Midtown Goes West

Below is a day-by-day account of the Midtown College Orientation Program's cross-country spring break voyage, where students visited historic monuments, national parks and colleges. Thanks to COP director Mike Walsh and staff member Sam Dever for documenting the journey and capturing stunning photos along the way. Click the arrows on each photo to see more of the adventure. To sign up for Midtown, click HERE.

Day 1 - Chicago - Springfield - Tulsa OK - Amarillo TX

We left Chicago at 5:30 a.m. and drove to Springfield, IL.  There we did a tour of Abraham Lincoln's home, where he lived during his time as a lawyer and Illinois state legislator. From Springfield we drove to Tulsa, Oklahoma and visited the University of Tulsa, a small private school.  After our tour we headed to Amarillo, Texas to bunk for the night.

Miles traveled day 1 - 1,057

Day 2 - Amarillo - Albuqurque NM - Bandelier National Monument - Williams AZ

Left Amarillo to go to Albuquerque and visit University of New Mexico. It's a very picturesque school.  Great architecture and design to the school's buildings, as well as some beautiful grounds-keeping. Left the school for our first hiking stop, Bandelier National Monument, in central New Mexico. Very cool trail through a valley, alongside a cliff side that was used by natives for housing hundreds of years ago. Some of the dwellings go back to 1100 AD, and the more recent ones are from the 17th century.  You can still see the rooms and markings they carved into the cliff.  There are three ladders, about 50 feet each, which are used to climb to the top of the cliff, and into a large cave.  Breathtaking views of the valley from the top.  Traveled from there to a small town about 50 miles outside the Grand Canyon.

Miles traveled day 2 - 846 

Day 3 - Grand Canyon - Pahrump, Nevada 

Spent almost the entire day hiking in the Grand Canyon. Even after visiting once before, it is still mind-blowing to see in person.  Kids were blown away (mentally speaking; no one was lost to the high winds).  Left for a small town in Nevada near the California border.

Miles traveled day 3 - 376

Day 4 - Death Valley - UNLV - Bicknell, Utah

Made the short drive from our hotel to Death Valley National Park. Some of the coolest scenery I've personally seen. The salt flats stretch from horizon to horizon.  We found a few spots where we could do some off trail hiking.  One was a series of hills that went up a few hundred feet. The second went through a small valley, then up a series of rocky hills. This was one of the more challenging hikes that we've done with a Midtown group, but the kids got a great sense of accomplishment out of it.  

After leaving Death Valley we traveled to the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. I was honestly blown away by how nice the campus was.  For being so close to Las Vegas it was incredibly scenic, and felt totally secluded from the busy city around it.  A few of the kids commented that they will explore applying there.  Left from the school and drove through the night to a very small town in Utah, where we stayed for the night.

Miles traveled day 4 - 501

Day 5 - Capitol Reef National Park - Denver

We woke up and made a short drive to Capitol Reef National Park.  Spent most of the day hiking trails there, which follow along canyons, valleys, and arches that were carved out by long-gone water ways.  The park gets it's name from the white sandstone "domes" that you can see in some of the pictures, which were formed 270-80 million years ago.  Settlers thought they resembled the domes of capitol buildings, and combined that with the fact that they present a natural barrier like a reef.  I think the students had the most fun on this hike, as there were tons of rocks to climb, little paths to explore, sand pits to jump in, etc.  We also saw a lot of critters like lizards, chipmunks, and snakes.  Left Capitol Reef mid-day and drove to Denver.

Miles traveled day 5 - 455

Day 6 - University of Colorado, Denver - Golden Gate Canyon State Park - Kansas City, MO.

Spent the morning touring UC, Denver. Very much a city/commuter school, but nevertheless a nice campus near the downtown area. Drove a short distance outside of Denver to a state park known as Golden Gate Canyon. It's a range of foothills near the Rocky Mountains, though the foothills themselves are closer in size to mountains themselves.  Hiked a snowy trail to the top of one, which provided dramatic views from the top. 

I was proud to see that many of the boys remembered the tips I had taught them about tracking wildlife, as the they found evidence of rabbits, deer, and even black bears.  After our hike, we set out for a rather long drive to Kansas City, as we had reached the end of our adventures and were headed back toward Chicago.

Miles traveled day 6 - 656

Day 7 - Midtown

Drove to Chicago, and made it back to Midtown around 9PM.  The students were sad to see the trip end, but I think we were all grateful to be off the road and back home.

Miles traveled day 7 - 529

Grand total of miles traveled - Over 4,420 miles

How far is that? Florida to Washington is the longest straight line distance across the United States, which is just 2,802 miles.