It’s easy to get caught up in the trivial things in life. What outfit will I wear, when can I post this to social media, is this a recognizable brand? I’ll be honest, this crossed my mind a few times in the canyon. Especially when I saw how beautiful of a backdrop I had to work with and my friends making such stunning models. And then there’s me, while everyone else looks straight out of an Alo shoot I’m in REI cargo shorts and flannel. How important is this overall? Zero. This has no bearing on the rest of my trip. The biggest thing I’ve learned in this trip; be present in the moment. It’s not the pictures you take but the moments in between that stay with you.
I don’t know how I managed to hike the inner canyon in flip-flops while carrying my canon and GoPro in a dome. I can hardly be trusted to carry a bowl of soup from the microwave to the kitchen counter let alone navigate rocky terrain and watch out for rattle snakes.
So at this point we’ve survived the hike down, not being blown off ledges, reaching our hands into weird places and not finding scorpions, and eating salmon biscuits. What can top this? Awesome hiking names. Our guides pass around a piece of paper where we match up our initials with random words. Claudia: Impossible Fox, Kasia: Fearless Goose, Laura: Commander Moose, Me…Sideways Goat.
Yep, Sideways Goat. Believe it or not this describes me pretty well awkwardly climbing up rocks (great visual, I know).
So, nowhere to go but up at this point, literally. The only thing that can make this trip up any better is the fact that Laura is wearing a birthday tiara, because friends embarrass friends. It does not get more badass than, “oh I hiked the Grand Canyon for my 30th birthday.” I think I ate pie for my 30th birthday… probably apple, probably the whole pie.
The journey up was long and exhausting and made even more daunting by the fact we kept being passed by a family of 4 with two little girls, 5 and 7, carrying full packs including their sleeping bags. After they passed us for a second time I conceded defeat and took my time. 8 hours later we reached the top. We head out to Monument Valley, exhausted and caked in sand. Arriving at our airbnb I breathe a sigh of relief until I start looking around and notice something is terribly wrong. “Claudia, where’s the bathroom,” I say. We both search and realize there isn’t one. But there is an outhouse across the desert we can use. Let’s just say things get pretty desperate and a salad bowl might have been repurposed into a pee bucket.
The next morning revealed the most redeeming thing about our little place, this view.
I’m convinced that ancient gods specifically designed these massive structures and have long since died out. The enormity and beauty of these landmarks is unlike anything else I’ve ever seen. After ooh-ing and ah-ing for half an hour we take a break and watch a woman try to mount a horse for 15 minutes while we all take bets on “is that horse real? it has to be fake…” Ladies and gentleman the world’s most patient horse is in Monument Valley. This animal was a statue while the woman tried to figure out how to climb on top but once on top, this woman proceeded to pose as scandalously as possible. If you need a break from nature, you need to come to this spot and just watch people. The most entertaining free show you can get.
Don’t let the flannel fool you, I can touch my toes and stand on my hands #lumberjackyogi
I can also sprint pretty far in 10 seconds, which is how I take most of my pictures and the one above.
So what else is around Monument Valley? Plenty. Like Antelope Canyon X. It’s like Antelope Canyon but without all the people. If you haven’t picked up on the theme, I avoid massive amounts of tourists whenever possible.
Go to these places!! They are worth it! Now due to poor planning we had no idea what we wanted to do with the rest of our day. But we had peanut butter and jellies and that’s really all a girl needs so we decided to drive around aimlessly and see what we could find. The good thing about this is there’s no such thing as a wrong turn, the bad thing, I’m the one driving… which is great for me and terrifying for my friends. Trust me, I’m a trained professional.
I’m not sure if we ever found the Grand Staircase, but we did find some great rocks.
After an hour or so of wandering around some old dirt road with no GPS we turned around because getting stranded was not on our itinerary that day. If you want to get lost in the desert you truly have to plan for that, bring gas, bring water, bring pb&j’s and bring an over abundance of confidence.
Our last and final stop as we said good-bye to our journey was at Horseshoe Bend. Yep, there’s a lot of tourists there at sunset but if you can find a spot on a cliff overlooking the river, it’s the most perfect place to be. When we arrived, the most badass maternity shoot was happening. Two women standing at the edge of a cliff with their dresses and long hair blowing in the wind as the sun was setting over the horizon. I will never attempt a maternity shoot because it will never be as good as this, also pregnant women terrify me. We all slowly battle our fear of heights and take turns standing on the edge saying farewell. We reflected on everything we’ve accomplished and recognized how we’ve grown in ways we never could have imagined.
Find your limits and push past them. You are much stronger, smarter and more resilient than you can imagine.
So do you know how to follow up some good soul searching?
Keywords: adventure, antelope canyon, arizona, backpacking, canyon, climbing, colorado, desert, explore, grand canyon, monument valley, national park, nature, paradise, park, river, sand, trail, travel, utah, wanderlust
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