Thursday, August 13, 2009

Go West (Part II): Mother Nature…and Dairy Queen

“Vagabonding is about gaining the courage to loosen your grip on the so-called certainties of this world. Vagabonding is about refusing to exile travel to some other, seemingly more appropriate time of your life. Vagabonding is about taking control of your circumstances instead of passively waiting for them to decide your fate.” –Rolf Potts

It’s highly possible that we didn’t qualify as bona-fide vagabonds, but it was about as close as we could get in five-day’s worth of a road trip through a fraction of the southwest, lugging our bags in and out of a different motel each night, spending our days exhaustively exploring the stunning surroundings on foot.

Everywhere we went, my eyes drank in natural beauty that my mind could never put to words. A simple walk to a nondescript Mexican restaurant outside of Hurricane, UT had me staring at a backdrop of deep red bluffs and a mountain range basically sitting at the intersection of the Mojave Desert and the Colorado Plateau. As the cars zipped by us on a road that drivers made clear was not often frequented by pedestrians, I wondered if all these people saw what I saw, or have they been here so long that they don’t even see it anymore? Or perhaps, for some, it’s all they’ve ever seen?

We had inadvertently chosen some of the hottest days of the year to spend entirely outside. Despite our best efforts, morning running followed by coffee, breakfast, packing lunch for the day’s hikes, and driving to the next destination usually resulted in beginning each trek at just about noon. Brilliant. By then, temperatures were usually reaching more than 100 degrees—I’m fairly certain that we left about 95 percent of ourselves in sweat on some of the most scenic trails in Utah. I was also convinced that my water bottle was going to have to be surgically removed from my right hand in order to pass through airport security on the way home.

At Zion, we took on a trail that led to Observation Point—a round trip of 8 miles, including a steep ascent of 2,000 feet to the top of Mount Baldy, where you could see most of the attractions of the canyon and beyond. At Bryce, we fashioned a 6-mile route out of the Navajo Loop and Peekaboo Trail, through Queens Garden and up to Sunset Point. At Lake Powell, we cooled off in the water at Lone Rock, after touring Antelope Canyon, on the Navajo Reservation in Page, and visiting Horseshoe Bend, where a short hike ends on a cliff nearly 1,000 feet above the emerald-green Colorado River, just where it makes an astounding turn around yet another enormous sandstone-rock formation.

What we saw was, of course, amazing. At some points I was convinced we landed on a different planet. The mysterious hoodoos jutting straight up in the air at Bryce, the creams and pinks and reds of the sandstone cliffs against the brilliant blue skies at Zion, and the smooth, spiraling rock in the narrow slot Antelope Canyon were all equally breathtaking in surprisingly unique ways. And when I stopped to remind myself that they are all natural formations, it made them all that much more awe-inspiring. Reading a brief bit of Navajo history later on, it said that entering a place like Antelope Canyon was akin to going into a cathedral, where Native Americans could “leave with an uplifted feeling of what Mother Nature has to offer, and to be in harmony with something greater than themselves.”

Yes, that about sums it up.

When all was said and done each night—when we were finally settled in for some hard-earned sleep—I couldn’t help but think that the parts of the journey that will forever stay with me will include everything I couldn’t capture with my camera: The talks the three of us had on every trail, from silly to serious, to thought-provoking, to laughter-inducing (“Would you rather have to marry [insert name of the most horrible ex-boyfriend on the planet here] and spend the rest of your life with him, or be forced to eat four circus peanuts every day until you die?”); the spontaneous Aretha Franklin sing-a-long in the car driving out of Bryce; the rare moments of quiet when each of us seemed deep in our own heads (or, um, tagging photos on Facebook...); the daily peanut butter-and-jelly lunch breaks on the trails; my solo early morning runs, when I discovered serene parts of the world I convinced myself that nobody else has ever seen; the sweet, sweet relief of sitting in that cold stream at Zion after the hottest, sweatiest hike ever; finally finding that perfectly tart lemonade I had been fantasizing about for days; parking lot yoga; and two words that the three of us will never be able to utter again without laughing: Dairy Queen (ever notice that the one time you’re actually craving it, you can’t find one to save your life, further proving the theory that we always want what we can’t have…?).

Before it was time to head to Flagstaff and bid farewell to Alissa, we had one last night to celebrate it all, in the metropolis of Page. What happens when you combine three exhausted women, iTunes, a couple of bottles of wine, and a motel called…ready?...Debbie’s Hideaway? Yeah. Stay tuned.

(To be continued…)


Jane said...

Beautiful! Now finally get the whole 'Dairy Queen' thing that originally flew over my head.

Hua said...

Great pictures!!