. The result of setting up in the dark was that our rain hood was on sideways; this let the cold in a little more than we may have wanted. We did get lucky with our timing, however. The snow held off until the day we left, but we did have to drive through the blizzard to make it back to the Blessed Midwest.


Fireball tastes better in beautiful places.
  • Taking Fireball shots at Phantom Ranch–the bottom of the Grand Canyon ! (Fireball, please sponsor us, we’re begging you)
  • Watching the sun rise at Cedar Ridge during our hike to the bottom
  • Brushing our teeth under the moonlight next to the Canyon when we slept in the park
  • Following the mules down past Skeleton Point and seeing the Colorado River for the first time on our hike
  • Getting the sunset to ourselves down in the Canyon for our last night