Where Did You Travel This Year? What was your favorite part?
The gym that I attend is brand-spanking new and all their equipment the latest in trend and technology. Generally, I don’t go in for gimmicks and ploys, but one day, as I stepped on to my favorite treadmill (shut up, you know you have one too; it’s probably right under a fan and next to a pole so that you have a space to yourself, at least on one side….), I got a wild hair up my ass and decided to check out its features. These new treadmills have TV screens mounted on them, and while I don’t watch TV while running (favoring instead the pounding beats of electronica in my earbuds), I’d seen someone else watching something that looked like a trail speeding by as if a camera was mounted to a runner’s head. As I scrolled through the menus I saw, sure enough, a list of virtual trails. It turned out that I could run the streets of Chicago, The Badlands, or any other of a number of trails, the incline of the treadmill set to match the terrain of the video.
Intrigued, and by the sample video, I chose Zion National Park in St. George, Utah as my run of the day. For 50 minutes, I watched landscape after beautiful vista flash past on the screen, almost oblivious to the music blaring in my ears. Every view was awesome…and I mean that in the Oxford English Dictionary way, NOT in the style of a 16-year-old cheerleader named Britney. As my run came to a close, I made a mental note that someday, I’d have to get to Zion to see it for myself. I’d never really understood the phrase, but judging just on the video track, I thought that if God could have a country, that would be it.
As my birthday approached, and I found myself in the middle of yet another funk, the Old Man asked me what I wanted to do for the occasion. My answer was simple. I wanted to GET. THE FUCK. OUT OF DODGE. It’s no secret that I hate this place, and travel anywhere tops my list of things to do, so faced with the prospect of new jewelry or an adventure, I’ll choose the adventure every time. We waffled around a few different ideas, Coeur D’Alene, Napa, the Oregon Coast, but I soon remembered Zion. The idea that I’d get to fly somewhere, and, on top of that, spend a weekend outdoors, without a TV, hiking and sightseeing soon overpowered the other options. Using Expedia vouchers and money I’d set aside, we booked a pretty sweet package for Memorial Day weekend….weeks after my birthday, sure, but worth the wait in every possible way.
We got in to our hotel (a private casita in a very posh, gated community) quite late, and, after admiring our luck of the travel package draw when it came to rooming, we conked out, excited for the next day. As the sun came up and I flicked the switch that opened the blinds (There was a switch for EVERYTHING!), I looked out onto our patio to this view:
Not too shabby, huh? From that moment forward, everything got better. A quick Starbucks breakfast on the fly saw us to the highway and we headed into Zion, each turn setting the canyons into a different postcard backdrop. We arrived in about an hour after driving through a teensy town that looked exactly like you’d picture it with B&Bs abounding and kitschy souvenir shops hawking rocks and Indian artifacts and handmade silver jewelry. We parked the car and hit the trails.
Over the course of the long weekend, we hiked Angel’s Landing (one of the hardest trails in the park) The Emerald Pools (Upper, Middle and Lower), The Grotto, Weeping Rock, The Kayenta Trail and countless other little paths in and through the park. I was in my own little piece of heaven. The landscape was more amazing in person than any photograph I’d seen, and the photographs were what sold me in the first place. As the sun arc’d through the sky, the colors on the rocks changed, and at sunset, it was as if everything was on fire with light; a spectrum of reds and yellows and dusty browns to put Crayola to shame. With every new view, I reasserted, “We HAVE to come back here. Three days is NOT enough.” And it wasn’t. Each hour brought something new to our attention. The possibility of camping to get an earlier start, to do harder hikes, to get further into the canyon, to spend a day traveling to Bryce Canyon to see Thor’s Hammer….. I couldn’t get enough, which astounded me, considering how far away from a beach I was. Even the Old Man, a couch-potato and disdainful of any type of physical exertion not involving a ball stopped me to voice his own gladness that THIS was what I’d chosen.
I am a traveler at heart and wanderlust burns white-hot in my heart. I’ll choose any foray, anytime, anywhere just for the experience, but I was unprepared for the SOUL of this trip. I wasn’t ready for the beauty or the magnitude or the simple quiet peace of it. It took me by surprise and stole my breath.
Not bad for an idea that came off the back of a treadmill, eh?