2010: Charleston to the Grand Canyon
2011: Charleston to Niagra Falls
2014: Denver to Utah
Donald Miller writes that you can't expect for your life to tell a good story if you're not living a good story. If you want an exciting life, you need to do exciting things. If you want to live a generous life, you need to be a generous person. Such an easy concept that we don't grip tightly and life out, for some reason. For anyone who knows me, this means adventure; it means taking off two weeks in the middle of one of the busiest months of Charleston wedding season and driving across the country with my people-the same people I've taken all of these trips with. It's our "thing." And even though we've gone from being freshmen in college to being nurses, architects, internal medicine residents, wedding photographers and ESL teachers, we keep taking these trips. We keep reading post-apocalypic books out loud to pass the time while driving in the middle of nowhere (we read Hunger Games before it was cool, yo!), we keep staying with friends of friends of friends (that we don't actually know), we keep writing every single thing that happened to us in our "blob" so that we'll never forget (and getting together at Christmas to read them out loud and die laughing) and we keep pulling off on the side of the road to take pictures (mainly me).
And the only reason these trips keep happening? Because we create room for them to happen. We use vacation days, turn down weddings, take off work and save up money to make them happen.
And every single summer it's worth it.
So this past Christmas, we got together, drank wine, read the previous trip's blob out loud, died laughing and pulled out a map. We all had the same 2 week period off of work and life and we decided that the mountains and canyons were calling our name. To be able to spend the most time out west as we could, we decided to fly into Denver and drive from there. This may have been the least planned trip of the four, with only a few reservations made beforehand…but of course, that makes it all the more exciting.
A few highlights:
-Practicing setting up our tent behind a liquor store in the middle of nowhere while waiting for Katelyn's flight to arrive
-Staying at my aunt's mountain house in a tiny town west of Denver and seeing snow on the ground (while it was 85 degrees at home in Charleston)
-Realizing the ridiculous amount of stuff we brought
-Finding a wild horse preservation society online, meeting up the president, going hiking in the middle of nowhere with him, his wife, her snacks she made us, their poodle named Buttercup and getting within feet of wild horses in the Grand Mesa.
-Going horseback riding in the Grand Mesa and floating down the Colorado River
-Seeing Needles Overlook at sunset, which we had been at four years earlier
-Breaking down camp in the middle of the night after waking up to wind and rain ripping our tent over, shoving everything in the car and driving an hour to the closest (tiny) town
-Taking 20 minutes to repack the car every day (because we had so much stuff)
-Having the rest of the group make fun of me when I continually spotted "the most beautiful places we've seen," only for them to think they're boring
-Rolling under barbed wire on the side of the road to take photos
-Driving on the terrifying windy roads and mountains of Utah
-Exploring through slot canyons and accidentally going through the harder ones instead of the easier ones (fear of heights over here!)
-Having strangers lift us through canyons 10" wide (thanks Golden and Brita!)
-Getting lost in the middle of nowhere and seeing Katelyn slowly slide down a mountain of sand
-Staying in Escalante, Utah (population: 800) eating pizza, drinking beer and sleeping in adorable tiny cabins
-Staying in an Audrey Hepburn themed airstream and watching Star Wars at their drive-in movie theater
-Hiking almost all of Angel's Landing (Katelyn and I stopped before the part where 6 people have died because I was convinced that I too, would die)
-Hearing Katelyn sing in the canyons (an acapella singer+the echo of canyons=chill-inducing amazingness)
-Waking up at 6:30am to go hike the river that cut between the canyons in water up to our thighs
-Taking a "leisurely" (read: terrifying) float down the Virgin River with rocks and rapids for 3 long, long hours
-Finding a family of lizards at our campground
-Falling asleep at 7:00pm out of exhaustion
-Hating the end of the Divergent series
-Having dinner with my brother, Addison in Denver and seeing my cousin and her (now) new baby, Veda
-Seeing OneRepublic at the Red Rocks Amphitheater and seeing Ryan Tedder be a weirdo and jump ontop of rocks and run away from security
-Being with my people
All photos below taken with my Fujifilm x100 and edited with vsco pack 01 or taken with our iPhones. To see more photos of our trip, check out the entire gallery here or our hashtag on Instagram, #redrocksroadtrek
The tiny town of Frisco, Colorado
The hike up to Hanging Lake in Glenwood Springs, Colorado is so steep that it took us an hour to hike the 1.1 miles to the waterfalls
Horseback riding in Grand Junction, Colorado
We met up with Jim, the president of the Wild Horse Preservation Society, his wife Stephanie and their poodle, Buttercup to find some wild stallions. I hopped in the car with Jim, Stephanie and Buttercup after Stephanie gave us freshly baked flatbread and the others followed to the middle-of-nowhere where we hiked around for 3 hours and saw wild horses. And no, we clearly were not murdered.
When the opportunity arises, always take selfless with wild horses
On our first trip four years ago, we briefly visited Needle's Overlook and planned to camp out there when our plans were thwarted by crazy hail. So this year, we tried again. We drove through Moab, Utah and turned off on the tiny, barely marked road toward Needle's Overlook. After driving 35 miles, you get here, to this amazing view. After setting up camp and making dinner, we woke up at 1:00am to wind and rain ripping our tent apart. Let's just say that we didn't stay the rest of the night.
The roads through Utah were terrifying. Try driving on windy roads, with rock cliffs on both sides and not being able to see around the corner-aaaah!
Next stop: Escalante, Utah. Population: 800.
Most of the things to do in Utah aren't marked-there aren't any signs or marked trails; directions come from people on the internet or via word of mouth from locals. We drove an hour outside of Escalante and hiked down steep rock, following stacked rocks as trail markers, to the entrance of two slot canyons-Peek-a-boo and Spooky. Afraid of heights, when Katelyn and I saw the climb that had to happen to get into Peek-a-boo slot canyon, we laughed and decided to go around the corner to the "much easier" canyon, Spooky.
We ended up going through the canyon backward and ran into a couple who told us that Spooky was the harder of the two and had to help us climb up in certain places where the rocks were so narrow, your body just wouldn't fit through naturally.
Katelyn and I then got lost ontop of Spooky and Katelyn almost fell down a sand mountain.
The view from above, looking down at the slot canyons.
Having a night to kill before our Zion reservations, we found an airstream resort on Airbnb that rented out moviestar themed airstreams and had a drive-in movie theater. So that night, we stayed in an Audrey Hepburn themed airstream and watched Star Wars on the big screen (after cartoons, of course).
Lower Calf Creek Falls, Escalante, Utah.
Because we made our Zion reservations so late, we didn't get to stay at the same campsite and had to break down camp at 6:30am
The final stretch of Angel's Landing. Complete with angled, slick rock and a chain that is sometimes there to help you. Six people have died over the past few years…meaning Katelyn and I gladly watched other people hike this.
The second morning at Zion, we woke up at 6:30 and hiked the narrows, the river that is responsible for cutting through these rocks to form the canyons. If you're ever out at Zion…it's a must. Unbelievable.
Not pictured: the "leisurely" float down the Virgin river which turned into a 3 hour float in 90 degree weather with rocks and rapids. Very leisurely.
We ended the trip with a night in Frisco, an afternoon exploring Denver, dinner with my brother, visiting my cousin and seeing a OneRepublic concert at the Red Rocks Amphitheater.
And the best way to end the trip? Realizing that we can take a trip again next year. Where should we go?!