You forget what it truly means to be on the road. You are rich in places to sleep, yet essentially homeless. Your car is your home. Your car is your kitchen. Every national forest is your home. Your hammock and tent, your nest. Every Walmart parking lot, a potential home if all else fails. You create systems inside your car that only you understand. Everything has a place. Five inches of space are as valuable as a whole room in your house. You become one. Your seats start to smell. The dashboard is thick with dust and dirt. You brought a bunch of clothes, but you wear the same every day. There’s a collection of rocks starting to grow already. Cold beer is god.
We alternated between trail and road. Sweaty then showering down in the campground bathroom. Or a bath in the creek, any cool water would do. The heat penetrated our souls as we careened across the south west of our country, and some days we felt like we may never be cool again. We began to deeply and carelessly long for our future in Maine; the notion of cold winter and icy fingers became an every day daydream.
A hike into the depths of the Grand Canyon brought us to our knees far away from the comforts of civilization. We struggled in a new way, but that discomfort made the reward that much sweeter: friends awaiting us at the rim with a campsite we’d call home where we hung our hammocks, drank cold beer and ate not-cliff bars. We slept like babies (until one of us was nudged by a burro in the night), and awoke refreshed, ready to find new roads to explore and new places to lay our heads for a night or two.
The options were endless, we chose the way. This was our new life.
Photo Locations (from top to bottom): Roadside stand east of Grand Canyon on AZ Rt 89; Crossing the Colorado River near Marble Canyon; Hermit Creek trail inside the Grand Canyon; Vegetation inside the Grand Canyon; Dreamcatcher on AZ Rt 89; The vast Grand Canyon National Park; Dealing with the heat inside the Grand Canyon; Rocks in Arizona; Comfort at Desert View Campground, Grand Canyon; Roadside stand flags east of Grand Canyon on AZ Rt 89; View of the Colorado River from the Tonto Trail inside the Grand Canyon.
Escalante River Trailhead to Natural Arch – 4 miles out and back
We were overwhelmed. After failing to find somewhere to camp – let alone to park -in Zion National Park (no offense, you are beautiful, but man are you crowded!), and a gorgeous but busy stay in Bryce, we mosyed our way over to the lesser known Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, and found ourselves free of the crowds, free of charge.
Though it lacks the admirable National Park title of the other famed parks of Utah, you find yourself asking why as you stare out at the 1.7 million acres of dramatic natural bridges, slick red rock walls, slot canyons, ruins and petroglyphs you can get intimate with, and the bonus on a hot June day: a plentiful river running along the trail shaded by cottonwoods. And did we mention that there is nobody there?
We spent the day rambling along the flat valley of the Escalante River, speeding along through the desert sage, splashing around in the cool river water which we got to cross multiple times, and enjoying this rare opportunity to spend alone time with the southwest’s sensational scenery. One day we’ll go deeper into its millions of acres of unspoiled land, but for now we’ll be content with our small but eye-opening taste of this Utah underdog.