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Danielle and Whitney Conquer More than Trail Miles on their Roadtrip Out West

January 3, 2018

Danielle Hall and her friend, Whitney Yeldell, had for themselves quite the adventure this past summer when after months of planning, they headed west on a three-week roadtrip to see the incredible sights of six of our National Parks as well as other National Landmarks and beautiful landscapes found along their itinerary.  The Coffee County Central High School Class of 2006 graduate and daughter of DJ and Teresa Hall of Manchester had taken a break from her public relations career in Nashville to realize a dream that many only fantasize about.

Bryce 2

Whitney and Danielle Hall hike through Bryce Canyon National Park located in southwestern Utah while on their three-week western adventure. Photo provided by Danielle Hall

President Theodore Roosevelt, who is well known of his passion of the great outdoors, once said, “The beauty and charm of the wilderness are his for the asking, for the edges of the wilderness lie close beside the beaten roads of the present travel.” Danielle and Whitney certainly found this to be true as they traveled over 5,200 road miles and hiked more than 118 trail miles through magnificent mountains and colorful terrain to see and experience firsthand the wonders and beauty of our country’s western wilderness. Their trip turned out to be so much more than expected as their journey allowed them to see not only parts of the country unknown to them, but to discover from within their strengths that allowed them to reach new heights, and endure and overcome challenges to achieve all they had set out to accomplish.

The two began their trek in Nashville, stopping in the Badlands and Mount Rushmore on their way west before visiting Glacier, Yellowstone, Grand Tetons, Bryce Canyon, Zion and the Grand Canyon.

Mt. Rushmore

Mount Rushmore National Memorial is a sculpture carved into the granite face of Mount Rushmore, a batholith in the Black Hills in Keystone, South Dakota, United States. Photo provided by Danielle Hall

In a recent interview with Coffee County News, Danielle speaks in depth about her trip, from the planning stages to the experiences and then reflection about life lessons learned through her travels.

CCN: What inspired you to do this trip and how did you plan for your journey?

Danielle: We actually saw an article last fall about how there were several national parks all along the same highway. We talked about it some, but I never dreamed it would become a reality so quickly. Thankfully, I’ve backpacked a good bit with my brother and sister-in-law (Brandan and Kate Hall), so I had most of the gear already and felt I at least sort-of knew what we were signing up for. But the trip really exceeded all expectations!

We started planning in early 2017, and I’m a huge planner by nature, so it took a good bit of time to plan every detail. We started by mapping out our route, and then got together five or so weekends to research and plan what we wanted to do in each park. We mostly camped in the parks, but also wanted a shower and real bed every three to four days, so we needed to book both the campsites and airBNBs/hotels in advance. We asked friends who had visited the parks before for their advice because we didn’t just want to do the most well-known trails in each park.

Tetons 2

The peaks of the Teton Range stand nearly 7,000 feet above the valley floor and make one of the boldest geologic statements in the Rockies. Pictured hiking is Danielle Hall. Photo provided by Danielle Hall

Once we had our hikes, camping and other accommodations booked, we knew we also needed at least one backpacking trip before our three-week journey to be sure we had all the gear we needed. Whitney had never been backpacking before, so we spent a weekend in Joyce Kilmer National Park backpacking and camping about a month before our trip. We were so thankful we did – we were able to make gear adjustments that were necessary for our trip.

Zion_The Narrow

The Narrows is the narrowest section of Zion Canyon. This gorge, with walls a thousand feet tall and the river sometimes twenty to thirty feet wide, is one of the most popular areas in Zion National Park, Utah’s first National Park. Danielle Hall is pictured in the midst of The Narrows. Photo provided by Danielle Hall

CCN: What were some of your most rewarding experiences?

Danielle: This is a tough one to answer because there were SO MANY rewarding things about this trip. Just figuring out each day as we went was a cool reality – it was awesome to wake up to a new adventure each day.

My favorite experience from the trip was hiking The Narrows in Zion. It’s a huge canyon with a river running through it, and you can hike 5 miles in from the bottom up without a permit. We got up early and had the canyon mostly to ourselves – it was so quiet and peaceful.

Grand Canyon_North Rim

The North Rim offers a serene and enthralling Grand Canyon experience. It is more remote and less developed than the South Rim, and so it attracts far fewer tourists. Many people think its viewpoints are the most spectacular, since they are located at a higher elevation. Pictured is Danielle, amazed at the view. Photo provided by Danielle Hall

Obviously, the Grand Canyon was rewarding – it was also our last stop, and we completely changed our plans once we got down in the canyon. We had planned to only hike trails on the North Rim but ended up hiking rim-to-rim. Our last day we had to wake up at 1:30 a.m. to pack up and hit the trail by 2 a.m. so we could catch an 8 a.m. shuttle back to our car. Hiking out of the canyon just as the sun was rising was an unforgettable feeling. We were both crying – just overwhelmed with so many emotions and a sense of accomplishment.

Grand Canyon_South Rim

The South Rim is the most visited rim at the Grand Canyon. Danielle and Whitney are pictured at a scenic view site at the end of their rim-to-rim hike. Of the Grand Canyon, Theodore Roosevelt once said “In the Grand Canyon, Arizona has a natural wonder which is in kind absolutely unparalleled throughout the rest of the world. I want to ask you to keep this great wonder of nature as it now is. I hope you will not have a building of any kind, not a summer cottage, a hotel or anything else, to mar the wonderful grandeur, the sublimity, the great loneliness and beauty of the canyon. Leave it as it is. You cannot improve on it. The ages have been at work on it, and man can only mar it.” Photo provided by Danielle Hall

We also met some really cool people along the way, from other hikers to rock climbers to rangers in several of the parks who took the time to really chat with us.

This trip made me so, so incredibly thankful for my health and the ability to hit the trails day after day to see breathtaking views. It was rewarding to keep getting up and pushing your body to put in more miles.

CCN: What were some of the challenges you had to overcome?

Danielle: While we had a very detailed plan of what our trip would look like, we definitely had to be flexible. Some of the trails we’d planned to hike were closed because of snow (in Glacier) or other reasons (problems with no trail maintenance in Bryce Canyon’s backcountry), so we had to adjust some of that as we went. Campsites can be pretty difficult to secure if you don’t already have reservations, so we had a lot of early mornings (4:30 a.m. a few times!) to get in line to book a campsite for the following night.

We were fortunate that we had mostly fantastic weather, but honestly the heat and elevation changes were a bit of a challenge. In several of the parks, it was 100+ degrees during the day. Thankfully, it was dry heat, but we still had to be sure we were listening to our bodies and not only drinking enough water, but also enough electrolytes. Once we got to the parks where the heat was so high, we hiked early in the morning or early evening and took a break mid-day. The mid-day naps were really nice! We both had a constant minor headache every day for the last week or so of the trip, and we were told it was likely from the elevation. We also got caught on a mountain ridge in the middle of a thunder and lightning storm in Bryce Canyon National Park and we were less than halfway in to an 8-mile hike. We hiked fast and even ran part of the trail, and ended up hiking the eight miles in three hours to get out of the weather.

Bryce 5

Bryce Canyon National Park is located in southwestern Utah. Photo provided by Danielle Hall

Starting fires was a challenge. Even with fire starters and matches, there were a few nights we ate only semi-warm hotdogs. But anything tastes good after a long day of hiking!

Not showering for a few days after hiking and sweating was more of an inconvenience than a challenge, but we jumped in almost every body of water we saw! Some of the lakes we jumped in took your breath away because they were so cold, but it was refreshing.

One of Whitney’s knees also started really hurting her about halfway through our trip. She bought a knee brace, but this meant slower hiking in the last few parks, particularly if we were hiking downhill. Some mornings this meant we had to start our hikes even earlier to beat the mid-day heat.

Glacier_Iceburg Lake

Whitney and Danielle are pictured at Glacier Iceburg Lake, known as being one of the most rewarding hikes in all of Glacier. Photo provided by Danielle Hall

CCN: What advice would you give others who would like to do a similar trip?

Danielle: Plan ahead for the experiences you don’t want to miss and book your campsites as early as you can! We knew in Glacier we REALLY wanted to camp overnight at Cracker Lake, but there are only three campsites there, and only two of those are reservable (the other is first-come, first-served). We sent in our application for the backcountry site the very first day you could (more than 3 months before our trip) and were lucky enough to get a spot!

Glacier_cracker lake campsite

Pictured is Danielle and Whitney’s Glacier Cracker Lake campsite. They were fortunate to get a campsite at Cracker Lake by planning ahead and sending in their application for the backcountry site more than three months before their trip. Photo provided by Danielle Hall

Be flexible. Things will change, especially when you’re dealing with Mother Nature every day.

Just pack your things and go do it! Get outside and enjoy nature…the rest will work itself out. If I’m being honest, when we finally got right outside of Glacier (after three days of driving), I was incredibly nervous. I thought maybe what we were about to do was a little outrageous – it made me particularly nervous to have bear spray that I’d never used before and to think about flash floods and the other weather we may face. But it all ended up being so easy and so worth it! It’s smart to prepare for your trip, but there’s really no way to really plan for every detail.

Glacier Danielle Hall

Danielle is pictured hiking in the beauty of Glacier National Park, located in Montana. The park was established on May 11, 1910, to preserve and protect the natural and cultural resources for future generations. Photo provided by Danielle Hall

One final piece of advice: we should all make an effort to take care of our earth in every way possible so that those who come after us can enjoy it in the same way get to:

“If future generations are to remember us more with gratitude than with sorrow, we must achieve more than just the miracle of technology. We must also leave them a glimpse of the world as God really made it, not just as it looked when we got through with it.” – President Lyndon B. Johnson

Yellowstone 2, Danielle Hall pic

Yellowstone National Park is a national park located in the U.S. states of Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho. It was established by the U.S. Congress and signed into law by President Ulysses S. Grant on March 1, 1872. Photo provided by Danielle Hall

July 21, 2017 CCN article by Rebekah Hurst, Photos provided by Danielle Hall, reposted with permission


From → Adventure, Features

  1. Great story and awesome photos, keep up the good work!

  2. mind blowing pictures and great write up

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