The Beauty of Going Solo
After the ranch, I wanted to take advantage of my close proximity of so many national parks. Having lived out West for a bit my definition of “close” has changed significantly. Driving four hours to get to someplace cool – sure no problem!
When I started thinking about this road trip, my goal was to hit as many national parks as possible before heading back East for for a family event. Ultimately, I was far too ambitious in my hit list of places to explore unless I wanted to simply drive through. After a few false starts, I pointed my car southwest towards the Grand Canyon via Four Corners.
Unlike my road trip in May, I was driving through places I barely had a frame of reference for – I had no idea what to expect. I’m an East Coast girl driving in the middle of West seeing landscapes I only knew existed through photos. I came upon Four Corners early in the morning and it was completely surrounded by fog, unlike anything I have seen outside of Maine. It was amazing to see the fog floating in and out of the different rock formations.
I reached the entrance to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon and learned very quickly that since I was traveling by myself, I’d have to rely on the kindness of strangers to help show that this trip even happened (unless I only wanted selfies for documentation). I have been fortunate to meet some amazing people during my travels and hear their life stories. I can only hope mine is that interesting.
I didn’t really plan any of this trip – I just had the gear, the Annual Parks Pass, a general idea of what I wanted to do, and about a week to do it. Like I had been doing for the last few months, I hoped that things would simply work out. As luck would have it, I managed to snag a campsite for two nights, right across from a couple from Massachusetts who were taking a year off from work to explore the US and Canada. They had already hit over 25 national parks and made me realize that I wasn’t alone – there is this whole tribe of people eager for adventure and exploring this world. Many, like myself, are in this transitional state where home is where you put your tent at night.
Since I was winging it, doing the Rim to Rim hike was out of the question, but Plateau Point – deemed strenuous – seemed doable. I started heading into the canyon with the intention to see as many beautiful things as possible, while staying safe and understanding my limits. I wanted push myself, but not to the point where I needed to taken out of the canyon by Wilderness Rescue. Thank goodness I lived at over 9,000 feet for the summer, as it made things a bit easier.
In total the hike was 12 miles, with over 3,000 feet of elevation gain. I realized after the fact that this was probably the longest hike I have ever done, I did it solo, and, because I totally over estimated what I needed, I did it with a 20-pound pack on. [Mental note: Next time pack less shit.]
I didn’t rush the journey and for the first time in a long time, I was intentional about moving forward, and being present in the moment. Hiking by yourself gives you time to think and try to sort things out in your head, all while taking in the beautiful scenery. On paper my life is complete chaos right now and I have had to deal with some personal drama, but ever since I was in the canyon I have felt oddly at peace. I can’t remember the last time I felt that way. One of my good friends says I am like this because I have spent so much time outdoors.
When I got to the top I was tired, but very proud of myself (and I completely justified the ice cream and potato chips I consumed). Sadly, I was scolded by a man who said I shouldn’t have gone hiking by myself. I’m not sure if that was because I am a woman, or because I was solo. Either way – I know I was safe in my hike, constantly surrounded by others who all understand the idea that you each other out on the trail when you can. I was there for me and to intentionally have this experience by myself. I don’t think that he understood that or the power of doing this on my own.
Along the way, I witnessed so many other women who were finding their Bold – groups of ladies challenging themselves physically, mentally and emotionally. There was this amazing set of Rim to Rim runners who had started at 6 a.m. from the North, finishing right about the same time as me. My girlfriends back home did Rim to Rim as a two-day hike in May, and after that accomplishment, they want to try it a day (they are all bad ass runners). Now knowing what I am capable of I will definitely be back to hike Rim to Rim, and, maybe if I am fast enough (hello marathon training), I will attempt to run the almost 24 miles from North to South. Just keep in mind the common Grand Canyon sticker: “Down is optional. Up is mandatory.” Not a bad life philosophy if you ask me.
My Grand Canyon experience ended on a beautiful note. I learned of a quiet place to view the canyon not too far from my campsite. If you are at the Desert View campground, follow the path next to campsite 48, which will take past the trees to the edge. Early in the morning, cup of instant coffee in hand and my camera slung across my chest, I made my way in the dark to the canyon. Traveling has shown me how much natural beauty there is in our country.
Sometimes you need to wake up early and witness it without another soul in sight.