We were all packed. A large bag of travel snacks was by my purse. Our Yeti containers were filled with water for the journey. The only thing missing was our travel companions, but it was not quite 6:30 a.m., the pickup time. Then the phone rang. Our daughter, Lu, and her husband, Doug, might not be able to go. Our granddaughter Rhyse had had her wisdom teeth extracted a few days earlier and was in significant pain.
So what do you do when life takes a sudden twist? This trip had been in the works for weeks, and we were supposed to be passengers. After about 45 minutes and a quick prayer, John and I decided to make the trip in our car. Lu and Doug would join us if they could. But in the back of my mind, I was wondering: This was our first big road trip in a while. Were we still up for the challenges of a long-haul trip into unchartered territory, where cell service was sketchy and the closest hospital may be a helicopter ride away?
Well, why not?
And so we left Newbury Park, nestled 900 feet above the sea in the coastal mountains of California, and headed to Duck Creek, Utah, to a cabin perched on the side of a mountain at 8,500 feet altitude. The trip was long, and much of the landscape dull, as we crossed miles and miles of desert made even more bleak by draught. Still, there were highlights—like the wild burros munching desert flora near the highway and the jade-colored Virgin River snaking through red-rock canyons.
And it was somehow exciting to cross state lines. We went through Las Vegas and got snarled in traffic, so we got a good look at glitzy “Sin City.” Next, we passed through a corner of Arizona made verdant by an abundance of golf resorts that soon gave way to fantastic red, yellow, and black soaring rock formations sliced by deep gorges. In Utah, deep in the canyons, rivers barely flowed, but the magnificent mountain collage continued. And then we started climbing through rapidly changing scenery, ending in a mixed forest of pines and aspens.
When we arrived at Duck Creek, we were greeted by our hosts, Mike and Dena; their two daughters, Collins and Madison; and their four canines. There would be no lack of doggie companionship here. Rusty, an elderly Jack Russell terrier, quickly bonded with John, and I fell in love with Rhys, a serious-minded Weimaraner.
The next few days were truly exhilarating. Our friends said we brought the rain with us. The whole time we were there, dramatic electric storms swept through the area. This rain-starved Californian loved the rumbling thunder, the flashes of lightning, and the drenching monsoonal rain.
We spent one day in Zion National Park—a place everyone should see and almost impossible to describe. While in the park, a sudden downpour triggered a flash flood alert on my phone, but it also created a wall of waterfalls. We explored slot canyons with partially dried riverbeds, where you expected to see a dinosaur feeding on the sparse brush when you rounded a corner. There was a pervasive feeling that this was the very birthplace of the Earth’s crust. Everywhere you looked was a photo op: from the patterns made in the sand by fast-running water to the soaring red-and-gold cliff faces. John and I both were able to climb and hike, and even though it was scary at times, we could do it.
Another day was spent hiking in the forests with a large group, then having a picnic by a lake. We munched hamburgers (and did not get indigestion) and watched as serious purple and lavender clouds surrounded us. In the lake, trout were leaping up into the air, then disappearing back into the water, with growing concentric circles marking their passage. The girls played in the water until worms, that were actually leeches, got stuck on their feet and legs—a fact kept hidden by wise adults. When the rain started pelting down, we went to a small ice-cream stand and huddled under an overhang, eating chocolate soft-serve.
Every night after a glass of wine, a delicious meal, and deep conversation with Mike and Dena, we would collapse into bed. While I read, Rusty would sneak in and huddle between us. So much for looking forward to a dog-less night’s sleep . . .
All too soon this calming but exhilarating respite was over. On the way home, I pondered all we had seen and experienced. It was like being plucked out of our everyday lives and dropped into a whole new world. And the best thing of all was facing the challenges before us day by day. We went from playing it safe to “Just do it!” And we are all the better for it.