There’s something about Utah, I thought two years ago while driving through its southeastern corner. The canyons, the chasms, the reds and oranges and browns all colliding into some of the most magnificent painting-esque scenes. While planning #RunningTo, I made it a point to spend as much time in Utah as possible.
I got my money’s worth.
When I drove across the country to Camp Ridgecrest two years ago, I somehow skirted both the Grand Canyon and Zion National Parks. Two of America’s most glamorous gems hewn from the purest uncut rock. Over the last few years, friends have boasted about both parks, some even going so far as to say Zion was — gasp — even grander than the Grand Canyon.
Indeed, Zion was grand.
For the second time in as many weeks, I abandoned my car in a visitor’s center parking lot and camped into the wild. Surrounded by towering pillars of red-orange-white rock, I hiked seven miles deep into Zion’s western rim.
I hated it.
It’s not that I loathed the geography. Certainly not. The landscape speaks for itself, bold and beautiful enough to bring awestruck smiles to the gloomiest of souls.
Having only recently trekked the Grand Canyon, however, I felt a bit tuckered out. I wondered what I might gain from a second arduous hike in such a short amount of time. Part of me even considered ditching the hike and campout altogether even though the non-refundable permit had already been paid.
I was tired. I was worn. I was alone.
Somehow, though, the Utahn wild had a way of bringing a smile to my cynical face.
Alone in Zion’s western rim, quite literally miles away from the nearest human, I pitched my tent and slept and journaled and read and slept some more. Alone with only my thoughts and Utah’s listening ear, I pondered a lot. I considered this state I was deliberately traversing and my trip at large.
Alone in the wild, I was reminded of the Utahn glory that drew me back here, drew me deeper, two years later.
The next morning I hiked back to civilization renewed, recharged, revitalized.
Over my ensuing week in Utah, I spent time in Provo, adjoined by the freshwater Utah Lake, and then Salt Lake City, adjoined by the quite salty Great Salt Lake.
Beyond my Zion campout, I couch-surfed at three different Utahn homes. Each one, incredible.
Two years ago I fell in love with Utah’s unique geography; two years later, I fell more in love with her people. Precious people who took me in, fed me, showed me slivers of their homes, their cities, their lives.
I was reminded of my primary mission for this road trip. It’s not to see mountains or rivers or canyons or cities. It’s not to snap repetitive pictures for Instagram or tweet nonsensically throughout.
It’s the people.
This #RunningTo venture, this life, this whole big story will always be about the people. It is the point of this trip, and it is the point of everything.
Utah’s gorgeous. For a whole week she showed me her fiery mountains and aqua lakes and grandiose temples. And then she said, “But wait, there’s more.”