During the nine years I called Arizona home, I never really saw what it or the surrounding states had to offer. We saw the obvious sights—the world’s biggest hole in the ground, the coast of California, and the snowy mountains of Utah—but now, almost 20 years later, I’ve come to realize how much more the American Southwest has to offer. Lucky for me a good friend wanted to shoot a short sci-fi film in the desert, and so we went.

Over the course of seven days we traveled some 3k miles, exploring some of the world’s most alien terrain. Somewhere near the Salton Sea is where we began. A strange, hazy, farm-like zone with weird little mud volcanoes—one of the stranger places I’ve ever been for sure. Next to a refinery. With border patrol trucks flying all over the place. From there we traveled east to the Star Wars-like land of White Sands, NM. And then back west we went to Arizona’s Petrified Forest. This place was a trip. It felt like I had stepped into Fraggle Rock with little 225 million year old rock-hard petrified logs laying everywhere. It’s amazing how otherworldly a place can look, while in reality only being the size of a couple football fields surrounded by barren desert.

In Utah we hit the Coral Pink Sand Dunes, Monument Valley, and Zion. Postcard views were everywhere. At the latter of the three we encountered Angels Landing, where the most beautiful view was the reward for surviving the craziest hike of my entire life. Though gnarly, I HIGHLY recommend it if you want to scare the hell out of yourself.

Even still, at the end of the trip, I felt I had only scratched the surface.