A week spent exploring Utah
I write this particular blog post feeling that extra sentimental. This past week, we had hit our 100th day on the road, which gave us a nice little reminder of just how long we've been travelling for. Yet on the other hand, we found a new owner for our motorhome who will be buying our RV in two months time, also reminding us that all good things must come to an end, including our life on the road.
Within this same week, our travels would lead us to Utah. For lovers of the great outdoors, Utah is the ultimate destination. Whether it's hiking in spectacular National Parks, riding a horse through remote canyons, or simply seeing stunning scenery from outside the window, Utah has it on unbelievable scales.
Full of enthusiasm, we headed first to Monument Valley, located on the border of Arizona and Utah, and rather remote at that. Arriving at dusk, we saw this as the perfect opportunity to drive towards the straight road of U.S. Route 163, otherwise known as the Forrest Gump Point, made famous from the scene where Forrest eventually stopped running and said, "I’m pretty tired… I think I’ll go home now." Feeling quite tired ourselves, after taking in the views and stopping for some photos, we decided to call it a night and drove towards our RV park which in itself had views of the mesas from afar.
Waking up in Monument Valley is truly a magical experience. Wherever you find yourself, the unique sandstone formations are always in view. Undoubtably the highlight of our visit here was the morning we spent horseback riding with a local Navajo guide named Tom. Tom looked to have been in his 60s, he wore cowboy boots, a silver moustache and a welcoming smirk. He introduced us to our horses who's names were Navy and Magic. Having never ridden a horse before, I was both excited yet nervous. Luckily for me, my horse Magic didn't mind a slow and steady pace as we descended into the valley.
Throughout our three-hour long journey, we rode in awe as the sun began beaming down, casting a red glow on the entire landscape. But perhaps the true joy of the tour was listening to Tom talk about how he spent his childhood within this area. He told us a story about how his ancestors had hidden necklaces they had made in a secret cave nearby, and how him and his siblings have spent their childhood trying to find them. He shared his great knowledge of how too survive in the desert, pointing out where water could be found and which plants were eatable and which could be used to aid a rattle snake bite. The more he spoke, the more I felt lucky to be in his presence.
Heading west, we set forth to the town of Page where Antelope Canyon dwells — a slot canyon so beautiful it brings in around 1,500 travellers, each and every day. Similar to Monument Valley, the canyon is located on Navajo land and is therefore only accessible through guided tours. To give an indication as to how busy this place is, we had to book our tour weeks in advance. Knowing this, I had already started to panic about the crowds that I would come to find during our visit, yet I anxiously joined the queue as I knew that in the end, this natural wonder would be worth it.
Upon entering the canyon, my worries about the big crowds were realised, to the point that about halfway through the hour-long tour, I started to have a panic attack that had me almost mow-down the other tourists in front of me. Fortunately, my expectations for the canyon's beauty was also met, and with that, I caught my breath, looked up at the light beams filtering down, and even for a slight moment, I felt alone with the canyon.
Aside from Antelope Canyon, Page and its surroundings were just as wondrous. There's Lake Powell, a reservoir on the Colorado River, straddling the border between Utah and Arizona. Here we took a boat tour around the lake, getting up close and personal to the Navajo sandstone. There's Horseshoe Bend, a horseshoe-shaped carved meander of the river. The simple thing to do here is find a spot on the cliff's edge, dangle your legs over the 1,000-foot drop and admire the sight. And then there's Lone Rock Beach, one of the few places in the Lake Powell area where people can drive right to the water's edge to camp. This is the place where we retired to each day, parking our motorhome within a stone's throw of the beach's restful ripples.
As we continued to head west, we arrived at Utah's most visited National Park, Zion. Catching my first glance at the soaring rocks robbed me of words and took my breath away. All of a sudden, the black bitumen transformed in to an ochre asphalt, mimicking the vibrant reds, oranges and pinks of the ascending land.
Not for the faint of heart, the Angel's Landing hike takes both nerves and stamina. Determined to make it to the top, we began the hike and steadily made our way along the canyon floor — though it wasn't long before we started to climb. By the time we had reached the halfway point, the trail lead through a narrow canyon, providing a shade that was all too welcomed. As we reached the final leg, I looked up at a series of chains bolted into the rocks and realised that pulling myself up on these was the only way to the summit. Admittedly, this was the point where a wave of regret came rushing in. If it wasn't for Kieran reminding me to take deep breaths, I would have turned around right there and then. Come what may, we pressed on, and boy was the view worth it — it was one of the most awe-inspiring places I have experienced, topped with the euphoria of pride that I had made it to the top.
Our final stop in Utah was Bryce Canyon, another National Park full of many scenic hikes. Although we were tempted to see all that this park had to offer, our legs had ran out of steam after our feats in Zion. Feeling tired and a little battered, we instead travelled the park by road, pulling up and taking short walks to scenic viewpoints.
Atop one of the vistas, we stumbled upon a painter who was sketching Rainbow Point. I asked to take his picture to which he gladly obliged. Matching my curiosity, the man asked us where we have been travelling and where we are headed next. As Kieran began to recount our travels, I felt an overwhelming sense of joy listening to the memories we had collected. And as for where we're headed next, we both replied with excitement, "we're heading to Texas!'