Every year I’m asked this and every year I say the same thing. Why not? Have you ever vacationed in some of the harshest terrain in the world? Experienced inclement weather that vastly differs from your local area? Is there a small part of your DNA that desires to go ‘off grid’, if only for a little while? I believe, deep down, we as humans have this inherent need to cast off the shackles of responsibility and run off ‘into the wild’. The little lost child in all of us has a natural ability to heal itself, repair the damage done of years long since past. This is possible, due in part, if it’s given the freedom to do so. Freedom, and time. When you think about it, that’s really what it boils down to. So we plan, we save up money, we study the destination chosen to aide in our spiritual resurrection. We pick exotic locales in the hope that the surrounding beauty will encourage a renewal of the soul. For some of us, this means wandering deep into the desert.
To understand how far I have come, you have to know where I come from. Born and raised in the beautiful city of Vancouver in the province of British Columbia, on the west coast of Canada. I come from a working class family with deep roots in the city. There are three types of people in my family; athletes, brains and athletes with brains. I fall under the athlete category. I cannot recall a time in my childhood when I wasn’t playing some sport, on my way to a game or at practice. A hyper child, my parents believed that sports would help settle me and give me the much needed structure I desired/required. Not a day goes by when I don’t appreciate their thoughtfulness regarding this.
Being from such a stunning city, with majestic looking mountains and a picture perfect skyline as a constant backdrop, it never occurred to me to leave what many call the ideal vacation destination. So I was content hiking in and around the surrounding mountains, intentionally and blissfully unaware of the outside world. That is, until I met someone with a built-in need to travel. I used to work for the sake of working… for the routine it provided me. Now, I work to save up for the next epic ‘something’, be it a pet project or a much warranted trip. Once that door, that floodgate was opened, there was no turning back.
The first trip my partner took me on was to a place she called her ‘Mecca’. Though I could have googled it, I trusted in her passion for this place. A joy so pure washes over her whenever she talks about Moab, Utah, that she can hardly contain herself. It’s this kind of infectious enthusiasm for exploration that I find myself looking forward to my very first official vacation. She plans every last detail, leaving nothing to chance.
My partner, Devon, is a seasoned trekker so her calm during the preparation is soothing. She tells me I have only to pack; everything else is taken care of. After ensuring that I have no other obligations near our set vacation time, I lay things out and attempt to pack. This usually isn’t something that I spend large amounts of time thinking about. I have packed and camped before. But I have never packed for or camped in the desert. I’m scratching my head, staring at far too many things to bring along, while Devon has her bag packed in under five minutes flat. She removes sixty percent of the stuff I have laid out before me on our bed and shows me the ideal way to pack for such a trek. She knows that I can and do hyper focus on the unknown element of ‘what if’; my letting go and listening to her logic is welcomed, needed and appreciated. Every time.
The date is finally here, the car is packed up with gear and we are ready to set out on our vacation. We drive southbound across the city, clear through two other municipalities and finally on to the Canada/U.S. border. As always there is a lineup but we anticipate this every time we go on road trips and factor in the wait time for random silliness. We pass the time by making short videos and visiting the duty free shop. Though I cannot remember how long this particular border wait was, I know we were happy when we finally drove across the 49th parallel and into the United States. Once on the famed Interstate 5, we quickly made up whatever time we lost at the border. We were off and running like a galloping steed. It’s easy to see why they call Washington the Evergreen State, everywhere you look there are massive fir trees towering over you. The highway is maintained to a standard we are unaccustomed to, and driving through the state is a breeze.
Whenever we are on the road, we make as few detours as possible, stopping only for food, gas and rest. Sometimes there are things and places to see along the way. Since this is my first time to Moab, I am up for anything. Driving through Oregon is a breeze and it’s hard not to feel like a bit of a celebrity since you never have to pump your own gas. To get to Moab, we drive diagonally through three states before we reach Utah. Idaho is particularly hairy at night, with the majority of the stretch of highway we’re on being a massive deer migration route. We keep our eyes peeled through the entire state. This reminds me of one particular time while driving through the southwest corner of Colorado, near Cortez. We were rolling along at a pretty good pace, when from out of nowhere, comes the biggest elk I had ever seen. Devon stops the car in the middle of the highway and waits for the elk to make a move. We see headlights in the rear view and headlights coming towards us in the oncoming lane. Devon wisely honks the horn, alerting the elk of danger, and he bounds off of the highway into the field and out of our sight. It was truly surreal.