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4 Unique Experiences To Be Had
in the American Rockies

24 May 2017 | Mri Grout - A Lifelong Vagabond


The American Rocky Mountains are well known for their stunning scenery, both in the United States and around the world. However, there's so much more to experience here than just finding perfect photo opportunities. So if you're looking for something to do on this year's holiday that's off-the-beaten track, then traveling to one (or all!) of these four unique experiences in the American Rockies are a must.

1. Spot Astronauts Walking Around Mars

Mars Desert Research Society building above Hanksville, Utah

Located just a few miles northwest of Hanksville, Utah is an area that looks so alien that it’s actually being used to research future life on Mars. The Mars Desert Research Society has built a martian base (complete with a greenhouse and observatory) three miles off of the main road in which to conduct studies about how life would initially go about on a planet other than our own. Despite being on public lands, however, this is a private facility and inside tours are only conducted if you have an appointment.

Outside viewings, astronaut spotting, and imagining yourself on the surface of Mars though are all completely free and unique experiences that don’t require a tour guide. Just make sure to bring lots of water as there isn’t any shade and you might be waiting awhile for an astronaut to test the Martian environment outside of their base.

2. Pull a Pioneer Handcart On the Oregon Trail

Lifelong Vagabonds pulling a pioneer handcart along the Oregon Trail

The Oregon Trail was a remarkable feat for the thousands of pioneers who had set out into a land unknown in the hopes of making a better life out in America's west. Whether they were trying to find somewhere where they could practice their religion in peace, make it through a recession, or simply start anew, multiple parties traversed the 1000+ mile trail with varying degrees of success. And it's in the memory of the Martin Handcart Company's disasterous journey that allows you to have the free and unique travel experience of pulling a pioneer handcart along the convergance of the Oregon Trail, California Trail, Mormon Trail, and Pony Express up at Martin's Cove, Wyoming.

This is made possible by the Church of Jesus Christ and Latter-day Saints as this group of the Martin Handcart Company was mostly made up of Mormons seeking refuge from English prosecution and so is of religious importance to them. There is also a free museum, fort, and small pioneer town to further add to this unique travel experience.

3. Explore 'Modern Day' Lava Flows & Caves

unique lava flows at Craters of the Moon National Monument, Idaho

Only a few hours drive from the world-famous Yellowstone National Park is a unique national treasure that lies unseen by many. Regardless, the Craters of the Moon National Monument most definitely should not be missed by you, especialy if you're already in the area. It's a local hidden gem that is enthusiastically recommended by its surrounding residents - an excitement that is easily understood and shared as soon as you step out of your car and onto 'modern day' lava flows. For only 4,100 years ago this land was forever changed when the moving plates of the earth's crust ripped huge vents into existance, which spewed molten lava out onto the surface at a scary speed of 30mph. By the time the lava flows cooled, 166,000 acres had been transformed into a land of unique geological formations and some scientists even speculate that it could flow once more sometime during our lifespan.

*Craters of the Moon is only free if you have the Interagency Annual Pass, enter on certain free entry days, or visit during the winter season when the loop road is closed due to snow; otherwise you will have to pay a fee ($15 car, $10 motorbike, $7 pedestrian/bike). However, you can visit other lava flows in Idaho entirely for free, but unfortunately there are too many selfish idiots that destroy fragile environments so they're pretty much a word-of-mouth-only secret.

4. Search for Fenn's Million Dollar Treasure

Lifelong Vagabond searching for Forrest Fenn's treasure at where warm waters halt

Hidden somewhere in the US Rocky Mountains is a chest full of gold, jewels, antiques, and other treasured items. It was secreted away by a man named Forrrest Fenn who had supposedly thought that we were losing our connection to and enjoyment of nature to the lifeless advances of technology. So when he was told that he would succumb to the cold grip of cancer within a short time, he wrote a cryptic poetic treasure map and hid a rough estimate of $1-3 million worth of treasurn. Its location and solution are currently unknown, but one thing is for sure: searching for Forrest Fenn's treasure is an extremely amazing and unique experience to be had in the American Rockies on your next holiday adventure.

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