For the last few years, The First Day of Summer, June 21st, has confused me. I’m going to blame college for this. In high school and prior, this date coincided relatively well with the last day of school. In college, on the other hand, my summer vacation tended to start in the middle of May, but somehow Summer officially didn’t start for another month. This just didn’t line up in my head. In my current life, Memorial Day is the much more logical choice. Sure, there is still that couple-week gap between when the college year ends and summer starts, but two weeks is significantly better than a whole month! It also applies better for my full-time job, where I don’t get a summer vacation, but I do get Memorial Day off. No such luck with June 21st. Apparently The First Day of Summer warrants no celebration in the corporate world!
I took this opportunity to cross my biggest goal of the summer off my list – Road Trip. I felt like I was cheating when I added road trip to my list, because when I made this list the tickets were already booked and the trip was already happening. That being said, when I planned the road trip it was in order to fulfill this goal. It seems unfair to me that I wouldn’t get credit for it just because I didn’t have the foresight to create a list of goals in December! This point seems moot (or moo as Joey would say) so I’ll just move on.
This is the route we ended up taking. We all got on airplanes in our varying cities and landed in Boise. On my layover in Denver my brother laughed and laughed at the prospects that I was choosing to fly to Boise, Idaho. He likes to mock me, even in his thirties, it’s just who he is. After the mockery, which couldn’t sour my mood, I boarded my flight to Boise where I met up with my two good friends from college. All we had booked at this point in our trip was our hotel for the first night in Boise, a rental car, and a hotel for our last night in Vegas. If you ask me, this was the perfect amount of planning for this trip. We had a general outline of what we wanted to do and when we thought we would do it, but no set schedule. I think for us this led to a lot less stress. I think we’re all very deadline oriented people, and having no deadlines in the middle, meant we could be much more flexible with our trip!
From Boise we drove to Driggs, the small town where we spent three nights during the Yellowstone/Grand Teton phase of our trip. The town was quaint, much quainter than anywhere any of us had lived. Upon our arrival we found that our hosts had left us a note informing us that if we plan to hike we can get Bear Spray from them. They were also happy to explain to us how to use said Bear Spray. We had taken on more than we could chew. We were also too delirious and hungry at this point to realize that. So after laughing hysterically and devouring our dinner, we headed straight to bed.
Luckily for us, in our two days of exploring Yellowstone, we had no run-ins with any bears. The closest we got to any wild animals were Bison and Elk, and we got pretty close. The park rangers assured us that these animals could do quite a bit of harm as they are large and can move at incredible speeds. It was hard, after facing the prospects of bears and wolves, to be scared of Elk and Bison. Apparently we weren’t alone as while rangers suggested keeping about 20 yards between yourself and these creatures, most people were just a couple yards away, snapping as many pictures as their cameras could hold.
Our two days at Yellowstone seemed like days in two separate places. The first day we went to see Old Faithful and the other geothermal attractions – beautiful hot springs, geysers, and paint pots pictured above. Pretty they were, but smelly too. So on our second day we decided to explore the part of the park less offensive to our noses – the Yellowstone Grand Canyon. This was one of our big hiking days. Though these hikes weren’t nearly as strenuous as those we would face later on in the trip, we did get lost at one point and were fairly convinced that our bear-mauled bodies would be found a few days later by someone who would, as a result, be scarred for life and never step in woods again (why didn’t we just get some Bear Spray?!). We finished off this second day by driving through the Grand Tetons and going to a drive-in movie, another first for me!
Then we were headed to Salt Lake City. Due to our lack of bear-sightings we chose to make a stop at a drive-through bear experience where I fell madly in love with six bear cubs and decided that some day I would become one of the lucky people to work there. Living in the middle-of-nowhere-Idaho would suddenly be feasible when my prospects were to feed baby bears every day. That was the acme of the day (ever since I learned the definition of that word I’ve wanted to use it, and now I have! Another goal?) as every other attraction we had marked turned out to be a disappointment. My good friend explained that every trip has its bad day, usually in the middle, and this would just be ours. It seemed only fitting that it fell on hump day, and it gave us plenty of time to rest and prepare for the next two grueling days: Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park.
Bryce Canyon was a late addition to our trip thanks to a very helpful Facebook comment from an acquaintance of mine (see, there is benefit to being Facebook friends with people you never actually talk to any more). It is a red rock canyon famous for formations called hoodoos. As I am no geologist, I cannot begin to fathom how these formations came to be, and how they still stand today. The native people of that area believed that the hoodoos were actually legend people that had upset a wolf who turned them into stone. Regardless of how they came to be, they were beautiful, and I think the most unique natural formation I have ever laid my eyes on.
The next day we faced Zion National Park. We had decided earlier on in the week to face the Angel’s Landing trail, based on a friend’s recommendation. He assured us that while it was challenging it was completely doable. Upon first googling the hike, because that’s the first thing people of our generation do, we discovered it was not recommended for those with a fear of heights, which we all had to some level, but I suffered from the most. Still we decided to be bold and face our fears head on. The first and last two miles of the hike were no problem. I mean there were steep switch backs that seemed like they would never end, but fear did not come into play yet. When we reached the base of Angel’s Landing, we decided to take a little breather and fully recover for the grueling climb ahead. You have to understand that by this point we had heard several times that those with a fear of heights should not go on this hike. Six people had died, and any sign of discomfort felt was a warning to stop. But we climbed on. A little too excitedly as we started on the wrong side of the path and made our lives much more challenging than they needed to be. Getting down so we could restart pretty much did me in. But, face my fears, I yelled at myself silently. And so I did, until the chain I was clinging onto for dear life suddenly was no more. Then I hit the wall I would not return from and told my friends to go ahead without me, I would find my way back down with one of the returning groups. I sat at this spot for about 20 minutes. Half the time I willed myself to move forward, and every time the prospect of having to make that return trip weighed me down. I murmured some words to my grandfather, which I rarely do. I don’t think I was so much asking him for encouragement, as for acceptance that not accomplishing this one task that seemed wholly insurmountable to me would not render the whole week ruined. A few people making their way up the face of this mountain were startled when seeing me. I kept worrying that I would surprise someone so much that they would fall to the abyss. So finally, when a kind woman asked me if I wanted to head back down the mountain with her, I complied. Didn’t need the weight of that on my shoulders.
As I sat at the base of the mountain with those just starting their climb, those that had been too scared to go up, and those returning I couldn’t help but smile. While no one was shaming the scared for not going, there were those cocky few, yet to face the climb, that loudly exclaimed that it would be nothing. There were those respectful ones that understood that it is impossible to understand a fear which you yourself don’t have. Those people were so happy to share the sights they saw and the experience they had. So I slowly tuned out those cocky people, stared at the very friendly chipmunks (like actually Chip and Dale friendly), and listened to people’s stories. Afterward, I spent a good part of that day nagging myself for being too scared to go all the way. Then I realized how much better I felt praising my friends’ accomplishment instead of being angry with myself. Maybe some day if I am back in Zion I will try to face Angel’s Landing again, but there is much much more to see there, and many other places we missed all together.
I wonder if my feelings toward travel will be like my feelings towards books. I’ve only ever reread two books in my life, George Orwell’s 1984 and William Golding’s The Lord of the Flies. Both I reread for school, not by choice. It seems to me that with so many books out there, I can’t reason reading one that I already know. I have been this way for as long as I remember, but I can feel it changing. I hope I manage to keep this attitude away from travel. It seems to me that every time I revisit a place, I’ll be seeing a different part of it. That’s probably how rereaders feel about their favorite, worn books. Maybe I’ll have to give it a try!
Until the next adventure!