Shutdown or Not, the Trip Goes On!

Whoa. Where’d the past two months go?! Time flies when you’re having fun, I suppose. And luckily, the government couldn’t shut down fun. Well, here’s a brief recap off the highlights of the past 3-ish weeks: – In LA I met up with another RPCV Cameroon, and it was crazy and awesome to see a fellow RPCV Cameroon back in the US, clean, showered, and groomed! Nate even brought some Cameroonian goodies from the local African market as a friendly reminder of the foods that I dThen I went to Tucson to visit my old postmate in village, and it was wonderful to catch up/chow down on deliciousness.

PC Cam Reunion in LA, and look! We have no dirt/mud stains on us!

Postmate reunion in Tucson…and still very Peace Corps Weird.

- I headed to Utah to wait out the shutdown situation. While I was there, I got to: 1)¬†Drive through Zion on the still-open highway (and got yelled at a very unthrilled ranger when I pulled over on the side of the road once), roamed through a few state parks (lovely, but doesn’t quite have the “wow” factor of the National Parks) 2)¬†Visited Best Friends animal sanctuary (check it out, it’s an incredible place) 3) Headed back over the border to Arizona to visit Antelope Canyon, the most photographed slot canyon in the world.

Antelope Canyon was magical

Luckily, I didn’t roam too far, because while I was roaming, the Utah governor announced that he was going to re-open the national parks in Utah using state money. Thank god. At least I’m just on a vacation, but it was actually really sad and frustrating to see towns that completely rely on tourist dollars basically shut down. So as soon as that happened, I hurried my butt back over to Zion. – There, I hiked “The Narrows” which is a “hike” that takes you up a river in a canyon and we ended up hiking/wading/swimming the full 10 miles.

The Narrows

- In Zion, I also decided to do yet another scary hike (the first was Half Dome in Yosemite) called “Angels Landing.” See below to read more about this scariness/craziness. – I met some cool people (as always) in the parks, and ended up being a kind-of, sort-of guide for a Brazilian woman who was also traveling around on her own, and we became hiking/travel buddies for a few days

Hiking amigos at Observation Point

- From Zion, I headed to Bryce National Park (cool place, but gets boring after a few hours), Capitol Reef (don’t go…it’s a snoozer after Zion), and then I ended up at Arches to take some jump photos. On my way out, I stopped at Canyonlands before booking it over to the Grand Canyon

Delicate Arch

- Though I’ve been to the Grand Canyon before, my main goal was to hike the down-and-out trail. And luckily, because of the shutdown, a lot of people had cancelled their vacations that they had planned months in advance, and I was able to get a permit with no problem the day-of. (Read below for details about that hike)

Beginning of a long trek into the Grand Canyon

- From Sedona, I drove through the Petrified Forest National Park. I hate to say that that was a total disappointment. But it was a nice break in my trip to get to Santa Fe (didn’t see much of it because I got there late), and then yesterday I drove about 11 hours to get to Austin to visit friends! Also. Western Arizona all the way to Austin is a total dead zone. Unless you like factory farms, industrial plants, the stench of cow manure, and a long, boring drive with zero views, I don’t recommend it! So that’s the recap of things…here’s the story on Angel’s Landing and the Grand Canyon hike: For Angels Landing, it wasn’t much of a strenuous hike, but the kicker was once you got to the top, you had to walk across and up the ridge of a mountain. “What is a ridge?” you ask? It’s a very narrow section of land that connects to mountains. In this case, on the fin of this mountain, there was a 1,500 ft drop on either side of me when the “trail” was uneven and maybe 3 feet wide at certain points.

Mmhmm. I hiked that! (Also, this isn’t my own photo)

There were some chains at certain points, but then there were also parts where there were NOT chains.As I mentioned in my last blog post, I am TERRIFIED of heights. When I got to the top, right before the scary part, I completely froze up when I realized what I was supposed to do. I had seen photos, but no photos can do this hike justice. I had already spent an extra 2 hours in my tent that morning, sweating it out, trying to get rid of some nerves. I honestly felt so scared that I couldn’t even cry. But no worries, because there were THREE other people at the top that I saw crying in my place! Whoops. I was pretty much ready to back down from it, when this really really kind woman saw how nervous I was, and she decided to ditch her new-husband (just married the day before!) to coach me along the way. I became her personal project! She talked me through each step and made sure I was okay the whole way. After some really really terrifying parts, I made it to the top, took some pictures, and made it back alive! All I know is that this woman’s name is Gabby (sp?) and that she lives in NJ, but I am SUPER grateful for her kindness on that hike! I literally couldn’t stop sweating for a good 2 hours afterwards. Though not nearly as strenuous as Half Dome, it was definitely a stomach-churner. Oh, and on my way back down, I saw a tarantula. Fear of heights AND fear of spiders conquered (kind of) in one day. Score!

Made it!

When I was at the Grand Canyon, I knew I wanted to hike down-and-out. I almost did it all in one day, but within 2 hours of finding out about the vacancy in one of the bunkhouses in the canyon, I was on the trail. It was a beautiful hike in, although it was incredibly steep (about 7.5 miles down) and gave me rather sore calves. I was super happy to be at the bottom, though. Once there, I met two women from Virginia who were also hiking the down-and-out. After a good evening of chatting, we all hiked out together the next day. I was expecting it to be a really grueling hike, but it ended up not being that bad at all, and the good company was a total bonus. We took a longer but less-steep route out, and within a handful of hours, we made it!!! My two new hiking friends, Lori and Denise, ended up inviting me back to the one’s timeshare in Sedona, where we soaked our sore muscles in a glorious hot tub, ate delicious food and I got to sleep in a comfortable bed.

Grand Canyon: Conquered!!!

I feel like I could do a totally separate blog post on this, and I probably will, but I’ve honestly been blown away by the kindness and generosity of complete strangers that I’ve met along the way. I’ve been “adopted” on hikes by a lot of older couples, I’ve swapped stories with fellow travelers, shared campfires with hiking friends, and I now I’ve even been invited into the home of people I had known for less than 24 hours! I think I’ve certainly found the goodness in humanity along this trip, and I’m incredibly grateful for the people I’ve met. Moral of the story? Road trips and people are awesome.

Anywho, I’ve submitted some applications, so I think it’s time to go explore Austin before I head to New Orleans tomorrow!

Peace and love,

Wes

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2 responses to “Shutdown or Not, the Trip Goes On!

  1. Love love love the pictures! And the people!

    Miss you so much Wes. Hiking Angel’s Landing and the Narrows? You’re my hero!

    • Glad you like ‘em! YOU are MY hero for running off to another crazy country to continue adventuring! Miss you lots and lots and I better see you when you come back to ‘Merica!!!