My bags overflowed with hiking gear, photography equipment, and many pairs of socks. Utah’s national parks were all on my bucket list, and I would spend the next week traveling through them. I was expecting a week of solitude, photography, grueling hikes, slot canyons and expansive desert vistas, but what I wasn’t expecting was the friends I would make along the way.
Anyone who knows me well knows I prefer animals to humans, which is why I was looking forward to seeing rattlesnakes instead of meeting new people. By the end of the first day, I already had a hiking buddy. One of those naturally happy people enjoy nature as much as I do, and share that competitive spirit that pushed us through tough hikes. While hiking up to Upheaval Rock in Canyonlands National Park, a group of teenage boys passed us while hiking. Neither me nor my new companion were willing to let them beat us to the top, so we kept pace with them. It’s what competitive people do.
Our next hike in Arches National Park the following day was up to Delicate Arch, which includes hiking up half a mile of steep slick rock and bits of trail that have huge drop offs on one side. It was the hardest hike I’ve ever done and by far the most rewarding. I wanted to give up more than once, but I was determined to see that arch, even after my new hiking friend and I ended up on the wrong trail and had to backtrack. Not that we minded. It’s so beautiful out in the desert that it was worth seeing a little more of it. We also realized, as most women with dirty minds do, that Arches is full of phallic rock spires. I’m not at all embarrassed as a 36 year old woman to admit that it sent us into fits of giggles.
As the week wore on, our companionship added two new members. I’ve traveled on many tour groups, but this was the first that had four female single travelers. Even more rare is to have so many who are so alike in interests and sense of humor. While our whole tour group was fun, those three ladies made a good vacation great. Even pestering our tour guide became an event in and of itself.
From waking before the sun made an appearance to see the sunrise over Bryce Canyon (in a 26 degree windchill), to playing like children Goblin Valley State Park, to spelunking and hiking in Capital Reef National Park, this years excursion into the wilderness was by far the most rewarding. Not sure how I’m going to top this one, but then I think that every year after my annual adventure vacation.