As I’ve mentioned previously on this blog, I occasionally struggle with anxiety. I don’t like new situations with a lot of unknowns and I tend to stress over all possible worst-case scenarios, no matter how improbable they are. So, when Zach wanted to go on an overnight off-roading trip in Canyonlands National Park, I was hesitant. What if the 4Runner can’t handle the terrain? What if we do lasting damage to the 4Runner? What if we crash the 4Runner and need to get towed out of the canyon, which would cost thousands of dollars? What if we run out of gas? What if there is a flash flood? What if we get a flat tire and fix it, but then get another flat? What if we drive off a cliff?
Plenty of cliffs we could drive off
While I was trying to think of a strategy for convincing Zach this wasn’t a good idea, I got a text from Megan. A few times a week, she’ll send a Quote of the Day. It read: “Do not resist chances. Take them like vitamins. See what happens if you go five more miles. Find you own way across. Don’t worry about the bumps and bruises, you can handle them. Don’t steer around the bits that scare you. Go over them, through them. Then there will be one less thing you cannot do.” With those words of motivation resonating, I did my best to stop dreading the upcoming weekend in Canyonlands and, on my good days, even look forward to it.
Quite the view
In the end, as always, I had nothing to be worried about. We traveled along White Rim Road, a 100-mile loop that takes you 2,000 feet down into the canyons below Island in the Sky. The road was rough, I wouldn’t have wanted to be in a car lower to the ground or less powerful than ours, but manageable. Our pace was slow, averaging less than 10 mph, and our campground was at mile 77, so we spent a lot of time in the car on Saturday. Zach typically drives 95% of the time, but this weekend I did nearly half of it. The bumpiness of the road made the passenger car sick, so we switched off every hour.
Zach and the Green River
We reached our campsite in late afternoon. It was the only site in Taylor Canyon, five miles off the main road. We hiked to the base of a nearby rock formation named Zeus and Moses. High above us were rock climbers at the top of what I assumed to be Zeus.
So windy I had to hold my hat on
Initially, we attempted to set up the tent but it was incredibly windy and after it blew away for the second time, we decided to sleep inside the car. We moved all of belongings into the front seat and set up our sleeping mats in the back, which were barely short enough to fit. Being in a canyon, it got dark especially early. We had misplaced our petzels and the full moon made it too bright to stargaze, so we got to bed early. Around midnight, I was awoken by a flustered Zach claiming a mouse had scampered across his back. A bit skeptical at first, I soon believed him after I heard it scurrying around. We tried to ignore it and fall back asleep but after Zach felt run by his head, we decided it was time to set up the tent. By 1 am the wind had died down, we successfully set up the tent and slept peacefully, not worrying about a mouse darting around.
Best moonrise I’ve ever seen
The remainder of the trail was much easier than the previous day. We finished the loop with plenty of gas and no damage other than a few small scratches from driving too close to a thorn bush. After stopping by the visitor’s center to pick up Lucy, we headed north to I-70. The goal was to make it back to Ohio by Friday night. 1,700 miles, 25 hours and 6 evenings of driving.
Other than Sunday, which we spent in Golden, Colorado with Zach’s college roommate, Mark, we stayed each night in Walmart parking lots. They’re free, conveniently located just off the highway, and often have a Starbucks nearby, meaning we don’t have to drive anywhere in the morning. We spent one night in each state along the way – Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana – driving 4 or 5 hours each night. Thanks to the nonsensical end of daylight savings, it got dark soon after we finished working. Combining that with the three time zones we drove through, my circadian rhythms were all out of whack.
Driving through the snowy Rockies
Our first night after Canyonlands, I set out sunflower seeds to determine if the mouse was still in the car. The next morning, only the shells remained. We bought a mouse trap at Walmart that night, but in the meantime, I was constantly worried it would run up my leg while in the car. The first night, with just a sunflower seed in the trap, we were unsuccessful, but, after adding peanut butter, we caught the little guy.
One last picture of Canyonlands
We arrived at Zach’s parents’ house late Friday night. After five days of working all day, driving all evening and sleeping all night, I was looking forward to adding some variety back into my life. And of course, I was excited to see family, friends, work colleagues and spend time in the greatest state in the nation – Ohio.