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Entries about canyons

A Taste of the Desert Day 3

sunny 90 °F
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We woke up in each others arms, which probably had more to do with the chilliness of the morning than our mutual desire to snuggle. We shared a breakfast of champions – puffin cereal & soy milk - but forgot to pack bowls so improvised with a plastic croissant container. We packed up our gear and picked up cooler for our refrigerated items (cheese, deli meats, fruit, edamame, yogurt, onions, carrots soymilk) just in time as the bags of ice had melted to puddles in our plastic bags. We're leaving Springdale & Zion on our way to the steep, craggy cliffs of Bryce Canyon. Bryce lies at a much higher elevation than nearby Zion National Park and the Grand Canyon, varying from 8,000 to 9,000 feet, whereas the south rim of the Grand Canyon sits at 7,000 feet above sea level. The park is named after Ebenezer Bryce, who started ranching the area in 1875. Upon showing the canyons to visitors, he is said to have remarked, "It's a hell of a place to lose a cow."


We found the AUX cable outlet (it was in the glove compartment) and for the first time during this trip we were able to listen to something other than the static-y radio, yay! The light jams pouring out of Pandora were interrupted by our gasps as we sighted a Buffalo on East 9. We spent part of the two hour drive to Bryce stuck on a thin, ridge road behind a one-way tunnel. T explained to me that the SW & NE lane alternate using the one lane road. Talk about poor planning!


Utah traffic signs are beehives. Which, although not explicitly stated, must be in some way attributed to the, 'worker bee, hive-mind' philosophy of Mormonism. At Zion, there was a collection of 3 rock formations thousands of feet tall, 1 named Jacob, 1 named Abraham, and one named Meroni, notably more impressive than the other two, upon seeing it, T guffawed, ”The uniquely Mormon angel.” Somehow, I don't think it's coincidence that the names of the canyons are the very same venerable names found in Mormonism. T, "Weren't Mormons the ones who didn't allow black people in their religion until 1970 something?" R, "Yeah, black Mormons are just like gay republicans, misguided.”


We made a quick stop for supplies, including plastic bowls, in Panguitch, a town that I could only describe as a place that time forgot. As we get back on the road, I consider the days hikes and tendrils of anxiety creep into me. The Fairyland trail will be the most difficult hike I’ve attempted yet. It's eight miles of intense inclines and declines (we had to descend and then climb 2,309 feet) have been given a rating of moderate by the parks dept. Before taking on a moderate ranked trail, it is recommended that you be in good physical condition and have high stamina. By no means was the trek easy, but the stupendous views and incredible rock formations, (including the China Wall, Tower Bridge) was well worth the pain.


Tom remarked multiple times how impressed he was by my ability to keep up at his pace and even, at times, set the pace for both of us. Walking behind me, he described my stride as a, 'tireless march' and we sang "Little Pack Mule" a silly song I had made up a few years ago while urban backpacking my way through cities in Europe. I don't know if we enjoyed the sound of our own voices or if we just felt like we needed to make our presence bigger somehow in order to feel like something other than little lost ants amid the towering hoodoos and high canyon walls but as we humped through, we sang the hiking songs that I could remember from girl-scouts.


I know it wasn't the most difficult hike in the park, seasoned veterans would probably view the hike as a nice warm-up, but conquering Fairyland gave me a huge boost of confidence. I had triumphed over my anxiety, defeated self-limiting thoughts and excelled where I thought I would likely fail. The adrenaline rush was enough of an energy boost for me to bike back to the campsite with T. When we arrived to our rustic 'home' we decided we had too much energy to turn in now so hopped in the ‘lil putt putt and drove out to scenic points to enjoy the slow retiring of the evening sun. We were moved by the awe-inspiring views at Sunset, Inspiration, Sunrise & Bryce points. When we got to Bryce Point, I reassured it, saying, "Don't worry Bryce point, you’re just as inspiring as Inspiration point is, if not as elevated.”


Exhausted, over-stimulated and hunger gnawing at our tummies we head back to camp for a dinner of roasted onion, fingerling potatoes & corn on the cob with s’mores for dessert. My muscles ache when I finally lay down in my sleeping bag; I'm so tired I don't even remember falling asleep.

Posted by Yonderlust 08:25 Tagged sunsets_and_sunrises hiking canyons camping meeting_goals Comments (0)

A Taste of the Desert Day 2

sunny 94 °F
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Wake up late at 9AM (which feels like 11AM for us, we lost 2 hours). We took advantage of the free breakfast at Care Oscars Bed & Breakfast then drove our little putt-putt (which is what we named our car) to Zion National Park in Utah. The winding, dipping roads are treacherous to drive on and the mood noticeably lifts once we are past the worst of it. We take in the gorgeous landscape as we check in at the Watchman Campground; the high canyon walls are punctuated by the numerous mesas surrounding us, “Every time I look around I’m startled” I exclaim, overwhelmed by thestratified layers of the rock formations and deep canyon walls of the Colorado plateau. The rock formations here have Native American inspired names like Navajo sandstone, Kayenta and Moenave.


Our first order of business, after setting up camp, is to pick up wet gear at the Zion adventure company to hike The Narrows. After seeing the equipment needed (which added up to around $100 each) and a training video that teaches you how to negotiate shoulder height water, we decide playing in the Emerald Pools is a better idea.


We spent a glorious 7 hours hiking in Zion Canyon National Park; mainly wading in the emerald pools & hiking along a 2 mile walk deep in the valley along the river. The bleached white,orange and red peaks which comprised the 3,000 ft high canyon walls made us feel like we had been swallowed by the earth.


An older couple chatted with us a bit, they told us in a disbelieving tone that it was 94 degrees out. We couldn't feel the heat but our bodies did tire out more quickly & seem to need much more water than usual. It felt like a tantalizingly dangerous climate; one could forget they were in the desert with the lush undergrowth, desert grasses and leafy trees. The plant life grows low to the ground, even the houses & buildings seem to hug the earth as though in deference to the magnanimous heights of these otherworldly rock formations.


I commented that I felt like I “stepped into another universe or an alternative reality.” The solemnity didn't last long as T came up with a new game, which entailed entirely of him hollering ”DETOUR!” and pushing us both off the path. This, somehow, led to the both of us skipping arm in arm as we sang, "We're off to see the wizard!" off-key and at high volume.


We took a break to pick up matching water shoes (50% off) and a camel water pack for R then decided to continue our explorations of the area by hopping on a very informative guided bus tour. The morbidity of one rock formation etched it's image into my memory, it had two long red vertical streaks that outlined a white triangle on it's rock face and is appropriately called the Alter of Sacrifice. At the end of the tour, we were exhausted and ready for dinner. We headed back to our site and T started a fire while I made quesadillas & s’mores. Curled up in the tent, I begged T to tell me more ghost stories, which he did without complaint, and as I fell asleep his words made their way into my dreams.


Posted by Yonderlust 12:19 Archived in USA Tagged landscapes hiking canyons camping Comments (0)

A Taste of the Desert Day 1

sunny 85 °F
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The day felt like it went on forever, and it nearly did, as it began at 6:30AM and didn't end until 3:00AM. We made a lot of ground, touching down in four states in one 24 hour period. We hopped in the taxi we ordered the night before that was waiting for us outside of our apartment at 8:00AM. It's a jerky 30 minute drive to JFK Airport and already we're making a list of things we need to pick up once we get to Las Vegas. Rachael needs a hat, Tom needs a fleece. A friend's text comes in with last minute advice to pick up aquaphor. While boarding the Delta 737 my flight phobia kicks in and I sigh with relief, a larger plane means less turbulence and there are 6 seats per row. The in flight movie is a wacky version of the Wizard of Oz from the wicked witches perspective. We snack on multiple packs of peanuts, pretzels & tomato juice (but no wine). Tom looks out the window, “It feels like we’re looking at an alien planet.” We speak in hushed tones while flying over the canyons. As we begin the descent, I squeeze Tom's arm and bury my head in his chest. The plane makes a stomach lurching landing at the McCarren airport and I can finally relax.


It takes 3 bus rides, but we make it to luggage pick up, grab our packs and head off to CVS to pick up a few last minute items. While there, the loudspeaker comes on and a less than pleased sounding cashier says, “Assistance needed in the liquor isle.” Startled by this pronouncement, I look across the store and low and behold there is a wall o’ liquor that runs the entire length of the far wall. Tom notices it the same time as I do and we exchange wide eyed looks, he laughs, “Las Vegas” I respond, “Yeah, apparently.”


We head to Wholefoods for dinner and are tickled to find that they have their own 365 brand wine. The 3 hour time change means I'm not hungry for dinner so I just munch on a snack, T is not pleased, “Peanuts do not a meal make, Rachael.” We sit at picnic tables in the middle of Whole Foods and Tom eats a real meal while a random old man repeatedly asks me if I'm Russian. This wasn't the only case of misidentification that day. When we picked up the rental car from Fox rentals an older guy approached Tom and asked what branch he was in. Paired with Tom's recent, high and tight hair cut, jaunty stance and the tan camo coloring of our vehicle, I could see how people could get confused. I told him he should've said Marine Corps, those guys are hard core.


As soon as we hit the Las Vegas border, the desert’s true nature reveals itself. There are no more imported palm trees, just native cacti and other flora. On the road, T is in awe: “The sea of power lines is so other worldly.” We roll down the windows and let the ethereal atmosphere soak into our bones. The air smells sweet as we drive through 3 states, Nevada to AZ to Utah. We made a quick detour before our ultimate destination to catch the sunset in the Valley of Fire, Nevada.


As Tom takes hair-point turns at 50 MPH our compact car weaves its way down to the Valley of Fire. “This land feels like it was made for giants & gods, not humans, everything is on such a grand scale.” T remarks, and he’s right, for the first time the iconic idea of the road stretching into the horizon becomes tangible to me. Riding into the valley, Tom turned to me and said, “Now this is a good example of a blue highway.” I asked what that was and he said, "small, forgotten, out-of-the-way roads connecting rural America."


We hike up a large rocky outcrop, looking for rock gollums along the way. Climbing here is like exploring the terrain on Mars. We rock scramble up a little peak of rocks amidst the red sandstone and stay there to watch the sunset. It was like watching the sun set the world ablaze as it slowly dipped below the rock formations.

R: “Being here make’s me acutely aware of how precious life is.”
T: “This really is a valley of fire.”


During the long, dark drive to the bed in breakfast room waiting for us in George, UT, Tom & I engulfed long mouthfuls of melted chocolate in the dark, me using my fingers to feed it to T as he drove through the moonlit desert.

Posted by Yonderlust 13:03 Archived in USA Tagged canyons sunsets Comments (0)

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