Saturday, April 14, 2012

Detox

Q: Based on what you know of me, what is the most likely way I would pick to de-stress and re-energize?
A) Go to a spa, get a massage, facial and mani-pedi.
B) Stay in my pajamas, turn off the phone and curl up with the entire Harry Potter series.
C) Go on a guilt-free shopping spree.
D) Play chicken with my gas tank while driving through a snowstorm.

Yup. It was D.

Fortunately, my little Mazda handled the elements and its sewing machine motor of an engine didn't get too thirsty.

But I'm getting behind myself. Everyone knows you start a good story in the middle.

I'm halfway through a road trip with only myself for company; the longest conversations I've had have been with the guy who checked me in at the overnightery (weather, continental breakfast, hiking), the ranger who took my fee at Natural Bridges National Monument (this infernal snow), the guy running a museum (the museum, Provo and air quality) and a couple on an overlook trail (is it worth it?)

Of course, that doesn't include my conversations with the most interesting person in my car. Those touched on why throw pillows exist, if Blanding is a ghost town because I'd been driving toward it forever without getting there, how good my gas mileage was, how much time I had to hike, how much I dislike the NRA, why mountains feel aggressive while the fiery sheer cliffs on either side of me felt protective, how to write this blog post and wordless screaming after a really rockin' climb. Oh, and how bad it would hurt if I hit a cow, since, you know, fences are overrated.



Just so you know, watching for cows near the roadside takes up all your mental energy, leaving nothing for office worries, fretting about the future, wondering how long I'm going to last being loud and left and everything else that's been weighing on my mind.

When I left Provo this morning, Natural Bridges was the only thing on my itinerary, but most of my stops for tomorrow are landmarks I drive by every time I go home but don't stop because I either have 10 hours of driving in front of me or 10 hours of driving behind me. I started that part of the trip a little early when I got off the highway in Helper and went to a railroad and mining museum. It reminded me that my dream vacation always includes little structure and lots of detours.

The only thing I hit today was a decision on whether to stop at Goblin Valley. It took all of my willpower and lots of reminding myself that I was going somewhere awesome to continue past one of my favorite places in the world. (By world I mean the universe, because Goblin Valley is decidedly Martian.)

I spent 120 miles on a scenic highway -- aforementioned craggy red rocks, canyons and gulches cutting through the earth, wind-roughened scrub lightening the beautifully barren landscape. Even in the storm, ghostly mesas guarded the roadway and mist swirled through the mountains, hugging the peaks even after the storm was nothing more than a chill in the air.

Shortly before Natural Bridges the snow let up; this was, however, only the eye of the storm. The visitors center was only good for about five minutes of entertainment, and visibility was a good 50 yards so the overlook scenery was out.

Fortunately, although I did not pay attention to the weather, what my expected driving time was or that I would need to eat on this trip, I did bring four different ways to stay busy. I spent the next hour sitting in my car in my winter coat, a blanket around my legs, reading "Gunfight" by Adam Winkler and listening to the snow fall. And it was fun. I am that geeky.

Finally the snow abated. I said a quick prayer for my gas tank and left. I wasn't really planning on hiking because it was cold and wet and I was alone.

That lasted the same amount of time it took me to get to the first trailhead. I grabbed my camera, put on my backpack and was almost running down the trail by the time I got it all secured. Hiking is my happy place.

Two hours and ~400 feet of elevation later, I dragged myself out of the park; if I didn't leave soon the sun was going to beat me out.

Sometimes the best way to gain perspective is just to leave it behind and let it catch up when it's ready. Or maybe throw it off one of those cliffs and see if I can't pick up a new perspective along the way.

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