For hours we had been driving through the unending flatness and emptiness along I-70W in Kansas. This was only a small portion of the immense journey to Moab, Utah, but this was the most mentally troublesome stretch for drivers and passengers. The flatness continued until we reached the glorious Rocky Mountains in Denver, Colorado. We were arriving in the city at sunset – just in time to see the sky ignited in bursts of red, orange, and purple over the peaks.
This was a spring break trip planned through LOSt (Lafayette Outdoors Society). Our magnificent president, Eric Giovannetti, made this experience possible. In total, we were a group of 22 students. This was my first experience camping, hiking, and experiencing national parks out west.
We arrived at our campsite around 3 AM. My car was the last to arrive. We were the cautious drivers. As the back-seat passengers were sleeping, the driver, Amanda, and I, her co-pilot, struggled to follow Eric’s directions to the campsite in the darkness, fighting sleep. The multitude of visible stars and constellations told us that were certainly secluded in the desert. After many hesitations and turns we found our group – all in a deep sleep inside their tents. We opted to skip the tent set-up and sleep on the picnic tables at our campsite. We couldn’t see anything that surrounded us beyond the beams of our headlamps. Only the sound of a creature splashing informed me that we were next to some body of water.
I awoke with the sunrise and I was amazed by what I saw when I opened my eyes and poked my head out of my sleeping cocoon. We were in a vast red rock canyon. The grand sight of the immense sandstone walls filled me with joy and wonder. In that moment I wished for more mornings that evoked that feeling and I was amazed that I had a full week of moments like this ahead of me.
During my time in Utah, I explored Arches, Canyonlands, and Island In the Sky national park. We stayed at a different campsite each night, rafted along the Colorado River, and rock-climbed at Ice Cream Parlor (No, they do not have sundaes for climbers). The name makes sense though. This spot was ideal for dabbling in different levels of difficulty and attempting to crack climb, if you dare – similar to a variety of flavors and toppings in an ice cream shop. This was my first outdoor climbing experience and I absolutely loved it. It is so wonderful having friends who are experienced climbers. I felt safe with them. I fully trusted them.
The day we spent in Canyonlands was one of the most striking and intense experiences of the trip. I hiked with Eleanor and Anda to complete a 16-mile hike. We completed the hike just before sunset! We hustled through the last few miles, nervous that we would get caught in the canyons in the dark. We completed a large loop that took us through the Joint Trail, to Druid’s Arch (tucked away in the middle of the canyons, this structure is a window to the skies above), and past glorious needles. This was an exhausting hike complete with scrambles up steep rock faces, rugged terrain, and desert conditions. The viewpoints and particularly the moment we reach Druid’s arch made it all worth it. I also learned a great deal about Eleanor and Anda on our journey. What a thrilling experience!
I am so thankful that this trip happened. I am in awe as I look back on all that I experienced. It all feels like a dream. However, I am able to realize the impact of this trip each day I see the friends with whom I experienced Utah. This adventure was one of the many ways that LOSt has profoundly impacted me by shaping my worldview and new, deeper friendships.