The Palette Cleanser
5 days, 3 states, 1 epic adventure
Earlier this month I took a leap of faith and quit my job to explore a new opportunity that presented itself. Since I had just recently moved to San Francisco I didn’t plan on taking any time off between the roles, however due to my reapplication to work in the country I didn’t have much of a choice. This left me with a week (or so I thought) of time to relax, explore and recharge before starting my new job.
After mentioning the time between roles to my buddy Jon he said that he always wanted to go on a motorcycle camping trip through southern Utah. Instantly I decided to steal his trip idea and make it my own. Within the hour I had booked a return flight to Las Vegas from San Francisco, as well as a rental car that I would drive to each of the National Parks I decided to visit in Utah. Later that week I hit up REI to replenish my camping supplies and picked up a book on Zion & Bryce Canyon… which until this point I really knew nothing about.
The next week I found myself landing in Las Vegas at 9am, with little to no plan of action. All I knew is I was going to be camping alone in Utah National Parks for the next 5 days and that 110F is hot as hell.
The adventure got off to a slow start, who knew picking up a car in Las Vegas would take hours. After waiting in line for nearly two hours, I knew I was going to be shit out of luck finding a place to camp in Zion National Park by the time I arrived. I quickly got on my phone and booked a private camping spot. Not really the the way I wanted to start my trip, but hey, at least I knew where I was going to be sleeping.
“Great Summer” -Vance Joy
At 5pm I was finally rolling into Zion National Park. I quickly set up my site and headed out for a sunset hike. This place was BEAUTIFUL. I’d never been to Nevada or Utah before. The scenery was like candy to me, I couldn’t stop eating it up. I was on a complete sugar high.
“Right Down The Line” -Gary Rafferty
The next day I got up with the sun and headed out to find my new campsite. After setting up camp, I headed out to explore The Narrows. This is the narrowest section of Zion Canyon and is a gorge with walls a thousand feet tall. Initially I wanted to do the Top Down hike, which allows you to camp overnight in The Narrows, however with my trip being so last minute they where out of permits.
That left me with the Bottom Up hike, which is about a 10 mile hike through the virgin river leading to the Big Spring. There where parts of the river that had a bank to walk along, others that has me nearly swimming with water up to my chin.
Traveling alone is a blessing. I met so many people that day from all different walks of life, one of which being a father and his two daughters who were in the area from Boston. The three of them loved backpacking together and had decided to visit a new part of America every summer break. I happen to run into the three of them every day of my trip and it was always a treat to catchup and share out adventures with each other.
“I’ll Cut You Down” -Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats
After being soaked from head to toe nearly all day, I headed back to camp, which happened to be right along the Virgin River. I spent the rest of the day catching some sun by the water and reading Wild by Cheryl Strayed, which felt perfectly fitting for this trip (thanks Amy!).
One of my favourite aspects of camping is rising and falling with the sun.
I did just that.
“Get up, Get up” -Younger Lovers
Day 3 started before the sun had yet to rise. I packed up camp and found a new spot nearby which I could call home for the night.
The day before I had met a couple people in The Narrows that told me about Angel’s Landing. It sounded like a hike I couldn’t pass up, so I headed out that way. Imagine hiking up switchbacks for an hour, then walking on the scariest ledge of your life for another mile. That’s Angel’s Landing.
Anything that makes you cringe is probably
worth trying once.
Heading up to Angel’s Landing and crossing over to the top of it was one of the most mindful experiences I’ve had in a long time. In recent memory, at least six people have fallen to their deaths while making this trek.
I thought about my family, my friends, my ex-boyfriend, my career, the only guy to break my heart, my bicycle, my eating disorder, my new home, my old home, who I am now and who I want to be.
Walking up a mountain in 110F is a total fucking trip.
My mind wandered between thoughts like a continuous mirage. From being thankful for having such a strong, inspiring and independent mother, to wondering if the one guy who broke my heart has any idea that he’s that guy. I thought “why is there no damn shade on this mountain” and that I’m so lucky to have such a great friendship with my ex. The main thing that crossed my mind was that I don’t know why it took me moving to California to be more open about the issues/problems in my life and why are people so scared to share their vulnerabilities?
I want to be as human as possible. Not to hide or run or prove anything, but to see and be seen.
“Forget you in LA” — Poema
After that breath of fresh air I decided to cruise around the rest of the park and check out some of the more mellow hikes. Ending the day once again with a sunset walk, a swim in the Virgin River and heading to bed with the sun.
“Now And Again” -Tor Miller
5am came a little two quickly the next day, but I was moving on to Bryce Canyon and needed to get an early start to the day.
I arrived just before 7am and set up camp for the last time. It was so good to feel the cool breeze at 8,000 feet after the heat in Zion National Park.
That day I would walk over 18 miles and complete just about every trail Bryce Canyon had to offer. The park is filled with incredible Hoodoos, the most stunning views and a large variety of wildlife, nevermind some of the most entertaining tourists one could imagine. The people watching was on point that day.
This was the only night of my trip that allowed me to have a campfire and I couldn’t wait. The temperature dropped to about 40F that night and I was so happy to bundle up in my Ninja Suit and call it a night.
“California Soul” -Marlena Shaw
After packing up camp for the last time I headed on out to do the last hike available at Bryce Canyon, followed by some mellow trails at Red Canyon on the way back to Nevada.
My early start to the day left me with some time to kill before my flight back to San Francisco from Las Vegas that night. I decided to go checkout the city for the first time. You know what sucks, soberly walking around in 110F in a city full of messy drunk people. I highly don’t recommend doing it. The upside, it made me ready to go home to San Francisco which I really didn’t feel like doing earlier in the day.
“Dissolve Me” -alt-J
I’ve now been unemployed for almost two weeks as I wait for my new work visa. This is the longest stint I’ve taken off of work since I was 16 years old and took my first full-time job at a local skateshop. It has been one of the most refreshing experiences of my life.
If you haven’t taken some time for a palette cleanser, get on it.
It may just change your life.