the mountains are calling and i must go

You know those places you see all over the internet?  You see a picture on Buzzfeed or Pinterest and have to ask yourself if that place is even real or just the work of a professional photographer and Photoshop master…

Well, I’m here to tell you that those places are real, and I had the immense privilege of seeing a few of them last month on a trip I took.11026048_10153967918717715_6275458459212842099_n

I flew from Gainesville to Atlanta, Atlanta to Salt Lake City and Salt Lake City to Las Vegas.  James picked me up at the airport and we made our way to Lake Powell (Utah or Arizona, depending on where you’re standing).  To say it was a long travel day is an understatement; to say it was more than worth it is an even bigger understatement.

Immediately, this trip felt like something different than I’d ever experienced.  For one, I was traveling with someone who I love a lot and get along with very easily.  We have similar likes and dislikes and all in all, a similar travel style.  We would sleep until we felt like getting up, eat when we were hungry, stop to take pictures when we wanted to and just move at our own pace.  We also rarely had cell phones, technology or distractions so the entire trip just had a very fluid, easygoing feeling.

We started, as I mentioned, in Lake Powell.  We arrived at night so you can imagine my astonishment to wake up and see that we were right next to the lake!  Lake Powell is a hotspot for houseboats, but there were a lot of other people at the tent campground with us, too.  (And some RVs.  James must have almost accidentally driven into the “RV Dump” site five times while we were there and it never ceased to be funny.)

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There were a lot of options for activities, and we had kind of a hard time choosing.  We wound up taking a boat tour of the lake which took us around all the different canyons (including getting up close and personal with the Glen Canyon Dam).  It was so chilly and windy on the top of that boat!

We also spent half a day in Page, AZ at Upper Antelope Canyon (one of those highly-photographed and sought-after spots I mentioned at the beginning).  It was stunning!  The colors of the slot canyon are unreal and our Navajo guide, Lionel, was hilarious and a pro at giving photography advice to capture the awesome light beams.

My favorite place that we spent time at during the Lake Powell segment of our trip was Horseshoe Bend.  We went to watch the sunset two nights in a row and let’s just say, there were some mishaps!  The first night, we were running late and afraid to miss the sunset so we literally jogged hand-in-hand up and over the hills, through swarms of gnats (terrible, terrible swarms) all the way to the edge.  We were slightly concerned as we passed hordes of people coming the opposite direction, away from the overlook, but all of that went away when we got there and saw the beautiful river, skyline and panorama.  We sat down and ate chips and salsa, drank a beer and enjoyed the truly incredible scenery.  Eventually, we were the only people left and I have to say, I never really wanted to leave that spot.

We enjoyed it so much that we went back the next night!  The second night, though, we encountered some crazy winds.  Poor James was wearing his contacts and the sand was blowing so bad into them that he just covered his eyes and waited for the gusts to pass.  We wound up just cracking up about the whole situation and heading back to camp for (what we thought was) the windiest night of little sleep ever.

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When our time in Lake Powell was up, James and I headed to Zion National Park.  I have to tell you a funny story here.  On the way to Zion, I told James that I really hoped we would happen upon (in the middle of the desert) a homemade ice cream shop.  As we stopped to get gas in Kanab, I found out there was one nearby!  Called Three Bears Creamery Cottage!  I was thrilled.  We went, and it was closed.  This would be a pattern throughout the rest of our trip: Mallory wants ice cream.  James tries to make this happen.  Ice cream shop is closed.  Or ice cream machine is closed for cleaning. Finally, on the second to last night in Zion, I got my ice cream and boy was it good.

But back to the adventures…on the way into the park, I was absolutely blown away.  James stopped and we sat outside the car, just taking everything in.  It felt like something out of a movie!  The fluffy little petals from a flower that I can’t remember the name of were blowing everywhere in the wind and the sun was shining all around us.  We eventually got fully into Zion and got a campsite (this was a feat in itself, but that’s a long story). Then we set up camp, took a little nap and went out for our first hike, at the Emerald Pools!  This was a pretty easy but nice hike.  The upper Emerald pool was my favorite, and we spent a little time just reveling in the beauty.  (I know that sounds corny but that’s all you could do, really.  If Mallory Thompson is speechless on a trip you know it must be an amazing one.)

We made friends with the people at our campsite (some crazy kids named Lindsey and Fern and a few others) and spent a little time hanging out with them after dinner around the fire.  At one point, Fern climbed a tree and fell out of it, flat onto this back.  It was by far one of the funniest things I have ever seen.

The next day, James and I did what I’d been waiting for ever since I read about it online: we hiked the Narrows!  You can read all about that here if you’re curious, but basically you’re hiking in a river between canyons and it is epic.  James made the mistake of letting the girl at the outfitter talk him into renting what we dubbed the “Waders of Death” (WoD).  I, meanwhile, only rented the canyoneering shoes and walking stick, and was very happy about that.  We wound up having to stash James’ WoD along the river, hiding them under some brush so we could return them later.  I was about to cry I was laughing so hard.  He took them off and he was covered in sweat.  The whole point of him renting the WoD was because he feared he would be cold!!!  It was just ironic and hysterical and I kept making fun of him for paying an extra $20 for a sweaty hindrance.

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The hike itself was a lot of fun, having to catch each other from falling all the way into the river (ok, I was a little clumsier than he) and eating lunch with a doe on a patch of rocky shoreline.  We also sang the whole time…Disney songs, Maroon 5 songs, any songs.  I loved it.

Finally, after some truly unforgettable days in breathtaking places (with fantastic company), it was time to go back to reality.  James drove me (reluctantly) back to the Las Vegas airport, where I made my way back to Gainesville.

I have a million other things that I could say about this trip, and how everyone should spend time in that part of the country, and how I wish we had more time there, but instead I’ll just say: it was a trip for the books.

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