Tuesday, October 28, 2014

After the PCT: Road trip through Utah

After picking me up from the PCT and driving through Nevada, my parents and I continued our road trip eastward through Utah and into western Colorado.
Me and my dad at Bryce Canyon National Park.
The scenery we traveled through was unbelievable.  We visited Bryce Canyon National Park, Capitol Reef National Park, Natural Bridges National Monument, Grand Staircase/ Escalante National Monument, and Hovenweep National Monument.  We didn't spend more than a few hours at each park, but we stopped at the viewpoints and did short walks.  At first I found it difficult to see things this way, but I adapted to the pace.  This trip was about sharing places with my parents, and getting a taste for what's out there.
Stopping to check out the cliffrose.
Adjusting to off-trail life has been slow going.  My body still aches from lack of activity.  Car travel is still too fast for my brain to take in the scenery.  I find indoor air too stuffy and hot.  Showering everyday seems excessive.  I continue to wear the same things everyday, even though I have more than one outfit now.  We stopped by a thrift store to get a suitcase because everything doesn’t fit into my backpack anymore, but now I can’t find anything.  I miss the simplicity of the trail.
But I do like traveling with my parents.  Our camaraderie makes up for how much I miss hiking for 12-14 hours a day.  I love how we oh and ah at the scenery together.  I love seeing our similarities.  Like how my mom and I laugh at all the same things.  Like how my dad and I both wake up insanely early, all bright-eyed.
Dad nimbly climbs up the slope at Capitol Reef National Park.
As we drive, we generate lists of historical and natural history questions to research.  Such as: who was Mather, and why are so many places in parks named after him?  Is the cottonwood tree native here?  What is the difference between a butte, mesa, and a plateau?  So many questions, everything out here is so new and exciting.
Stopping to ask questions at the visitor's center at Capitol Reef National Park.
Remember the last week on the trail, how I was struggling trying to come up with things to look forward to after the PCT?  Well, I'm definitely adding "Utah Parks" to that list, as well as, "unlimited access to google" "informative interpretive signs on nature trails" and "having time to browse through the plant reference books at visitor centers."  Yes, these are a few of my favorite things (that I didn't have on the PCT).  After being so intensely focused on the PCT for the past year, it's helpful to see that there are more wonderful places to explore besides the PCT and so many ways to enjoy the outdoors besides being on a long hike. 
Mom, me and Still Waters reading an interpretive sign at Hovenweep National Monument.
Next we traveled to Cortez, Colorado to see Still Waters, who just moved here from Georgia and has invited me to stay with her in Colorado for a while.  My parents spent several days sightseeing around the area with us before they continued back to their house in Wisconsin.  I'll definitely miss them.
Anasazi ruins at Hovenweep National Monument.
One thing that was really wonderful was that my parents seemed to really support me and understand my experiences on the PCT.  They got how having the stress fracture and returning to the trail in the off-season allowed me to have a different type of hike.  They really respected how I changed my attitude towards my hike and learned the lesson that "the journey is the reward" and we had some really good conversations around that.  I haven't spent so much time with my parents for many years, and I feel very fortunate to have made this time to spend with them. 


  1. Your relationship with your parents is quite unique and special, something not to be taken for granted. I too look forward to exploring many new areas of our country, such as Utah. Your thirst for knowledge always adds interests to your posts. I look forward to your continued growth and adventure. Onward HO!

    1. I do feel really lucky to have developed a good relationship with my parents, and that I have been able to spend such an extended period of time with them. Pretty neat consequence of taking the time to do the long distance hike.

      Utah is incredible. I asked at a few of the ranger stations about hiking season, especially at Natural Bridges and Escalante, and they said the hiking was good even in winter in many places. :) Let me know if you make it out to Utah or the Four Corners this winter!!!

  2. Awesome way to wind down after a hike. I too had some of the post-hike feelings and experiences...not showering daily, cars being fast, etc. I miss the simplicity of it all, too.

    1. Reassuring to know that so many people go through this stuff after they hike. I'm so glad for this road trip- it sure was a good way to transition. Made it much easier to ease back into "normal" life.