The reality of my next unmapped adventure completely hit home, Sunday night as I laid my head down for the final time in Seattle. I know in my heart it might just been for a year, but reality is, I don’t know where my life is going to be when the end of the school year roles around. If these mapless adventures have taught me anything, it’s that nothing can be planned out. Unforeseen events can happen and life can change quickly before realizing they’ve changed.

It’s one of the exciting aspects of life, knowing that things aren’t mapped out perfectly. Those unmapped adventures are what brings excitement into our worlds. Doors open at any minute.

This particular mapless adventure, has begun. My stuff was in storage. My car completely packed to the max. I was waking up to embark on a solo road trip through 5 states, to arrive at my parent’s house for 1 final week at home. This was it. No turning back now. I am really going to be moving to the US Virgin Islands.

But I digress. It wasn’t time yet to leave the continental USA but it was time to venture away from Seattle. Waking up Monday morning felt surreal. Was I actually leaving Seattle? It didn’t take long before tears flooded my eyes as I drifted further away from the skyline and entered the Cascades one last time.

My first day of driving was long, but I planned this on purpose to be able to explore Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks during this road trip. Seattle to Twin Falls, Idaho was calculated at approximately 9.5 hours of driving and 662 miles through much of the dry desert and rolling hills. I chose not to stop much unless necessary to be able to make good time. It took about 11 hours before I arrived at Twin Falls but the city didn’t disappoint. I wasn’t aware that Twin Falls is a known destination for base jumping and as I arrived, people were prepping their packs for a sunset jump. I however did not stay around due to the fact that I was EXHAUSTED and ventured to the KOA Campsite to set up my tent and call it a night (which I did after showering and eating).

Day 2 on the road trip came quickly but that’s what happens when I decided to wake up and hit the road by 6:45 AM. With another 600+ mile day, I didn’t want to sleep in for fear of missing out on adventure in Bryce Canyon National Park. The drive wasn’t difficult as I mostly drove through rolling hills, dry desert and through the city limits. Arriving to Bryce Canyon National Park made this road trip feel like the right decision. It allowed me to reconnect with myself, while enjoying God’s beautiful creation.

Bryce Canyon National Park (BRCA) is very easy to access via car and has multiple stops along the drive to see the hoodoos. Hoodoos are odd-shaped pillars of rock left standing due to erosion and BRCA has the largest collection in the world with bold read, orange, and white colors as far as the eye can see. I originally started just driving along the main road pulling off at every view point admiring each unique formations. From the natural bridge to the pockets of hoodoos, Bryce Canyon was one of a kind. When I arrived at the top of the park, my dad texted me to find Queen’s Garden and walk along the pathway.

Little did I know, this pathway would guide me directly into the heart of the hoodoos and it really put these pillars into perspective. The size, the colors, and the designs are unimaginable.

The day was still not done as my ending destination was about 1.5 hours, in which I drove through a national forest before arriving at my second ending point.

My first hurdle came and went smoothly when I arrived at my KOA. I had always planned on tent camping to save on the financial aspect, however with a car full of my possessions, I needed to be near my car. The campsites weren’t  in accordance to this requirement, so I splurged and rented one of their cabins. One of the benefits of this upgrade became the electricity. The cabins offer a bed too (also known as a luxury). Once again, before I knew it, my head was on my pillow and I drifted to sleep.

Day 3 arrived before I wanted it too, but it was another “first” for me. Zion National Park was an hour away and I wished to arrive before the park became over crowded. As I left by 6:45 am, I was able to enter, park, buy my stickers, and get on the shuttle bus by 8:30 AM.

I originally planned on only hiking the Narrows, but thanks to the advice of friends, I was pushed towards hiking Angel’s Landing prior to the Narrows (and I was happy I accepted their advice). During the shuttle, I met two guys on a work road trip and ended up spending the morning with them hiking. One was from Ohio, the other was from Australia, and both worked for the same company. Hiking or traveling friends are truly one of the reasons I LOVE exploring and going on adventures. They were no exceptions.

Let’s return to Angel’s Landing, which begins with the Grotto Trailhead. This hike was seriously strenuous, exactly as the description portrayed it. I mean I’ve hiked before, but this was honestly the HARDEST hike I’ve done. It was up, up, up and climbed elevation almost immediately, totaling 1,488 feet within 2.5 miles. Thank goodness for Tal and Michael for being my hiking partners for the day.

The hike can be broken down into two parts. The initial part ends with 8ish switchbacks landing you at Scout Lookout then continues on a scramble upwards along a cliff edge. I’m not exaggerating when I say scrambling upwards. There are CHAINS. CHAINS. And I used them, multiple times. It was necessary, especially since you are right next to the cliff edge.

Now, let me take a pause in my story to tell you about something that I’ve never experienced before and it involves a squirrel. Yes, a squirrel. All I was trying to do was set up my camera to capture an image and before I knew it, that squirrel was creeping closer and closer to my pack. Then he was on it…then in it. Yes that squirrel dug it’s head into the small pouch. I couldn’t have made this up. I have proof because it was so unexpected and quite entertaining at the same time.

Okay, back to the hike. I completed the scramble upwards to reach the summit of Angel’s Landing with my two hiking buddies and the only word I can think to describe this view is BREATHTAKING. 360 degree views of the mountains. Just unbelievable and no amount of explanation can do this view justice.

Upon finishing the decent, my time with Tal and Michael came to an end as we parted ways. They headed to the Grand Canyon. I headed to the Narrows.

The Narrows. Oh The Narrows. Let me start of by saying, come prepare. I’m really not joking. Many of the patrons, I noticed were BAREFOOT. Not smart. This hike is virtually in a river, with occasional land walking, but mostly hiking in the water of the river. Chances of injuring the feet is probable, higher if barefoot. The only way I can think to describe the walking on this hike, is “Drunk Walk”. Picture patrons leaving a bar at 2 AM in the morning, stumbling and constantly trying to catch their balance. Yeah, that’s how I felt walking through the Narrows. The river bottom was covered with rocks, small and large with flowing waters.

However, every stumble, every almost fall, was totally worth it! Nature is amazingly beautiful and hard to image that places like The Narrows and the rest of Zion weren’t planned. Erosion. Simply the act of water eroding the earth. Unbelievable.

And just like that my time in Zion came to an end and I was back on the road. My ending location on Day 3 was my friends place in Flagstaff, which to be honest, was the first time I had been back to this city since my Grad school graduation in 2011. Though, I did make a quick pitstop at a natural sight called Horseshoe Bend, located just south of Page, Arizona (the entrance of Lake Powell).

Once I arrived into Flagstaff, I reached out to my grad school roommate/best friend and we laughed about the feeling of being back. Surreal. But I’m happy with my choice to stay the night with my friend to be able to catch up with her and see her, as it’s been 5 years.

This type of traveling, road tripping around my own country, is sometimes overlooked, even by myself. I have all these big plans to backpack South America, hike Machu Picchu, extreme sports in New Zealand, and visit friends in Australia (plus many many more), but exploring my own country has ignited more love for it.

And just like that my road trip has ended (well a 2 hour drive the next day but nothing exciting). My next task at hand- turning an entire car full of my belongings into two large suitcases, a carry-on and a backpack. Wish me luck. Eek. St. Thomas….HERE I COME!

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