EXP Journeys loves the national parks of the American West and for good reason. Bearing witness to Old Faithful erupting in the early morning hours as a bison grazes nearby or saying goodbye to the last rays of sunlight as they cast their spell over the beautiful sandstone spires of the Grand Canyon is enough to stir even the most stoic of souls. Observing these gifts of nature through the eyes of a young traveler experiencing them for the first time or perhaps during a special birthday or anniversary celebration is another kind of experience completely and one that EXP Guides will tell you is the best part of their jobs. It was the unique nature of these once-in-a-lifetime moments that first captivated EXP’s own Andrew Roberts at a young age and chartered a course that has steered his life direction ever since.
Andrew Exploring The Ice Caves Of Patagonia
Andrew Selling His Wares At An Old West Immersive Event
Andrew received his first glimpse at his ultimate life calling as a teenager in the deserts and mountains of New Mexico and since that time has been fortunate enough to guide adventure and luxury excursions in some of the most iconic locales on the planet. But, the west was where he first heard the siren song and it keeps hearkening him back. From the towering granite peaks of the Tetons to the yawning chasms carved by the mighty Colorado River, Andrew has seen and tasted enough of the guide life to fill volumes but he prefers to keep much of this to himself and instead let nature speak for herself. And speak she does – to the hundreds of clients who have witnessed her beauty and awe as Andrew stands back in the shadows, arms folded with a sly grin spreading cheek to cheek.
Andrew with Guide Manager Kyle Sherman in Monument Valley
In a special edition of our handcrafted blog, Andrew takes us on an insider’s tour of a select few of his favorite locations. As a seasoned guide and co-founder of EXP Journeys, he understands that discerning guests want to see and experience the best that our national parks have to offer but that they also yearn for places of quiet reflection; synagogues of solace where they can commune with friends, family and the wild landscapes that surround them. Let’s tag along with Andrew and go exploring!
Bison Grazing In Lamar Valley
“Lost Lake Trail is one of those hidden gems that people overlook when they are searching out the must-see sights in Yellowstone,” Andrew tells me as we stroll by a herd of bison grazing, napping and otherwise staring contentedly off into space in this section of United State’s first national park. Sure, the boardwalks in front of the Old Faithful Lodge showcase amazing geyser formations and the Lamar Valley is known as the ‘Serengeti of North America’ for good reason. Both deserve the accolades that millions of annual visitors who descend upon this corner of Northwest Montana heap upon them every year. But, there is something special about the feeling of having a little slice of this wonderland all to yourself, which is exactly what you will find on a hike on the Lost Lake Trail. Visitors who experience this pleasant path for the first time are amazed at the natural wonders that await them around every turn. Summer fields filled with wildflowers, ancient petrified trees and enormous views of Pleasant Valley await visitors while bears and moose occasionally turn their heads to listen to the sound of beavers slapping their tails or the distant hum of Lost Lake Falls. As I stand there and breathe in the air heavily perfumed with the scent of Douglas Fir, I cannot help but think that maybe Andrew is right – this is a hidden gem and maybe it is a good thing that the bigger attractions here in Yellowstone draw as many visitors as they do. That way, smaller places like this can hold on to a little bit of the wild nature that makes this park so remarkable in the first place.
Andrew Guiding in Bryce Canyon
Venturing south, our journey takes us to a canyon that is not really a canyon and a night sky that is one of the darkest in North America. Bryce Canyon National Park sits in a relatively remote area of southern Utah and lays claim to the largest concentration of ‘hoodoos’ in the known world. For those unfamiliar, hoodoos are otherworldly rock formations created by a unique combination of weathering, wind, ice, rain and erosion that fill canyon-esque arenas that are known to science as amphitheaters. Our day finds us hiking around, under and sometimes literally through rock formations as Andrew leads us past otherworldly formations that bear names such as ‘Queen Victoria,’ ‘Tower Bridge’ and the especially popular ‘Thor’s Hammer.’ Later that evening, we mingle with guests and stroll past lavishly adorned canvas tents to the soothing glow of a small fire pit where we find people are roasting s’mores. As we eat, drink and laugh, Andrew remarks how lucky he is to be a living embodiment of EXP Journey’s mission – “to open up this amazing world and make every journey a once-in-a-lifetime experience.” Later that evening, I overhear the camp astronomer talking to a group of children while pointing out different constellations and he explains to the rapt listeners how each occupies constellation occupies its own unique space in the dark sky sanctuary above us. I smile, nod in understanding and feel that immense sense of gratitude and contentment that comes over people when they realize they are occupying exactly the space where they should be. It is in that moment that I silently understand that one of Andrew’s favorite places is not really a place at all – rather it is that experience, that once-in-a-lifetime experience that can only truly be felt when you are connected to nature and those around you while communing in these wild and special places.
Andrew Guiding Paria Canyon Overlook
The final stop on our list takes us into the largest contiguous Ponderosa pine forest in the world. Andrew loves this spot so much that he personally helps create custom luxury camps here with unobstructed views of what Theodore Roosevelt called “the one great sight which every American should see.” I would expand Teddy’s admonition beyond Americans alone to include anyone capable and so inclined. Millions and millions of people agree with me it seems as Grand Canyon National Park routinely bring masses from across the globe who come to experience and behold this breathtaking natural wonder of the world. Let the masses enjoy the view as they should. Andrew is taking us to a special place just 20 miles away from the throngs of people who crowd the trail along the South Rim to a place that seems much further and distant. The North Rim, as it is known, is effectively cut off from its southern counterpart and enjoys cooler temperatures in addition to only a fraction (about 1/10th) as many visitors as the rest of the park system. What this means for Andrew and his guests is that their hikes here are of a different variety. They share the trails with fewer people and more animals. Curious and beautiful creatures such as mule deer or the celebrated Kaibab squirrel. On a crisp, early fall morning, a small family enjoys a stunning sunrise all to themselves from the comfort of their private campsite before they all slowly venture into the warmth of their opulent dining tent, nestled in a secluded grove of fragrant pines. While Andrew gears up for another day of exploration, he can hear his guests chatting excitedly as they enjoy a leisurely breakfast, expertly prepared by their own on-site chef. Plates of pancakes, sizzling bacon, fresh fruit and pitchers of mimosas are passed around the table while their attentive camp staff looks after every last detail. We all savor a moment of silence acknowledging the fact that while we are in one of the most popular and heavily visited national parks in the country, this moment and this view of the canyon is ours and ours alone. For that moment, we think Mr. Roosevelt was right – everyone should see this majesty that spreads out before us. Just maybe not all at once and not all in the same spot.
Canoeing The Bow River Near Banff National Park
We hope that you have enjoyed this exclusive look into some of Andrew’s favorite places and that these brief glimpses will inspire you to seek out something special on your next adventure that you will be excited to share with others. If you happen to find yourself not quite sure what or where that might be, Andrew and the rest of the EXPerts at EXP Journeys are just a phone call or mouse click away. We look forward to traveling with you soon!