The Kindness of Strangers
As I explore the west, I find myself torn between two different worlds and identities – the East Coast woman I have been and the fearless outdoor adventurer and the Bold Betty I hope to become. I know I will find my balance, and that my Bostonian side will never go away.
I was reminded of this during the five-hour drive from Zion to Moab when I got pulled over by highway patrol. While Utah has an 80 mph speed limit, I was not driving my car that fast. Instead I was pulled over for not using my turn signal for a full two seconds before changing lanes. As one of my friends commented, “You’re a Masshole – they are lucky you even used your turn signal!” It made me smile, and I was grateful it was a warning.
The rest of the drive was stunning, and all the different canyons made me realize that I was essentially on a rock tour (geologically speaking). I arrived at Arches National Park with an hour to go before sunset. The campsite was listed as full, but after my WTFN luck at Zion, I drove the 18-miles towards Devils Garden. I met one of the campsite hosts who believed there was some extra space, but then it turned out that everything was full. Thankfully there was another woman nearby who overheard my predicament, and kindly offered me some space at their group campsite. She also invited me to join them for dinner.
That evening was one of the more interesting experiences of my trip. Here I was with a group of people (all friends) that I had never met before, who welcomed myself and other random stragglers in to their group as if we had known them for years. We shared food and drinks, washed dishes, sung off-key to musical accompaniment (at one point there were guitars, xylophones, tambourines and a random hodgepodge of instruments), and told stories while enjoying a roaring campfire.
Had I not taken a risk, I would have spent a lonely night on BLM land and missed out on such an entertaining evening. There were so many great life stories that I listened to that night. It was fascinating to realize that with all my adventures these last few months, I was now one of those interesting people that I enjoyed randomly speaking to in the past!
We all have the ability to change – it is whether we have the courage within ourselves to make that big leap.
The next morning, I hiked to several of the arches in Devils Garden. For some reason, the hike had a much different feel than my time at the Grand Canyon and Zion. I found myself back in the East Coast mentality of having to be productive rather than enjoying the moment. At that point I decided it was time to head back to Colorado. I know I will be back to these parks again, and I want to be present for the entire experience.
I found my Bold in many ways, even if it was recognizing that I was spent and that I was pushing myself for the wrong reasons (because I feel like I had to, not because I necessarily wanted to). In the future, I will be sure to leave enough time to really explore where I am going, and not rush things. I never really had a plan for this trip, but I did have a set of expectations. When I let go of those expectations, that is when I really enjoyed my time on the road. Everything seemed to work out when I went in the direction of what felt good.
After a week in different national parks, what I loved the most was being reminded that the outdoor community is so open and welcoming. My travels were filled with random conversations, temporarily hiking buddies, campsite mates and tour guides.
When you are in nature with others, there is this shared tribe which you belong to, even if you have only just met. It is this feeling which makes me glad I’m part of Bold Betties.