“Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day
Fritter and waste the hours in an off-hand way
Kicking around on a piece of ground in your home town
Waiting for someone or something to show you the way
Tired of lying in the sunshine staying home to watch the rain
You are young and life is long and there is time to kill today
And then one day you find ten years have got behind you
No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun”
Pink Floyd – Time
My last blog was around 14 days ago… It’s funny how two weeks out here can have a years worth of memories compared to the life I was in just a couple months ago. I remember flipping the pages of my calendar thinking, wow, another month came and went. Maybe if I was lucky enough, I had a weekend get-a-way and escaped from the mundaneness… but maybe not. My life revolved around a clock. 9am be at work. 1pm take lunch. 7pm go home. By the end, I was sitting in my office during lunch and watching Netflix so I could have a little false sense of escapism. Now… I look at my calendar to simply know what day it is. It’s funny how things change, and as you look back at your past, it can seem like another life… and yet it was just 2 months ago compared to where I am now. A lifetime of memories in between.
My previous ‘life’ has been on my mind a lot lately because, well, I am going back to it. Or at least the location. When I last wrote I was in Bozeman, Montana on a front porch. Now, I am in a tent, surrounded by stars in Flagstaff, Arizona (it took me a second to remember where I was). I have been moving a lot the last couple days, but let’s start from where I left off.
Yellowstone (9/30-10/3 @ Madison Campground)
I left Bozeman and drove the 3 hours to Yellowstone (Wyoming, another state checked off!). This season has been abnormally high with traffic in National Parks and campsites have not been as easy as I thought, especially since many campgrounds close the first week of October. I luckily got the last tent site available in one of the three campgrounds still open. Once I set up shop I drove around a bit to get my bearings and ended up seeing a Bison and Elk cross paths along a river, as if they were old pals. I kid you not, I was in the park 10 minutes and saw a walking postcard. Then the Bison crossed the road, and I thought… why did the Bison cross the road? Postcard AND a joke. Good one Yellowstone. Anyways, I was pretty exhausted and had a nasty cold so I made some soup and watched The Dark Knight on my lap top… man, you forget how good Heath Ledger was.
The next day I drove around the park, which if you have never been to Yellowstone, imagine a giant driving safari park but instead of Lions and Elephants, you have Elk, Bison, Bears and Wolves. I saw all of them… although I am pretty sure it was a Coyote and not a Wolf, but oh well. And the Bear was from a telescope type lens and it was just his back… but the Bison and Elk… man they’re literally everywhere. Massive creatures. And it is mating season for Elk so they do this funny call to impress the ladies… which goes on 24 hours a day. But watch out because they take any other male as a threat so they’re pretty aggro. It’s like the Jersey Shore of Elks right now.
My last day I explored the Geysers. This was pretty spectacular. I don’t know about you, but the fact I was walking on a gigantic piece of land resting on an active volcano… pretty crazy. You are literally seeing boiling water burst through the Earth’s crust and shoot into the air 50+ feet high. And the colors… the sediment and bacteria mixing together creates incredible shades of blues, yellows, reds… It was a very neat experience.
Yellowstone is a huge park with tons of animals… and if you like driving around and taking photos, this is definitely for you. Personally, I like more of the active parks so by the third day I was ready to go.
Salt Lake City (10/3-10/5 @ airbnb)
From Yellowstone I drove 6 hours to Salt Lake City, Utah. I checked into my airbnb and went to a double feature of movies… The Martian (excellent! Funny and dramatic, and Matt Damon is just the man) and Everest (meh). I wanted to go to a haunted house after but didn’t have time, so I went out to the bars instead. I had some beers and since University of Utah is right there, figured I would hit the college late night food scene. I got some fantastic pizza (New York style) and played some pinball and had one hell of a night. Then I realized I graduated college 5 years ago and just went out completely alone… so I went home and cried myself to sleep.
The next day I explored Salt Lake on my own walking tour and really loved it. It is a beautiful city with tons to do and is incredibly clean. It’s like Disneyland in that sense, you honestly don’t see trash anywhere. And the food was top notch. Short Rib Grilled Cheese, Dim Sum, Pizza… they have it all. BUT their draft beer is all 4% or under and they have regulated spouts on their hard alcohol… weird Utah laws… anyways, I enjoyed the city life but it was time to keep moving.
Bryce National Park (10/5-10/6 @ North Campground)
Here is where the whole campsite issue was kind of a blessing in disguise. I had planned on camping at Zion National Park but their sites fill up by 11am. SLC is a good 5 hour drive away so no chance of making that. However, Bryce National Park is only an hour from Zion (4 hours from SLC) and was recommended. So I drove to Bryce and explored the Hoodoos with a solid 4 mile hike (Hoodoos are super tall, spiny columns of bright red rock). It was amazing… it really looked like Mars… Until the rain came. Then it looked like shit because you’re in steep elevation so the temp dropped to the 40s and I ran like Forest Gump to my car where I remained for 2 hours listening to Monday Night Football waiting for it to stop pouring. Then… tent and movie with every piece of clothing I owned.
Zion National Park (10/6-10/9 @ South Campground)
The next morning I woke up at 6am due to a Chinese couple deciding to argue loud enough to wake up their relatives back in China. I wished them well (except the complete opposite of wishing someone well) and packed up and drove to Zion. I got there by 8:30am and luckily secured an amazing site that sat next to a river right below giant Red Canyons. The couple even left me some supplies since they had a flight to catch back to Minnesota. Got to love those little travel perks when meeting nice strangers.
I was settled in Zion by noon and wanted to explore. Zion has tons of great hikes so I chose one that was recommended called Observation Point. It is 9 miles with over 2000 feet of elevation gain, but once you see why it’s called ‘Observation Point’, you’re suddenly okay with all the pain you feel in your legs. And remember, we are already at a base level of about 4000 feet. The view was beautiful. You could see a Horseshoe Bend in The Virgin River, Angels Landing, the entire park… It was well worth the exertion… but once I got to my campsite I immediately laid down and didn’t get back up.
The next day I had to be up by 7am to hike The Subway (which you need a permit for and can get on line). It is roughly 12 miles through rivers, boulders, woods and any other landscape you can imagine. It was unreal. I made a friend and we ended up hiking together the whole time. Sarah – she lives in Alaska and is a anesthetic nurse. She was traveling alone so I think both of us were happy to have another person to talk to. The hike is kind of a make-your-own-path which to me means, lets climb every boulder, walk on every log and skip across every stream. This is where my bo-staff/walking stick came in handy. Yes I now have a Bo-Staff. #Moses. The hike took 8 hours and by the end I was ready to eat 10,000 calories and drink 99 beers. Instead I had 1 beer and 1 Chicken Parm from a really cool pizza place in town. I also had a salad since I felt the need to be healthy. It was very nice.
Believe it or not… the next day I woke up and hiked The Narrows. I know you’d think I would take a day off but you can’t afford to miss these places in Zion. So, the Narrows… You follow The Virgin River (while hiking completely in it… no way around it, you’re slogging through rocks and rapids up to your knees and waist) in the valley as the canyon closes in closer and closer. Hence the name The Narrows. Not for the faint of heart or the claustrophobic. It runs about 16 miles so you just turn around whenever you think enough is enough… but remember, you have to hike all the ground you just covered. So best to quit a little early.
3 nights in Zion was perfect. I left the following morning and headed to Lake Powell in Arizona.
Lake Powell/Page, Arizona (10/9-10/10 @ Antelope Island)
The drive only took a couple hours so I arrived in Lake Powell area by 11am. There is a TON to do around Page (where Lake Powell is). One thing that has been on my bucket list for a couple years now has been the Upper or Lower Antelope Canyon. I naively thought you could just park and walk around… nah. Where there is money to be made, people will be making it. So I drove to Upper and it was around $40 for a guided tour that lasts an hour. It’s called Upper because you remain at ground level and walk into the Canyon. I asked the lady who worked there what she liked best and she said, it’s basically the same but Lower is cheaper and less crowded, and in her opinion, better. So Lower I went (Lower because you walk down 5 flights of stairs into the canyon, again not for claustrophobic people). $20 guide fee plus $8 for parking… (it’s on an Indian Reservation) and I kid you not, best $28 I ever spent. It takes an hour to walk through the curved, brightly colored walls of Lower Antelope Canyon that widen and narrow as you stroll. It was absolutely stunning… if you have never done hallucinogens (like Magic Mushrooms), do this walk through and you’ll know what visuals look like while on them, or so I’m told? (sorry Mom). The guide was super friendly and knowledgeable. It was something I highly recommend and is only 15 minutes away from Lake Powell.
I still had time though and there is a girl I follow on Instagram who travels alone all the time and she was just in Lake Powell and camped on Antelope Island… by herself. So I figured I got to try this. I went to Lake Powell Paddleboards and while she did a paddleboard, I rented a kayak because there is something about paddleboarding that reserves absolutely zero interest for me. So anyways, they knew exactly who I was talking about and they gave me all the info I needed and loaded the kayak onto the Jeep (only $40 for 24 hours which is great because there is no fee to camp). I parked at the marina, loaded the kayak up, and set sail for Antelope Island. It was seriously out of a movie… I felt amazing. Like a damn Pioneer.
I made camp after a half mile paddle and was in my glory. It was around 5pm by now and the sun was setting over these orange and red canyons as I sat on my private beach and watched. I knew instantly this would be something I would cherish. And I did. I even did a Tom Hanks – Cast Away dance when I made fire. I dedicated it to Wilson. I was dancing and having an incredible time, really channeling my inner Jack Sparrow… and then… A boat pulled up about 50 yards away. And then that boat started playing music. Country. I love country. I hated them for ruining my solitude but country I could handle. I turned my own music off since they wanted the Chinese relatives mentioned above to hear their music it was so loud. And, I accepted this. But then… the country turned off and on came rap. I thought, I hate rap. I wanted to shout for them to turn their music down and go elsewhere, I was having a damn moment over here. But, I kept quiet. Took a looooong pull from my wine bottle and accepted it. And then… the rap turned off, and on came Cancun’s Spring Break 2004 greatest club hits. And you know, I just laughed. I drank my bottle of wine to my face and I laughed. At my situation. At their horrendous taste is music… What could I do? I accepted it.
Acceptance is a major thing I have had to well, accept, while on this trip. Anyone who knows me closely would probably say that some of my biggest faults are patience and the will to just let things be. To not interject or voice my opinion… Something you are forced to deal with when traveling, especially on extended trips like this. Things don’t always work out the way you want or had wished for, and often things change last minute. Traffic is bad, campsites are booked, the weather changes etc. Things are out of your control and you are forced to just roll with it. You adapt. You learn. You figure out what is next rather than focusing on what went wrong. I think that is a common trend with us – when something goes wrong, we focus for so long on what happened and where the problem was that we don’t give ourselves a chance to make a next move, to accept that this happened and concentrate on what to do next.
I will be forced to accept the fact that my trip is over this week. I will need to stop focusing on the past and concentrate on what to do now. What can I do in order to allow myself to have another adventure, to keep writing, making content for Locals Only, keep pursuing my dream. I know it’s something small of accepting an obnoxious boat playing shit music, but you got to start somewhere right? The next time a problem arises for you, try taking a deep breath, understanding and accepting your situation and the move forward with a plan. Hindsight is always 20/20 so adapt the best you can to your current situation and stroll forward… We have to accept… otherwise it will ruin any chance for a positive outcome. Like the boat, if I kept thinking over and over how shitty their Fat Tuesday Spring Break playlist was, I wouldn’t have smiled or laughed. I wouldn’t look back on my Antelope Island experience with joy and humor.
The following morning I woke up with the sun and took in my vast view of solitary beauty. I knew this was something special, techno or not. I got in my kayak and did a 6 mile paddle through the Antelope Channels which was absolutely grueling. It took 4 hours and while it was pretty amazing, I couldn’t help but think about how nice it will be to reach land. Paddling. Is. Hard. I almost lifted my thumb as cruiser boats and tour boats past me… but I set out to do this, I was damn well going to finish it. By noon I had reached my island, boarded up the kayak, and set sail inland. My time at Lake Powell was over, albeit brief, it was something I will remember forever.
This entry has reached a long enough limit, so next time I will post about my trip to the Grand Canyon and having to camp on a random forest service road in the middle of the night (after randomly walking into my friends families hotel – granted there aren’t too many hotels in GC)… Camping in Flagstaff at a KOA which was so weird since we were directly across the street from a huge shopping center. My mind was baffled coming from the deep woods. And today I am in (I wrote this partially in the tent and partially in an airbnb) Phoenix, then Joshua Tree, then LA…
Till next time… Keep Eating. Keep Drinking. Keep Reading.
- Established in 1872, Yellowstone National Park is America’s first national park. The park was dedicated by President U.S. Grant. 20 years before Montana, Idaho and Wyoming were granted statehood.
- Yellowstone National Park has 5 park entrances, 466 miles of roads, 950 miles of backcountry trails, 97 trailheads, and 287 backcountry campsites.
- There are only 30 active super volcanos in the world and Yellowstone Park is one of them and the only one to be located on land.
- A grizzly bear will eat about 35 pounds of food in a typical day.
- Salt Lake City has 12 locals breweries – but Utah consumes the least amount of beer in any of the US 50 states.
- SLC has one of the biggest LGBT communities in the country. It was ranked #1 in 2012.
- Bryce Canyon: The canyon’s remarkable collection of whimsical hoodoo spires were believed by the early Paiute Indians to be people frozen in stone by the mischievous spirit Coyote. Early geologists feared the hoodoos would transform into humans.
- Zion is a Hebrew word that means ‘a place of peace and relaxation.’ This was the name given to the canyon in the 1860s by Mormon pioneers.
- Zion was originally called Mukuntuweap National Monument but people couldn’t pronounce it and feared that if you couldn’t say it, you wouldn’t visit it, so they changed it to Zion.
- The Olympic Torch passed through the park in 2002 while on its way to Salt Lake City.
- When full Lake Powell has almost 2000 miles of shoreline, about the same as the west coast of the United States.
- The scenery is so unusual Lake Powell has been used as the setting for many movies, including Gravity, Planet of the Apes, Broken Arrow.