The Wild, The Wonderful, The Alien

It has always been a dream of mine to travel around the Southwest. So when Greg and I decided to travel for two months before settling in Greensboro, NC, I knew in my heart what destinations I really wanted to see: sites in Utah and the Grand Canyon. In my mind, the Southwest was going to be a wildly, wonderful alien landscape, and it did not disappoint. Below I have included photos from different sites in the Southwest as well as excerpts from my travel journal.

Goblin Valley State Park

Greg and I camped with friends from seminary, Matt & Sarah, for 3 nights in Utah starting at Goblin Valley State Park.

Of our evening hike at Goblin Valley from my journal: “We immediately started climbing after setting up the tent. It was a never ending playground of more ledges to climb up and mesas to walk with long lasting views of a flat dessert broken only by the jutting up of far off mesas. Along our hike, we followed for a time the tracks of a hoofed animal jauntily stabbed across the ashen surface. The tracks seemed to have been made after rain when the ground was soft and hardened into rock, until the next rain. At one point, Greg separated from Matt, Sarah, and I and climbed an even higher mound and then the one above that. I stopped watching at some point as I was too nervous he would fall. As we made our way back to the campground, the sun was on its way down to rest – just high enough for us to have good light to see but low enough for a colorful haze to envelop the sparse landscape and soften the texture of the desserts hard edges.”

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In Route through an Ever Changing Landscape

From my journal: “Even being on the state roads, the landscape was amazing and continuously changing. There were ashen grey mesas – first with great cliff sides and then with just a little tiny strip of a mesa top emerging from piles of ash – and then painted sandy hills etched from the erosion of rain and striped with reds and purples. We drove through Capital Reef National Park which was vibrant with reds contrasting with a green valley floor. In Capital Reef, I had my first introduction to petroglyphs – large figures carved into the rocks by the Freemont Tribes. We drove on Route 12 and rose up into the Dixie National Forest a dense green forest making a stand in an arid world. As we approached Lower Calf Creek, we drove a terrifying stretch of land across the ridge of hillsides (The Hogback) with a sheer drop on either side before descending into a lush valley floor shading a small creek where we set up our camp.”

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Lower Calf Creek Falls

Lower Calf Creek is located in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and there is a delightful 6 mile round trip hike to see the Lower Calf Creek Falls which we did in the evening.

From my journal: “The hike was phenomenal. Every bend revealed a painfully beautiful landscape. It was sensory overload as the body tried to capture every contour, texture, color, shape, sound, smell, flower, animal, and plant. The cliffs of the canyon were at times horizontally striped with whites and oranges. At other times they appeared as if an artist had scraped away at paints of burnt purple and mauve on a grand canvas. The valley was in bloom with delicate flowers including brilliant yellow and pink pear cacti blossoms. The amazing 150 foot waterfall skipped across the cliff side and dropped into a small pool below. Here we dipped into the near freezing cold water and I was left exhilarated from the naturally high-inducing hike and the breath crushing cold water. Hearts were full and spirits were singing. Love was foremost present. Love of Creation and God and partner. On the hike back from the falls, I lagged as I tried desperately to capture the sheer immensity of the landscape onto my little phone’s camera. A sad and desperate attempt to convey not only the magnificence of the landscape but also the emotions it stirred in my heart.”

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Bryce Canyon National Park

I never wrote down my impressions of Bryce Canyon other than to document that we hiked the Fairyland Loop Trail – an 8 mile strenuous hike through the orange sherbert colored hoodoos of Fairyland Canyon”. The pictures will have to speak for themselves.

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Zion National Park

My journal on Zion National Park is also sparse in detail other than to note that: “At Zion, we did part of the Narrows hike which partly takes place in the river. Zion was a canyon with sheer cliff walls and a lush green landscape around the river. We were all pretty exhausted from the hike at Bryce so after the Narrows we floated in tubes borrowed from a business with a 6-pack of PBR Tall boys.” Keeping it classy.

A couple of additional thoughts: Zion is bustling with people so while being wildly beautiful not so remote. I want to go back at some point for the Angel’s Landing hike.

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En Route to Grand Canyon

We drove by many sites before getting to Grand Canyon including Lake Powell, Monument Valley, Four Corners, Petrified Forest, and Sunset Crater.

From the journal about Petrified Forest and Sunset Crater:“On Friday, we started out at Petrified Forest NP where we hiked the badlands and hiked among countless petrified logs. We aw ruins of a Native American town and more petroglyphs and pictographs. One petroglyph was carved such that when the sun hit it through a crack in a nearby rock it indicates the Summer Solstice.

“On our way to Grand Canyon, we hiked at Sunset Crater Volcano Cone near Flagstaff. Apparently a volcano cone forms quickly over the course of just years. Volcanic activity can create a mountain where there wasn’t one, spew out lava flows, and release ash to coast the surrounding hills/mountains, many of which are older volcano cones. The Sunset Crater formed just 800 years and many people lived in the area at that time and were impacted.”

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Grand Canyon National Park

On our arrival to Grand Canyon from my journal: “We ended the day at Grand Canyon coming in from the East, our first view of the canyon at Dessert View where the Watchtower stands. We watched the sunset from Grand View on a perfectly clear evening. The colors and shadows at sunset are unbelievable when cast across the immensity of the Grand Canyon. The sun slipped satisfyingly behind the rim, resting ever so briefly with just a sliver hanging onto the rim before disappearing. The air was lushly cool as the warm presence of the sun abandoned the horizon.”

Saturday we hiked below the Rim on theĀ  Bright Angel Trail. We just went down to the 3 mile resthouse which is a 2000 foot elevation drop.

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