We never really knew what to expect driving towards Utah. From our experience watching movies and television I had imagined wide open spaces and cowboys roaming around. As we made our way through the state, where the state motto is "life elevated", I knew that Utah had so much to offer other than good looking men with chaps on horses.
BRYCE CANYON NATIONAL PARK, UTAH
Our first stop was at Bryce Canyon National Park. A park made famous for it's hoodoos. Hoodoos are rock formations created when all the snow that has gathered throughout winter begins to melt, and is pushed around by the wind, forming a magnificent extraterrestrial like landscape. When you were a child and you went to the beach did you ever used to make these little villages with the wet sand dripping down your hands forming little weird shaped mountains? Well, I had the pleasure of walking through one of my child hood imaginative villages. We spent the entire day hiking through hoodoo forests (a little side note here, does anyone else find the word 'hoodoo' fascinating?) When nighttime rolled in and we realized it was 20 degrees Fahrenheit with a bit of rain, we decided to opt out of freezing to death while camping, and rented a room in a motel. We showered, relaxed in our warm room, and made a super fun sandwich assembly line, putting together our sandwiches for the week. The next morning we were off to Southern Utah, towards Zion National Park, and our home for the next two days.
ZION NATIONAL PARK, UTAH
If you are a hiker and have not made a trip to Zion, pack your things up immediately and head out the door now. One of the most organized National Parks we had been to by far, this was a mecca for the experienced hiker but also for the inexperienced hiker. The park is located inside the canyon surrounded by the massive canyon walls and the Virgin River, which had created this masterpiece. Compared to the massive Colorado River carving out the Grand Canyon, the Virgin River is very small, but throughout the years has made Zion what it is today.
We camped for two days in the park and organized different hikes on each day. On the first day we hiked alongside the Virgin River going under its waterfalls, and walking across its streams. The second day we decided to tackle one of the more 'intense hikes'. We were well prepared with water and food because our hiking guide through Zion warned us it would be a 4 hour long hike.
As we set off we initially had to climb a very steep canyon that took us half way to the top. When we made it to the midpoint, that's when the true fun started. There were about two sets of switchbacks- chains that are built into the canyon so that you can grab on to, since the path is small and the limestone is very slippery. For someone who has a fear of heights (including me) this was a nightmare. I gripped on to those chains with all my strength and I made sure not to look down. Ok. Maybe once. But I panicked and quickly continued on until we made it to the top. Once up there, we continued hiking.
When one thinks of hiking they think of walking sticks, small paths/or some sort of signage, and elevation changes. This was a little bit different. With no designated path and no signage, you had to guess which way to go to get to the viewpoint on the other side of the canyon. On top of that, you had to climb up rocks and slide down rocks, climb several trees to cross bodies of water, and maneuver through small cracks between rocks. We lasted about 2 hours on that hike. After depleting all our food and water, decided the smartest decision would be to make our way back down again. Which brought me back to those terrifying switchbacks, which I successfully climbed down. Next time we visit this magical land I am bracing myself for the most difficult hike in the park: Angels Landing. With 21 rows of switchbacks and a very narrow path, this hike is definitely not recommended for people like me. But I made a promise to myself that I would be back and muster up the strength to make it to the top (and then of course take a helicopter down).
On the third day, we tried to hike the Narrows which I had been really looking forward to. Given this name because you hike through the Virgin River, following it's route through narrow crevices of the canyon. Unfortunately, due to the change in season and lots of melting snow, there was a flash flood warning and therefore the Narrows was not a recommended hike for that day. Now there were definitely two reasons for making a trip out to Zion again.
ANTELOPE CANYON, ARIZONA
After Zion we slowly began making our way east towards Monument Valley, Utah but on our way we decided to take a detour and visit the magnificent Antelope Canyon. We had talked always talked about this canyon and when planning our road trip we were so excited to pay a visit here! The canyon is located on a Navajo Indian Reservation and used to be open to the public in the past until 1997, when 11 tourists disregarded the danger and signs for 'flash flood' and ended up losing their lives. Since then the Navajo Tribe has allowed people to visit the canyon by tour only. Which brings us to the day we arrived in the parking lot of Antelope Canyon.
It was as if we had pulled up into the Disneyland Theme Park, where tourists ran up to the kiosks in front of the canyon and purchased their tickets. There were a total of 15 people in our tour group and about 6 tour groups in total from only our tour company (excluding all the other tour companies all around the canyon). Our tour began and we climbed the steep stairs down into the canyon. It was incredible. The red sandstone created beautiful waves of textures and colours, all eroded from flash floods. We marveled in the canyons beauty until we where pushed around from one side to the other by tourists trying to capture 'the special moment'. As we moved through the narrow sections of sandstone, we reached points where so many people where in the canyon that you could not enjoy it's magnificence without being pressured to hurry through, or try to step aside while people passed you by. I absolutely hated the experience. I felt as if the canyon was being exploited in some weird way, as we where hurriedly pushed through so that more and more guides could take groups of people and their cameras (thank god selfie sticks were prohibited). Amazed, but very disappointed that we had to be herded like cattle, we continued our journey towards the east.
MONUMENT VALLEY, UTAH
Driving in to Monument Valley was like driving into a western movie, and at any moment I expected John Wayne to jump out and welcome me. The valley was a vast red desert that stretched on and on, but had these intricately shaped peaks of red sandstone. We set up camp amongst the red rocks and drove around exploring the Indian land with so much powerful history. During sunset the valley was majestic and there was something about walking on its red dirt that inspired me and awakened my creativity. We were only there for one day but I hope I can make it back to this place.
ARCHES NATIONAL PARK, UTAH
After a two hour drive from Monument Valley and as we began to approach Arches National Park, it began raining uncontrollably. Through out this road trip we seemed to have found our peace with all the different changes of the weather. We drove through the park and tried to hike towards one of its Arches, but as the rain came down fast we decided that we would have to once again change our plans and continue making our way back east.