Playing in the Sand

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Sand Dunes National Park is a surprising place. First of all, many people don’t even know it exists. It’s a very small park and was given national park status in the early 2000s. Most people don’t think of Colorado when they think of sand dunes, but tucked just south of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains are towering waves of sand that shift with the wind and left me in awe. I had been to the park once before several years ago, so I had an idea what to expect. Even so, this park deserves more than one visit. You get a great view of the dunes on the drive in, but to truly experience them you have to get out there and feel the sand.

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Just beyond the visitor center is the turnoff to a parking lot that leads directly to the dunes. As you pass Medano Creek the great expanse of sand lies before you. It is flat for some time as you approach the imposing formations ahead, and the wind has probably already shown you it means business. If I can offer one piece of advice before you visit this park: be prepared for the wind. Wear long sleeves and pants, bring a hat, sunglasses or safety glasses, and a buff or bandana to put over your face. You will thank me. I learned the hard way with a grain of sand in my eye for several days worrying it would never come out. Plus you’ll look cool like I did.

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You will soon realize that there are no proper trails here as the shifting sands cover up footprints almost as quickly as they are made. It is tempting to follow the herd to the closer dune peak, but I say it’s better to wander off on your own. Follow the lines in the sand that call to you. There is so much to explore. Just take a look behind you at the hills to find a nice landmark to follow back. I found the highest point I could and set my sights on that. Consequently I was led away from any other people which was just fine with me!

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Climbing sand is exactly what it sounds like. It’s not easy, but you will figure out the best methods quickly. First, you should follow the crests of the dunes as these areas are somewhat flatter and hold your weight better. Look for the flatter areas in general to keep from sinking in too much. Place your feet flat on the ground as your walk instead of digging your heels or toes in. More surface area means less sinking. When you have to climb steeper sections, don’t be afraid to use your hands and walk like an animal! It helps! Sometimes stepping quickly really makes a difference too. As you step on steep areas you sink in and start to slide back. Moving quickly can slightly mitigate that issue. Lastly, don’t be afraid to take a break! Don’t wear yourself out too quickly. Stop and enjoy the incredible scenery!

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Once cresting one of the bigger hills the wind was whipping like nothing I’d ever experienced. It felt like I could lean in and not fall down. Here I was happy I brought a windbreaker because it got chilly fast. The views from the top of the ridge were unbelievable. The sunlight danced on the blowing sand as it blew forcefully off the tip of the ridge, floating over the shadow on the opposite side. I followed the crest of this massive dune to the highest point and let the wind hold me while I marveled at the Sangre de Cristo mountains rising out of the rolling landscape. I watched another man taking in the majesty as well as he lay and rolled shirtless in the sand, enjoying every moment to the fullest.

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Coming down the dunes is much easier as you can let gravity do the work for you. If you fall down it will be soft! Just follow that landmark back to the parking lot and dump the sand out of your shoes! There are other trails to explore leading into the mountains where you can get totally different views of the dunes. I’m already excited about visiting again to experience sunrise and sunset as well as seeing how the landscape has changed. National parks always preserve unique places, but I think this one will surprise you more than most!

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dm.rt

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Empty Chains – Winter Weekend in Zion

Utah’s National Parks were the first thing I experienced in this state, and they remain one of my favorite things about living here. Last weekend we made the short drive from Salt Lake City to Zion National Park to take advantage of the unusually warm winter we are having. It was so warm that we camped on our first night there. In February. It was chilly but nothing we couldn’t handle.

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The next morning I was up for sunrise in shorts next to the Virgin River along the Pa’Rus trail shooting reflections and waiting for the sun to peek out from behind the clouds. The clouds weren’t cooperating so I got what I could before heading out. Driving up the park road was a new experience for me since I’ve only been in this park during the warmer months when the road is only open for shuttle traffic. We got to the Weeping Rock trailhead for Observation Point early enough to snag one of the dozen parking spots.

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The trail was quiet and empty as we quickly ascended the switchbacks out of the valley. The four-mile hike is challenging but offers amazing vistas as you walk along the exposed edges dropping off sharply into the canyon. Just when you think you’ve made progress you pass a sign saying there’s two miles to go. There is some reprieve after hiking another mile of steep trail when you reach a plateau with gently rolling, rocky sections until you arrive at the official overlook.

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Observation Point offers a view that rivals that of Angels Landing. You are looking straight down on that more famous overlook and on through the canyon. There are almost always people up here as well, but it never gets as crowded or as congested as the single-file climb that dominates the last half-mile of Angels Landing. There are plenty of places to sit and rest and even get some shade if you desire. We met some great people from Zion Resort on their daily exercise hike. After their workout one of the instructors, Eddie, played soothing music on glass bowls he carried to the top. They were all very friendly, excited, and open to letting us join in.

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Before descending all the way there is another trail that takes you over a small ridge and through some narrow rock walls to Hidden Canyon. Yes, there’s a sign for it, so it’s hidden only to those who choose to ignore it. This short hike is well worth it as you climb up rock steps and along a steep edge with chains to help calm your nerves and steady your footfalls. After you get into the canyon proper the trail is what you make it. There are several sections where you need to scramble over rockfalls and large boulders to continue on. The light reflects beautifully off the walls and enhances the rich colors of the rock. There is even an exposed arch formation shortly before the end of the “official” trail. The hike ends unceremoniously with a sign next to a boulder. You can continue on, but there really isn’t much more to see from what I could tell.

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After the 10+ miles of hiking on those trails it’s hard to muster up much energy for more hiking. We also found that we were no longer alone in the parking lot as we saw cars lining the main road. The parking situation at The Grotto was even worse, so we decided to see ourselves out of the park for the day. We drove through Springdale and stopped at the Grafton Ghost Town just for something to do. It was an interesting little piece of history with some well-preserved building, a schoolhouse, and a cemetery. There isn’t much to do aside from walk around and look in some windows, but it was fun. The wind was picking up considerably and getting cold so we decided to call it an early day and got a hotel in Hurricane just down the road for the night.

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After a great night of rest with the wind whipping outside all night we made our way back to Zion and set up my tripod along the river just in time to catch the morning sun hitting the tops of the rocks. It helped that I scouted it out yesterday and knew exactly how I wanted to frame my shot. I’m pretty happy with what I got. Sunrise can be tricky, but you have to keep coming back until you get what you want. As I learn repeatedly, you also need to work with what you get. It’s so much more rewarding to get something you didn’t expect than to go in with specific expectations and leave disappointed.

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Once I got my shots we headed right for The Grotto and hit the trail for Angels Landing. By the time we had ascended just a bit above the river we could see groups of people lining the trail below. Getting an early start here is a must, especially on a weekend. This trail is much shorter than Observation Point, but the views along the way are equally captivating. Along with canyon overlooks it offers views of winding slots filled with water, huge overhanging red rock, and a wonderfully winding section of 21 switchbacks called Walters Wiggles. Once you get past that you get a little break at Scout Lookout before starting the best section.

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The last half-mile of this trail is what everyone comes for. Climbing up the “hog’s back” and over the saddle is either exhilarating or terrifying depending on your desire for sheer drop-offs and small footholds. There are chains guiding you for most of the more dangerous places, and I highly recommend using them. Less than a week earlier a teenage girl fell to her death from this section. Always be aware of your skill level, and never take unnecessary risks in places like this. The chains were uncharacteristically empty for almost our whole hike up–rewards of starting early. The hike is tough and rewarding as you crest the last section and emerge atop the formation named by some of the first to see it because “only an angel could land there.” Looking up the canyon is breathtaking to say the least, watching the Virgin river continue to carve into the landscape and looking down on tiny cars coming up the road you started at. You can carefully explore the top before descending, but be prepared to wait and move aside for people making their way up those chains.

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Before leaving, we did the short hike to the mouth of the famous Narrows, watching more people than we expected step into the water with waterproof waders and big sticks they rented from an outfitter. We also checked out the Canyon Overlook trail outside the west tunnel entrance since I had never done it before. It was a nice little hike, but after seeing some of the crown jewels up close it was hard to enjoy it quite as much. There’s no shortage of things to do in this area, and as soon as it gets a little warmer we have plans to come back and keep exploring.

dm.rt

A Winter Day in Arches

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Looking towards Double Arch

In November of 2008 my friend Nathan and I drove across the country from New Jersey to Los Angeles. We made very few stops along the way, but one of those stops was at Arches National Park. Arches was my first introduction to what I think of as National Parks in the U.S. Sure, I had been to a few places on the east coast like Shenandoah and Valley Forge, but they didn’t resonate with me the same way. At that point my travel plans were usually focused on cities and historical sites–being from Philly will do that to you. But once I saw Arches my mind was blown wide open to the natural wonders that existed in my proverbial back yard.

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Navajo Arch

Since that fateful trip I have been back to Arches at least a dozen times. While I’ve explored the rest of the country and discovered so many amazing National Parks, mountains, and natural areas this one will always hold a special place for me. It’s a relatively small park (120 square miles compared to nearby Canyonlands’ 849 square miles,) but it packs a lot into that space. Most of the trails can be hiked in a day or at least in  a weekend. There’s no need to rush, and the best part about some of the trails is the solitude you get on even a busy weekend. Now that I’m spending my first full year in Utah I’ve found that the best time to go is winter.

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Sunrise from The Windows

This past weekend Becca and I decided we wanted to go to Moab to get away from the city and enjoy the beautiful weather. It’s late January and the temperatures were forecasted to be in the 50s. We drove down Friday and got a motel so we could be up bright and early for the sunrise Saturday–dark and early actually. We drove into the park and quickly “hiked” the short trail to the Windows, two large arches carved in the same sandstone fin. We climbed out through the north Window to a perch where we could see the formation just beyond that holds Turret Arch.

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Turret Arch through North Window Arch

As we stood in the chillier-than-expected morning hue, the sun began to rise beautifully behind the distant La Sal Mountains and over towering, snow-covered hoodoos. The first sunlight on red rock is an amazing thing to witness. The dull sandstone explodes with deep red and orange color as the light slowly washes over it. Turret Arch and its surrounding spires are perfectly framed through North Window Arch as the sun rises and begins painting the Windows with morning light as well. We were joined by another photographer here, but other than a handful of people we were remarkably alone on a Saturday at one of the most popular sections of the park for sunrise. It was incredible. And we only had to ask nicely one time for those people to step out of our frame.

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Double Arch

After warming up a bit we walked across the parking area to Double Arch, a magnificent formation of intertwining arches which captures the imagination. Standing beneath the overhanging rock is humbling and awe-inspiring. The landscape in this small area is enough to satisfy anyone’s desire for natural wonder, but it is merely a taste of what this park has to offer.

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Landscape Arch

Devil’s Garden marks the end of the 18-mile park road and one of the busiest sections of the park. While there is ample parking, this area often fills up completely in warmer months. When we arrived there were 5 other cars there. I could hardly believe it. The trail through Devil’s Garden is about 7 miles if you go take all of the side trails and the primitive loop. This area has the highest concentration of arches, and if you only have time for one trail this is the one.

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Hiking rock fins

After just a short walk you can take a side trail to Tunnel Arch and Pine Tree Arch, which both give you a little taste of what’s to come. Less than a mile in you arrive at the appropriately-named Landscape Arch, stretching precariously across the sky. After climbing over tall rock fins that drop off steeply on either side you can take a side trail to Partition Arch, a smaller arch with a great view of the desert behind it, and Navajo Arch, a ground arch with deep reds and blacks saturating its underside. Continuing on you climb over a tall fin that allows you a sweeping view of the park below. Red rock fins rise out of the desert like battle submarines in a crimson sea. This is my favorite view on the trail.

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Double O Arch approach

After climbing down off this fin you will arrive at Double O Arch. I have been enamored with this arch since this first time I saw it. The trick is to walk right up to the lower portion and climb through to view it from the back side. I am never happier than when sitting here looking through this massive monument to the cascading rock formations behind it. Not only is this a great view, but it seems like few people find their way back there so it is often serene. It’s a great midpoint for a snack and a little rest. You can carry on from here to Dark Angel, a dramatic sandstone monolith rising out of the desert, on an out-and-back trail before continuing the loop.

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Double O Arch from behind

The primitive trail begins beyond Double O Arch. This sandy wash will take you beneath, over, and beyond the fins you saw from the trail high above. There is only one side trail to Private Arch, and we were truly the only ones there for the hour we spent in that area. It’s not a standout arch like some of the others, but the solitude makes up for the lack of spectacle. You can also climb out to gorgeous views of the landscape and watch hikers high above on the fin approaching Double O. The rest of the primitive trail will take you over some of the most challenging hiking in the park, but it’s nothing most people can’t handle–a few steep drops and skirting the edge of pooled water. After some exposed desert walking with views of the La Sals you will return to the main trail back to the parking area.

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Overlooking rock fins

There are multiple viewpoints and short walking trails to other arches along the park road to explore along the way, but everyone is turning down the road to Delicate Arch. It’s probably the most famous arch in the world but definitely in the state of Utah. It’s on our license plates. It is well known that sunset is the best time to see Delicate Arch in all its glory. The late-day light brings out the rich red-orange in an amazing way. The 1.5 mile hike allows most people to access it easily, though beyond the steep climb there were a few sections of precarious snow and ice this time.

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Delicate Arch at sunset

The typically crowded viewing area was quite bare even for a winter day. We arrived early and expected to see the usual line of people queuing for photos underneath the famous arch, but we found none of that. Several people took their photos and then moved along. It was the calmest I have ever seen it, to the joy of all of the photographers present. As the sun dropped I found a different vantage point than I usually get and shot the arch from the side with the sun behind it, creating a lovely beam of light. The clouds lit up at sunset for a gorgeous backdrop to the scene and our hike back down.

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Park Avenue stars

On the way out of the park you will pass the Park Avenue overlook. Even if you’ve seen it in the day, the night sky through this section is especially magical. It’s easy to spend a full day in this park, and it’s hard to leave. I think what stands out about this park over others for me is the ability to interact with the rocks. You can stand beneath them, on top of them, and touch them. It feels like they are communicating with you in a manner that I haven’t experienced any other place. Whether you spend an hour, a day, or a week here you will leave feeling different every time. And you will be planning your next visit as soon as you can.

dm.rt

Day 3: Living and Dying in the Grand Canyon

When the alarm went off at 4:45am I was somewhere between excited and dreading our rim to river to rim hike of the Grand Canyon. Before I had a chance to think twice about it I got myself out of bed and put on my hiking clothes for the day. Making sure everything was ready the night before is the best way to avoid procrastination and time-killing mundane tasks in the morning. So, after a few minutes of teeth-brushing we were out the door with the leftover pizza for breakfast on our way to the Grand Canyon. It was about an hour drive to the entrance from our Hotel in Williams and a short wait for a bus when we arrived. When we saw the Orange Line bus roll up early we high-tailed it to the stop and boarded for the 5-minute jaunt to the South Kaibab Trailhead.

There are myriad signs and warnings to not attempt hiking to the river and back in one day. That’s just for tourists, though, right? Not to mention Becca had completed this same hike last December and made out just fine. Funny enough, my initial reticence turned to total confidence once we started our hike, yet Becca’s knowledge of what was to come made her a bit more wary of what was to come.

As we quickly descended into the canyon the sun was slowly lighting up the towering walls around us and in the distance. The incredible beauty of this sight can hardly be described as anything but magical. I stopped repeatedly to gaze out into the endless canyon as it lit up in blues, reds, and oranges. The light and shadow play off of one another like great actors in a play, and it’s extremely hard to hike a narrow, rutted trail while you’re looking off into the distance constantly. The path drops steeply in curves and switchbacks, and we get passed by a large team of mules on their way to Phantom Ranch with supplies. We meet other early morning hikers who are taking in the views, some with freshly-brewed coffee they brought with them. Most of the these hikers are heading down to one of the campsites near the river to set up for the night and most likely hike back up tomorrow. Not us. We’re doing it all in one day. It’s not totally hubris; we also couldn’t get a permit to camp.

The hike to the river is long—5 miles—but it goes by quickly. The views slowly become more closed in and remind me of other canyons like Zion. When we first see the Colorado River the rushing water echoes loud enough to make us think we’re close. We aren’t. One of the great deceptions of the Grand Canyon is the scale, which becomes very apparent as you hike and hike seeming to only gain incrementally on something that seemed so near. Hiking down first also has its mental disadvantage of not realizing just how far back up you will have to go to finish.

We finally make it to an overlook where the river is just below us and the bridges we will cross are in plain view. Technically we don’t need to cross the bridges, but it barely adds any mileage to our hikes and they’re just a fun novelty of being down there. To cross Black Bridge, we pass through a dark, carved tunnel of rock that leads us onto it. Standing over the rushing Colorado that carved this magnificent canyon is an amazing feeling. We wander along the banks, where rafters have stopped to take a break from floating the rapids, and we refill our water bladders at the pump before continuing on. Having reliable running water to refill on a hike so infamous for people running dry is a fantastic luxury. No need to carry a filter or triple the weight if you can fill up along the way!

We cross over Silver Bridge, staring through the holes under our feet at the rushing water creating whitecaps on the rocks below. We stop for lunch on the other side, where we eat our Buds sandwich from Salt Lake City that we specifically saved to bring with us for this trip. It’s delicious and great fuel to move us along the river as we slowly begin to leave the bottom of the canyon. The hike up begins very gradually, winding along the river’s edge, offering views of the twisting flow until the trail turns in toward the rim and we leave it behind. From here the terrain and scenery will change rapidly. We pass through an oasis of beautiful trees, some green and other in full autumn color. A pair of mule deer cross the path gingerly as we quietly walk up on them. As the trail becomes steeper we arrive at Indian Gardens, the last stop before the real ascent begins. We have a short break, people watch, fill up our water and start the climb.

This final section is what I think most people think when they imagine hiking the Grand Canyon. It’s steep, mostly exposed, and pretty crowded. We speak to a few people along the way who had stayed overnight by the river, and they are genuinely surprised we’re doing it in a day. I understand why one might want to avoid this hike in the summer months when the heat can be stifling, but on a perfectly cool day in November the hike down did little to exhaust us, and we are perfectly fresh for the hike up. This section does become somewhat of a grueling plod at times. Just one foot after the other and promise of achievement and, more importantly, food at the top.

We’ve passed many people along the way, but suddenly our dusty footsteps come to a halt along with a large group of others behind a mule team. My first thought is the mules are coming down and we have to allow them navigate past us on the narrow trail. My assumption is quite wrong as we find out a hiker has died up ahead on the trail and the rangers are holding everyone until the person can be airlifted out. We take the opportunity to rest, but as it becomes clear the helicopter might take longer than expected the rangers allow us to pass. The unfortunate hiker’s body is covered in a tarp, only boots sticking out as a few dozen of us shuffle quietly by, all seeming to feel the same morbid curiosity and empathy for the lost soul.

From here, the throngs of people who were waiting are now hiking in a long, solemn line for final two miles and two-thousand feet of elevation. It’s impossible to not be affected by the thought of dying in a place of such extremes, but seeing someone dead along the trail really pounds the thought home. If nothing else, it makes you grateful to be alive in such an incredible place. Personally I’d much rather die on a Monday in the Grand Canyon than at home on the couch or sitting at an office. That said, Becca and I made it out alive and happily took our last steps back up to the rim. We were surprised at how quickly we made it. At 3pm we finished in just over 8 hours. I had built this hike up to be monumental, so I was fully prepared to be finishing after dark, but this outcome was very welcome.

We took our extra time to ride the Red Line bus down to Hopi Point, where the panoramic view of the canyon we just hiked in allowed us to bask in our accomplishment and stand in awe of the incredible beauty of this place. The views are incredible. Incredible views. Just ask our bus driver. We walked down the rim trail a bit, peeping other overlooks along the way, before hopping back on the bus and making our way back to the car. Clouds had overtaken the canyon to the east, so we left expecting there to be no amazing light show for sunset. Although the canyon probably wouldn’t have lit up, I again learned the lesson I’ve kicked myself for many times in the past: you always wait for sunset. The sky turned to beautiful fire in the west as the sun hit the clouds from below. We stopped along the road and I got some great shots anyway.

After such a big hike we retired right to our hotel, showered, and relaxed the night away. It was a perfect day, and our downtime was well-deserved.

dm.rt

Day 1: Black Coffee, White Snow, and Red Rocks

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When you wake up in a warm, comfortable bed knowing that you’re leaving on a long road trip where you’ll be sleeping in a tent most of the time it’s pretty hard to get up. To that point, we took our time starting the morning. Eventually we got going and packed up the remainder of our stuff into the car and headed out. One of the challenges to living in Salt Lake City is you’re technically not allowed to leave a vehicle parked in any one spot longer than 48 hours so we had to drive my car to a friend’s place to leave it there for the length of our trip. I also stopped to get two cups of my favorite cold brew in town at Blue Copper before getting on the highway. Once the car was dropped, we got some breakfast in the form of vegan buffalo chicken wraps and an Avocolada smoothie from Tropical Smoothie Cafe (those are both as delicious as they sound) and we were finally on the road for real.

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The views along the drive were incredible as usual with the added bonus of freshly-fallen snow on the surrounding mountains. As we got farther south and gained some elevation the snow was all along the road. Luckily the sun had been out for a while, and the roads were just fine. One of the more unusual yet very Utah sights was a herd of cattle being corralled along the side of Route 89 by a couple of real-deal cowboys on horses and some state troopers for backup I guess. That was a first for me. I kept expecting one of the cowboys to start twirling a lasso above their head. There isn’t much to see along the way–that is, the amazingly beautiful sweeping views of desert and red rock stretch on for hundreds of miles and, while they are breathtaking, it does tend to just become part of the background after a while.

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So, when we got close to Bryce Canyon National Park and saw some snow on the ground we quickly made the call to take the hour detour to the park and see if the famous hoodoos were covered in snow as well. The short drive to the park was picturesque enough with brilliant red rock formations painted lightly with new snow towering around us and a couple of carved tunnels to drive through for good measure. Once we got into the park we headed right to the Sunrise Point overlook where you can see for miles into the canyon. The hoodoos weren’t covered in snow, but there was enough along the bases to create a nice accent which made the view I’ve seen many times look like new. We wandered along the rim trail for a short while taking it in from different places and enjoying the chance to stretch our legs and breathe some fresh air before hopping back in the car on our way to Horseshoe Bend.

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We quickly realized we would never make it to Horseshoe Bend by sunset, so our plans changed from racing down the road to taking our time along the way. That’s the way it should be anyway. We took the opportunity to stop at the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary outside Kanab, Utah, where we were met by the lobby ambassador cat Robinson and were told the last tours had already departed for the day. There was a human there to tell us that part. He also told us we could stop at the Best Friends location in the town of Kanab and do yoga with kittens. That’s right. Obviously we headed right there, but were informed that kitten yoga was last night. As a consolation we were able to go into the cat room and hang out with three kitties for as long as we wanted. Seemed like a fair compromise. We enjoyed our time there and then drove out of town as the sun lit up the beautiful red rock formations and dropped rapidly behind the mountains to the west.

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Southern Utah at night takes on a whole different feeling. The glowing mountains become massive, ominous silhouettes against the dark sky. It is sometimes hard to even make them out on a moonless night, but you still feel their looming presence. I don’t mean to make it sound so sinister; it’s incredible to make out the outlines of jagged spires and watch stars dance behind them. As we passed by a family on the side of the road taking a photo with the Utah sign we realized we had just passed into Arizona. Page is just over the border and we had decided to spend the night here to do Horseshoe Bend in the morning. We found a hotel for $57 somehow (between the Hotels Tonight app and Google Maps) so we jumped on that and checked in. It’s definitely the nicest hotel I’ve ever stayed in for the price. Can’t ask for more. We took a short walk around downtown Page, which includes a little wall of information and great photographs of the surrounding natural wonders. Definitely my favorite man-made feature of the town. After grabbing a few things from the grocery we settled in to our hotel for the night, making plans and getting excited to do it again tomorrow!

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dm.rt

Day 0: Packing and Planning

The day before a road trip is always the day I pack, never sooner. It’s part procrastination and part knowing that what I’m packing is what I use daily. Even though I pack at the last minute, I’m constantly making a list leading up to a trip. You never know when something will remind you of that one little thing you wanted to bring, so I always have my notepad list on my phone ready to keep things organized. It really helps avoid that feeling like you’ve forgotten something when you hit the road. For me, that thing is often pillows. I sleep on them the night before and forget them in the morning.

We will be on the road for three weeks, passing through Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and a bunch of eastern states on our way up to New Jersey. The hardest part here is packing for warm and cold weather. I fully expect to be wearing shorts in Phoenix and Texas, but the mountains of North Carolina are often cold and snowy well before the rest of the south gets a chill. My simple solution to this problem was to pack layers instead of whole separate wardrobes. Being able to strip layers off is something you learn quickly when you hike in the cold, and it works just as well on a November-December road trip. Long sleeve shirts, light hoodies or jackets, and warmer coats as well as beanies and scarves are great for keeping you warm when you need it and easy to remove when you don’t.

Food is important on the road as well. Being vegan it’s not as easy to just stop at a fast food joint for a quick bite, but also wanting to be somewhat health-conscious it’s a good idea to cook some food to bring with you. We cook a large stir fry, or in this case we made a big thing of sloppy joes with lentils. Lentils are healthy and filling so they last a while. We also pack plenty of snacks for the car and the old standby: peanut butter and jelly. You can never go wrong with a PBJ in the car or on a hike. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Just bring a cooler and keep it stocked with a little ice and you can have good food with you at all times and save money from eating out all the time.

As much as I like to keep lists of what to bring, I’m much less detailed on the whens and wheres of my trip. I like to keep my options open which can be good and bad. It’s much harder to know where you’ll be staying if you don’t know your exact routing, especially if you’re trying to couch surf. Traveling in warmer months is easier since you can camp just about anywhere, but the winter can prove challenging if you don’t have cold weather camping gear. As much as I try to avoid it, this trip may include some hotels until we get out of the high deserts of northern Arizona. After that we will be staying with friends, couch surfing, and camping anytime we get the chance and the weather allows!

So we said goodbye to Salt Lake City this morning for a little while. I’m sure I’ll miss it, but the road has been calling for some time now and it’s time I finally answered.

dm.rt