We've made it home. Justin and I are both back in Long Beach recovering in more ways than one. Missing the road and stuck with a sick bug, not to mention pretty sore from our last few hikes and all the different beds we've slept in (except for the amazing bed in Sedona).
There are no words to describe this Winter's trip. (Well, maybe epic, majestic, breathtaking, magical... all of it.)
I've just turned 29 and am only now truly seeing my heart's desire to be adventuresome. Before I met my husband, I worked like a crazy lady, spending the last ten years in the hair industry as a busy stylist and educator... annnnd maybe being in umpteen weddings along the way. My favorite third job. It never once dawned on me that eventually I would have more control of my own time, and that just maybe I could make my career work with my desire to explore.
When Justin and I met, one of the first big things he asked of me was a trip. A two and a half week trip in the middle of summer. Having spent years in academia and now a teacher, he has and always will have extended time off. So could I, I told myself. Every summer since we met I've stretched out our trips a week each time, finally taking a month off this last summer for our honeymoon. I will never take this time for granted. I am always grateful that we have the opportunity to do so. It's not as easy to pull off for most people we know, so we cherish every second of our time on the road.
I guess I'm telling you this because, well, if you're reading this, you either know me or want to get to know me and my business. And THIS, my friends, is one of the reasons that I work so hard when I am home with my clients: for weeks like the last two. And for recharging. And for being totally inspired by the best Pinterest board ever... Mother Nature.
Sedona was incredible and the perfect way to start off the trip. Indulgent but adventure-filled. Two great hikes and an amazing Christmas Eve dinner that could only be only be described as decadent. Relaxed a ton in the mornings in the great big bed, enjoyed the fire place, great view, morning movies, and room service. Needless to say, thanks to that great big bed, both of our hikes ended just as the sun was setting. Not a bad way to finish the trail! If you find yourself in Sedona and you're looking for a good hike, please try Munds Wagon Trail. It was a very fun trail with lots of variation in terrain, stunning views, and a sweet little river of melting snow flowing through it. We celebrated the finish of Munds the way we celebrate all hikes, with a pint of yummy dark beer. Sedona was the perfect intro to the red rock country and sent us off with hopeful hearts!
Monument Valley was breathtaking. Full of huge rock formations that seemed to me as if God had painted them Himself. We stayed in a little tipi village hosted by a Navajo family. A very cool experience, both temperature-wise and culturally! The first night we braved ten degree weather and a temperamental heating lamp inside one of the "insulated" tipis. It was fun and a little miserable all at the same time. Justin and I just stuck it out by enjoying the "adventure" and nothing felt that difficult, especially together. The second night, however, we lucked out with the octagonal cabin that the host had built himself. We spent the night surrounded by beautiful Indian art, trinkets, and family heirlooms... and dominoes and wine, of course. By night two I had forged quite the bond with a rugged yet adorable Chihuahua named Diamond. She slept in our bed and I wanted to steal her. I'm pretty sure she belonged to an adorable six year old Navajo girl; otherwise, Diamond would have joined our journey.
What I loved about Monument Valley the most was the history, and that of the rock formations in particular. We learned that each formation was exactly the way that Nature had intended for it to be, and the way that She intended for us to see them. They look that way due to billions of years of weathering water and wind. Each drop of water or piece of sand meant to carve out the mesa in every which way. It was absolutely amazing to learn about, and even more so to see these ancient monoliths in real life.
In Moab we enjoyed lots of restoration. We played at least four games of dominoes after breakfast and dinner... for those of you who know us, we loved this almost as much as exploring. Also, fun fact about Moab: most of the town is completely shut down between the end of October and mid-February. Our first full day there, we went to the only two restaurants open, the one coffee shop, one of two markets, and the only state-licensed liquor store. (We pretty much covered the whole town.) Our dinner spot was a well-reviewed sushi spot that was packed within fifteen minutes of opening. We got a seat at the bar and enjoyed the happy hour, but not without trying the highly recommended elk tataki, which melted in our mouths. Amazing sushi in Utah? Yep! We went two nights in a row...
We spent New Years Eve hiking to the "Delicate Arch," Utah's most famous. It's the one we see on their license plate. Although the hike was a little crowded, we managed to find some areas to hop off the trail and play around a little bit. My new winter hiking boots REALLY came in handy on this hike. It was the most snowy and not to mention slippery of the six we did. A lot of slick rock face and deep snow made it fun but a little scary! (I only fell once. Yay.) The arch was even more incredible up close. It was almost as if it was slowly revealing itself as we hiked closer to it. At times we couldn't even tell it was the arch that we were looking at. It was so neat to approach it from a few different angles. After this hike we did the scenic drive, ate more sushi, and partied all night with music, booze, and confetti. Happy New Year!
New Year's day we headed out to Zion, and it was like the trip just kept getting better. We didn't even realize how much better until we got into town. Wow. Way to go Springdale, UT/Zion National Park! Upon arriving we were completely impressed with how beautiful and well-kept the town and park were. Even the park rangers had the coolest uniforms I had seen yet. We (of course) booked the jacuzzi suite at the Pioneer Lodge. Word to the wise: Jacuzzis are totes the way to go on Winter hiking trips. Good for the muscles, good for the soul, and good for a little romance. Mostly muscles. Icy falls and giant inclines are worth the incredible views but take a toll on you when trying to knock out hike after hike.
The hike in Zion was a bit of a letdown at first. First trail we took: closed. Second trail we took: closed. Crowded and closed? No way. Justin and I waited there at the trail closure for a minute and waited. We saw what looked like another brave couple coming out of the closed trail. Justin chatted with them regarding the conditions and we quickly realized that we were more than equipped to hop over the closure! The sweet ice pick technology in my boots would help me out much more than the tourists in Nikes and Steve Madden "boots." On we went. Scared shitless, I followed my husband onto the trail. The trail that was covered in huge blocks of fallen ice and sitting under a ledge of falling icicles. I booked it. Running with high knees and hoping not to be impaled by a falling sword of ice. We made it through and it was so worth it! We were able to get back into the opening of The Narrows. Little did we know that we would soon see small groups of others, like the couple we saw earlier, wading their way out of the river. We learned that with the right "dry suit" equipment that you can actually hike into The Narrows right through the river! Wishing that we had known this, we hung around a bit more and started planning our next trip back. The great thing about Zion in the Winter is that you can drive your own car through the park rather than take the shuttle that runs all other seasons. If you can do what most won't and brave the river, you can escape the crowds and see what Zion is known for.
Leaving was hard. Real hard. We laid in bed the next morning coming up with all of the reasons we should stay just one more day. We couldn't. We had ended the trip on such a high note that we suffered a serious comedown. We discovered a whole new world that we cannot wait to keep exploring. Oh, the Southwest, how we love you. We will be back.