I woke up a little sore the next day, sleeping in a less comfortable position in my front seat as I hadn't set up my air mattress the night before. I quickly left that campsite and headed back to Zion for a 2nd day of adventure and beauty. I knew I was going to do the Observation Point hike. An 8 mile path, although not as treacherous as Angel's Landing, it's arguably more grueling as it climbs 500 ft higher and 3 miles longer. The view offered at the end captures the whole canyon however, and that's what I wanted to see.
I brought my headphones with me this time and turned on my shuffled playlist. As I began the hike, a few classical songs from Chopin, Mozart, and Debussy played and I realized that beautiful high altitude hiking is my favorite way to listen to classical music. The instrumentation complimented the scenery and less pronounced beat was better for hiking.
Though at this point their bodies were reminding them of their limitations but that didn't stop them. After a few chipper motivational comments I joined their group for the remainder of the hike!
Hiking with a group was a nice change of pace, especially with the home state similarity there was more in common to discuss. The Hike up was a bit grueling, but there were beautiful vantages scattered throughout. It wasn't quite as exciting as the Angel's Landing hike because most of the observation point hike involved following the ridge line on larger pathways around the basin below, instead of practically scaling a rock formation with narrow and at times undefined trails as with Angel's Landing.
The forcast for the morning was beautiful, but the afternoon was almost guaranteed rain. Throughout the hike we were trying to race the storm as we would hear distant thunder from time to time. Thankfully it didn't start raining until after we had completed the entire hike.
We finally reached the top around 2pm. I pulled out my tuna and crackers and enjoyed the view. A number of other groups were also at the top and I ended up taking photos for a couple of them. We exchanged emails for sending my higher res photos from my T3i. Our MN group took some different photos, silly and serious, and then around 2:30 made our way back down the path, noticing the simpler to hike downgrade almost immediately.
Then I noticed my sinuses overproducing and thought "good old seasonal allergies, I wondered when I would face them on this trip" and after that thought nothing of it. After another 15 minutes I felt my throat tighten, my stomach became uneasy, and my ears would not pop for anything. This was starting to become a pretty significant hinderance to my hiking stride and I started falling behind the pack.
I began considering why my body would have these reactions. Had I overworked myself the last few days? was I suffering from heat exhaustion or a combination of seasonal allergies or a cold from being out late the night before? I asked the group to take a break and I downed a bunch of water while we took a break.
I was so confused as to why this all would happen out of nowhere. My head started to feel cloudy but I kept pace with the group and made it to the bottom about 4:30pm. We then waited for the bus to come take us to the visitor center and noticed a rescue operations starting to unfold as someone apparently had gotten stuck off the trail. I wasn't able to see where everyone was talking about but at that point my mind was 100% regardless.
The bus ride was packed but bearable. I itched my face and noticed it felt tender and like the nerves were inflamed. I figured it was a combination of sweat, sunscreen, and whatever I was coming down with so I would need to wash my face as soon as I got back to my car.
We exited the bus and I bid them farewell. Thanking them for sharing the hike and wishing them well as they went to get rest they direly needed.
I grabbed a cloth and soap from my car, leaving my backpack and most of my things in the car because I was going to be coming right back in a few minutes anyway...yea...
I got to the bathroom and looked in the mirror. My face was slightly swollen and I noticed red rashes at the base of my wrist and my inner elbow. Then I lifted my shift and saw what was happening. I had severe hives on and around my waist, back, armpits, crotch...basically everywhere I wasn't looking before. Finally recognizing this as being a bit more than normal allergic reaction, I decided I should ask the information desk if they have any on staff medical personal. I waited in line maybe 10 minutes while the woman behind the desk helped answer an older couples question, then apologized when I got up there. I said "I think i'm having an allergic reaction, do you have somewhere I can go for medical concerns?" and lifted my shirt a little to show the coverage of hives.
Her eyes got big and she grabbed a phone and said "I'm going to get someone for you" as she looked a little like facing a emergency situation she wasn't prepared for. I thought maybe she was just new, thanked her, and sat down across from the desk.
Within a few minutes I heard sirens. Then another set of sirens. All I could think was "ugh, its not that bad..."
Then one, two, three, four, and five first responders arrived! Within a couple minutes I explained what I thought could have happened and relayed all my symptoms while they grabbed vitals. They had me remove my shirt and informed me I was having a severe allergic reaction and the nearest ER was an hour away in St. George, UT. They asked if I thought I needed an ambulance, and I said I wasn't sure, and then Tim (who had taken the lead) said he normally doesn't suggest people take the ambulance ride, but in this case (without knowing exactly what stung me) my symptoms could worsen at any moment and potentially incapacitate me. He also mentioned there were shuttles that went back and forth from St. George if I need a ride.
Still in a bit of shock/unclear thinking I said that yes maybe they should and next thing I know there was a stretcher and I was off! My phone was low on battery and I wasn't quite thinking so I didn't get any photos of my severe symptoms.
My first ambulance ride was rather pleasant. The worst part of this whole situation was honestly having an IV line in my arm (I hate those things, and needles in general). I got to chat with Tim the whole drive. He's technically a ranger for the park, a police officer for the park (As it being federal they require their own police officers), and recently the medic as he has been at Zion for 15 years! He mentioned he had been leading the rescue mission before he got the call about me and I apologized for taking him away from the action. He laughed and said ti happens twice a day during the busy season and since he's in charge he just sits behind a computer so he was glad to hand it off and accompany me!
We had intelligent and interesting conversation the whole way. I learned about what Tim does in his current role and about the parks in general. Tim also worked at Yellowstone for 15 years prior to Zion so he has seen his fair share of parks (He also admitted he enjoyed Zion more!).
We arrived at the ER and I was carted in, was given a chance to pee, and waited to hear what the docs would say. Since my condition had stabilized after taking Benadryl during the ambulance ride, they simply IV'd me some Pectin and Prednisone which after half an hour cleared everything up. Without knowing what exactly got me, there wasn't much else that could be done.
I was discharged and found out the buses had just stopped running for the night.
Frustrated and with 10% phone battery remaining, I texted Nate and the MN gang to see if there was any hope of them rescuing me, mostly expecting to pay a cab a ridiculous amount of money to drive me back to Zion.
Miraculously they were already out and about and agreed to come get my all the way in St. George. I was so gracious and humbled that they were willing to go out of their way, exhausted after a full day of rigorous hiking, to take the time to retrieve me from an hour away. I told them I owed them a few rounds back in MN, and thanked them numerous times.
All and all, I made it back by 9:30pm. And since I had aquired the nighttime parking permit, I decided "ah what the hell, might as well make the rest of the day worth the ordeal." So I drove around the park at night (though not as nice a night as the day prior) and took photos and did my best to relax.
I ended up driving right back to the same place I had slept the night before, and like the night before, simply leaned my seat back, and passed out.
I had a couple notable sensations throughout the day admits the rest of the excitement. First, as I took the bus ride up to the Observation Point trailhead that morning. I felt like William Dafoe in the movie Boondock Saints where he plays a detective who uses classical music while investigating crime scenes to help him focus. Probably just a side effect of the classical music my ipod had decided to shuffle my way, but it put my in a strangely bouncy mood!
Second, after everything was done at the ER and I was awaiting my Minnesota heroes to arrive, I considered that, had I stayed home and not gone on this trip, none of that day would have happened. The good or the not so good. And that gave me a sense of acceptance for whatever ER bill I would be receiving. Because taking adventures and breaking routine has risks. Routines are easy to plan and prepare for. Although I strive to prepare for most situations (My Eagle Scout Blood), sometimes you can't be, and thats the risk of adventure, thrill, and experiences. This ironically tied into the end of Neverwhere and I continued to ponder that within context as I drove to my campsite that night.
I am currently sitting outside of a Denny's in Vegas using free wifi, debating on wether or not going inside to buy something is worth AC. But for those who heard about my allergic reaction while hiking in Zion, I want to let you know that I ended up perfectly ok. The ambulance probably wasn't even necessary, just a recommended precaution. But I will get to that on the next blog entry as it happened on day 2 of my Zion adventures. First, let us travel to the start of Day 8 with the story of the poky-doted tree...
And that's the story of the Poky-Doted tree (I know, a little anti-climatic).
I continued driving across Utah, finishing the Audio Book "Neverwhere" by Neil Gaiman. I love his whimsical adventures and fantasy storytelling. This book carried that flame well (as he also did the narration). At first I wasn't able to make a huge connection with the characters because most of them were quite "out there", but by the end I had caught the feels. Especially since the pinnacle moment of decision faced by the main character is whether to accept a mundane yet predicable life, or seek adventure and uncertainty. That really resonated with everything I've been pondering.
We related on many topics and I learned about the different social environment around Utah being based on Mormon traditions (far fewer bars for was a noticeable one). We even had time to get into some deeper and resounding conversations like the lack of cell service or fast internet speed. After the photos for the log post finally uploaded, I paid my $4.44 bill and made my way to Zion. The rest of the ride went well and I arrived around 5pm.
So I decided missing the bus would be worth the sunset view and the Angel's landing experience even if it adds a 4.5 mile additional hike back to the visitor center.
side which was a tad daunting. It was really cool to see where the chain has worn away at the stone!
Then about 3/4 to the top, I was hiking by a couple people when one guy asked about what my tattoo meant. I love explaining it and appreciated someone noticing the design (And who has also seen the movie Arrival ;D). His name is Lief and lives in Hurricane (about 40 minutes from the park). He was hiking with his friend Whitney and they both appreciated my tattoo enough to ask about it, noticing the shapes and geometry on my tattoo. We had a fun conversation about the meaning behind it. He mentioned if I needed a place to crash that I could camp in his yard. I highly appreciated the offer but ended up being too tired that night to drive out to his place.
I reached the Angel's Landing peak just before sunset, and because of that, most people were heading down to make the last bus. The view was unbelievable. The sunset colored the sky above the canyon and gave a sense of scale that words can't capture. I ate my dinner at the peak and changed into warmer gear. Soon another weary traveler made it to the top as well. His name is Vincent and asked if I could take some photos of him. After he took the photos of me (a couple where I got close to the edge and did some poses) he wanted a few more of him doing some cooler poses as well. We had fun taking the photos and he then headed down as the sky was getting dark and said he would probably see me on the road. I bid him farewell but never ended up catching up to him so I hope he made it safely!
As the moon came out and the sunset faded, I began making my way down from Angel's Landing when I came across a group of three hikers making their way up. Their names are Ethan, Sam, and Maggie. As they were standing in a staggered pattern, I thought it would make a cool photo so I asked to take one and they agreed. Afterword I commented on it looking like a cool band photo. And Ethan said that they were in fact all in a new age metal alternative band with a name along the lines of "Intense Vermin".
Ethan also let me know about BLM land to camp on only 20 minutes from the park which was super helpful! Eventually I bid them farewell and asked if they may have room for an extra passenger to get a ride down to the visitor center. They said they would be awhile but if there saw me on the road that they could probably work something out.
To stabilize the images I found rocks and things to set the camera on as I held it still for the 10-15 second exposures. A couple times I contorted my body against things to hold the right angle, even lying down on the ground for one shot. It was so calm and quiet, I had a really fun time letting creativity take hold of me and enjoying the a night hike in the coolest park I've visited.
I eventually made it to the bottom and at the last bit Ethan, Sam, and Maggie caught up as I was taking so many long exposure photos. They were kind enough to drive me to my car at the visitors center and wished me well on my journey. I was so exhausted that I drove to the campsite, leaned back the seat, and passed out.
The scenery at Zion may be the first time that photos or expectations didn't even come close to the true splendor and breath taking experience. At times I couldn't look away. The canyon is like eye candy, delicious to indulge upon and savory to soak in. Continuously hiking upward thousands of feet offers so many different elevation perspectives. None of the photos I took captured the full scale of perspective, depth, or detail. And I think thats also apart of the beauty of this park. You truly have to see it for yourself. I highly recommend everyone try to make it to Zion once in their life.
The photos Im uploading for this post are mostly from my phone as I want to take time to choose and edit a selection of my T3i files. I will upload them to my website later to try and glean some of the wonder of this place with the images I feel even come close to touching upon the slightest notion of its true beauty. So in the meantime, I will avoid too many photos ;).
Driving across Utah that day saw a number of good mental considerations. The first of these came with the end of Neverwhere, when the character chooses between predicable routines or unpredictable adventures. I am experiencing that to a certain extent, though its not so black and white. Many of the choices we face in life offer similar outcomes: Predictable routine, or adventurous risk. I realized that I have been making choices lately that fall in the later category in many aspects of my life. This is probably countering the high level of responsibility I have held myself to since high school. Though i appreciate my effort in this regard, I can't say in the end that it has netted me much more success in life than I feel I would have obtained otherwise due to my charisma and disposition...but then again, I can only make that observation after following the path I've followed. I know I wouldn't change my past for any reason as it's brought me to exactly where I am each and every day.
Later I was listening to "Losing a Whole Year" by Third Eye Blind when I recognized the sense of nostalgia and simple disregard for certain responsibilities as something that is beautiful and fun in its own right and in certain moments. But it's not something that promotes growth. Its a place we can reach at points in our life but not somewhere we should stagnate. In the case of this song (Which I love) It truly is a moment in time being described as a lifestyle, even though the lifestyle isn't necessarily sustainable in its own right.
Finally I drifted to how I've perceived my social self worth as an interesting or "cool" individual. And like many, I have always idolized people or ideas that are inherently cool or chill to the point where i desire to emulate that. But every time I have chased "being cool", I've never obtained it. Especially in middle school with the older kids in my friend groups (as I was usually the class clown), because I knew I would eventually reach that age. I would think "I cant wait until I'm 15 and I'm that cool!" and then turn 15 and feel the same, though now disappointed that I don't feel more cool. It wasn't until recently that I've recognized some of the things I do as being "cool", but not in the same way I hoped it would feel. This is all expectation based but I noticed that its still something that impacts my psyche. Most likely because the "fake it til you make it" montra often follows trendsetters (typically people seen as cool) and I utilize that montra for my self confidence, professional, and creative parts of my life.
I woke with a small headache and some quick farewells to the family I had stayed with and began the next leg of my journey west towards Utah. As bummed as I was to leave Colorado (However much I severely disliked that all of Grand Junction, CO interstate ramps are roundabouts), I quickly began to enjoy the new and different landscape. The colors pop out spectacularly. Red, Gold, orange, Grey, Black, you name it! My Goal was to try and make it to arches and hike a little in the evening, find a campsite, then return the next day to finish. Unfortunately, the park is doing construction near Devil's garden. Not only was that area of the park closed ='(, but it also means the roads to the park close at 7pm. Rolling in at 6:55 left me just enough time to use the visitor center restroom and their wifi to find a place to camp.
I found some BLM land off a dusty road that was pretty well littered with campers already, but a larger area with 2 campfire rings only had one truck on it so I pulled in for the night. One of the campfires was being used by a couple who looked in their mid 20's so after I started unpacking and repacking my car I waved hello and was received by a warm welcome. After pulling out my guitar they made a comment about a performance and I quickly got my dinner ready and heading over to hang out with them.
The next morning I headed straight for Arches and got there with a line of cars ahead of me. Once in the park I spoke with a ranger about hiking in the area. He said as long as it was on rocks or gullies then It was allowed. The biggest concern is preserving the Cryptobiotic soil, a blackish looking crust that covers a lot of the ground and helps prevent erosion acting as a backbone for the ecosystem. A single step can damage years of growth so avoiding that was the only real concern.
With that I was off to explore. Hoping to hit most of the main arches with the one day I had. Most of the main attractions have roads on which you can drive nearly up to (within a few hundred feet) of the formation. This made traversing the park very efficient.
I started with Park Place and road up past the courthouse. The first notable experience was at Balanced Rock. When I parked and got out, I noticed a couple kids climbing the base. Then I remembered that rocks were ok to climb on unless a sign was posted (which all the arches did have postings for not climbing). So I tentatively started climbing the base and after realizing how simple (and how much I enjoyed it), climbed all the way up to the balanced rock itself without realizing i was over 100ft in the air.
There was a Japanese family behind me, and I realized they were showing concern for my safety after the Japanese father's loud exclamations coincided with me making large strides up the formation. The climb was pretty easy and felt safe. At the top next to the balanced rock itself (which is actually enormous) I saw people had carved their names and initials into the rock. That seemed a little disrespectful in a sense so I didn't follow the lead, but it was cool that people had the same idea and had climbed up it time and time again.
When I descended and started heading back to my car, an older couple stopped me and said they were watching, impressed, and a little concerned so they took some photos. Their names are Deb and Randy Bowman and live in South Dakota but have a daughter in Minneapolis. So we spoke a little and Deb mentioned she was in full remission after a 15-month battle with cancer. I thought it was incredible that they were traveling to celebrate her rejuvenated health.
I continued through the park. At the sandstone arch I went off trail quite a bit and climbed numerous rocks until I got to a beautiful plateau away from the tourists. I even got to use my body's leverage of pushing outward against the stone to climb some steep crevasses (There's likely a climbing term for that but I am not that cool...yet).
Later, at the end of the hike to see the Tapestry Arch, I was standing in between a rock cluster I had climbed up and noticed a couple women hiking towards me with a nice camera. I yelled down asking if they spoke english (as there were a lot of foreign travelers in the park) and if they were willing to take a photo of me. They agreed and snapped a few shots (although I was in shade) and I climbed down to greet them. They were Polish and I can't quite remember their names (or would know how to spell them), but they were happy to have helped and enjoying the landscape of the Southwest as they traveled. They said when they return home in a couple weeks they could email me the photo. I guess time will tell...
Only a few times while climbing did I feel the heart pounding rush and chilling fear of falling. After attempting some more difficult rock faces near Turret Arch did I decide my body was probably tired after hiking and climbing all day and that if I came back I would bring some real gear.
I ended up staying at Arches for just over 10 hours and saw pretty much everything! I didn't get a chance to hike up to delicate arch or Garden of the Gods but I felt I had gotten the jist. My favorite arches were the Windows and the Double Arch. Both were spectacular and gave me a sense of awe.
I then spent the rest of the evening (Since the park closed at 7pm again) driving through Utah towards a campsite closer to Zion National Park as that was on my docket the next couple days. I stopped at the Black Canyon as the sun was setting and found the simple canyon to be a beautiful monument against the plains around it.
I met a lot of friendly people at the park. It was also the busiest place I've been to thus far. The landscape is interesting to learn about, especially the different layers of rock and how they erode over time (sadly also what will eventually lead to the collapse of the arches someday down the road.). The sun felt really good since this was the first day I spent in a more desert-ish region. I only got a little pink as my winterized Minnesotan skin was well sunscreened.
I am definitely feeling a strong urge to reach out and meet people which I haven't really experienced before. Usually I am traveling with others but even in NYC I didn't feel that pull (probably because New Yorkers aren't known for their friendly demeanors).
As I drove to my campsite near Zion, a Thunderstorm was making its way across the area. I saw a good handful of lightning strikes and found that extremely exciting. I almost felt like I was chasing a store, and briefly considered that as an avenue to explore as well.
I felt a deep connection to the environment and love the feeling of climbing. The freedom and the thrill really cultivate a sense of adventure and I really enjoy that sensation. I think I want to spend time learning more about the techniques and skills required to rock climb as successfully and safely as possible.
My outward interactions with strangers has led me to a cheerier attitude because I know I have positively impacted someone else's day unprompted. I also think this is a big reason I've enjoyed retail sales, getting to make those little connections and put a smile on people's faces. I truly have an empathetic tendency whether I like to admit it or not. Even today before writing this blog I spoke to a new friend who told me a story that brought a tear to my eye because I could tell it was a powerful emotion for them too. I've always enjoyed when others feel positive things but like everything, without balance it can be easy for others to impact me too much.
After considering the storm chasing idea, I did notice that there are so many ways to live life. Many of the people I met were balancing working a traditional career yet still making time to travel. Nowadays in our society of technology and relative privilege as a first world society, there are so many choices that could work I don't think I can ever commit to one thing. I rather fancy the idea of being a Jack of all trades, but maybe master a few along the way.
In the end I decided I can live many lives and enjoy many things. Its all about how I approach it mentally. However making the decision can be the hardest and almost crippling, especially since I know the tendency of our minds to always want the other thing (Grass is always greener on the other side). Then I consider that its just a confidence and self acceptance related mentality, and that I need to work on reminding myself it doesn't control me. But I can control it by setting a healthy guideline and expectation for myself.
In the end It's those damn expectations. They can ruin it all...
As I'm thinking About how to write a blog post about May 5, 2017, I can't help feel like I'm Ted Mosby explaining one of the many hilarious adventures I get myself into. So I guess that's how I'll approach it. This episode will be titled "The Night of The Best Wings I've Ever Had".
I apologize in advanced if you haven't seen How I Met Your Mother (HIMYM). I'll try not to make too many inside jokes.
Although it took an hour to hike up, it only about 20 to get down thanks to our great idea to roll, shoe ski, and butt sled our way back down. Of course, by only using our bodies, my fabric pants quickly absorbed all the cold water, which probably helped motivate the quicker decent. (Posted a quick video to my snap story)
Once back in Lakewood we said our goodbyes and Jason recommended I visit the panoramic point hike at the Golden gate state park near Nederland. I wasn't going to squander a locals advice, so I headed up that way, only realizing once I entered the park that because it is a state park, my annual national Park pass I purchased didn't cover anything. But I paid the $7 because I was going with the flow and the hike sounded nice.
I drove up to the lookout point, got a pretty good view, and proceeded with the 3 mile hike. It was an ok hike until the end as I was walking across a cliff face that offered a picturesque view of the Rockies. I even came across someone meditating with herbal assistance ;) and exchanged pleasantries before moving on.
I checked out the rest of main street, not a whole lot was going on since the town just started it's off-season, the one month in spring and fall they get where they are not bombarded by temporary residents or ski resort customers. It seemed about half the town was closed down. Noticing a nice place to play music on the Main St. Plaza, I grabbed my guitar to jam a little.
When I got back a gentleman had set up shop with an electric guitar, battery powered amp, art, and some pine cone necklaces. I wandered around looking for another spot to play but to no avail, so I decided I would just hang around and see how long he played. Within 5 minutes his amp started cutting out, and after messing with it for a minute, he stood up and started putting everything away. I came up and introduced myself, asked him why he stopped playing tunes, and he said that unfortunately his battery had crapped out on him and he didn't have an extra set with him. Secretly happy for the coincidence, but saddened by another musician's misfortune, I struck up a conversation and leaved a little bit about him. I noticed the necklaces he was selling. They were sliced pinecones covered with some sort of sealer, that made for crazy cool mandala like designs so I picked one up as a memento and to help make his day a little better =)
Being a fellow musician I let him play a song since he hadn't played guitar since leaving NY. Once he finished he asked if I had plans for Cinco de Mayo that night. I confessed that I didn't and was mostly concerned about finding a campsite to make dinner and sleep at. He said his place had a spare bedroom, but He would just have to run it by his family so I offered him and his bike a ride!
*On a side note, I was asked by 3 people in Boulder and 5 people in Breckinridge where things were as if I lived there (happened to me a bit in NYC as well). Do I fit in that well? Am I just such a hipster that I can be tossed into any scene and get assumed to be a local?? I don't think so...but...Maybe it's a sign...
We ended up strapping his bike to the top of my car, and drove up the mountainside just past the Peak 7 bus stop and I met his uncle and aunt Chris and Gretchen (they can be the Marshal and Lily to our adventure). They were super cool and friendly people!! Right off the bat Chris offered me a beer. We chatted and I explained my trip. Turns out they run Airbnb using the lower level of their home, and CJ is using it while he's in town. They ended up offering me a place to spend the night, making plenty of jokes about me not being a murderer, to The extent where we were sat on the porch playing music and I explained a lot of my life's story.
I was still reeling from the coincidence of all the actions I had taken that day to lead me up to this point. If I hadn't climbed the glacier with Jason, gone to that state park to hike, hadn't taken my friends advice to visit Breckinridge, AND if I hadn't stopped to awe at mountains or write a note to a fellow Mazda owner...I wouldn't have met CJ and coincidentally my own HIMYM group for the evening. What a world I tell ya, what a world...
but the story doesn't end there...
After tequila shots, a hit, and a gummy, we caught the free bus into town. With half the town being closed down and CJ being new to the area as well, we asked a guy on the bus about what would be open. He told us a couple things, both of which turned out not to be true, but eventually we ended up at Ollie's.
Their second location, Ollie's originated in nearby Fresco as a fairly traditional bar/pub (think Mclaren's bar in HIMYM but put it in a ski town). We were a couple drinks in, when hunger got the best of us, so we glanced at the menu. Wings soon caught our attention. CJ likes blazing sauces that leave the tongue numb and I like a mixture of flavor and heat. Since you only get one flavor for every 8 wings, we got 32 wings, obviously.
They took a while to get to us, but they were well worth the wait. I'm no Wingspert (as most of my wing experience comes from BDubs) but the combination of cooking and frying with extremely tender chicken and sauces was unparalleled in my small wing tasting experience. Not only did they have incredible flavor (the Chili Thai was the best) but the meat also practically melted in my mouth...It also probably had something to do with the concoction of intoxication...Either way, we orally demolished the wings, and both commented that they might just be the best we've ever had.
Most of the bars leftover had fairly preppy vibes. So after finishing we headed back as to not miss the last bus back up the mountain at 11:15pm. We waited for the bus with a couple strangers, a younger woman and an older man (their names elude me). The man spoke passionately about a number of subjects in a way that made me feel like I was being informed. Unfortunately, I don't recall any of this wisdom (aside from flash fried wings tasting the best), and I'm going to blame the gummies kicking in for that one.
Once we made it back to the apartment, we chatted and watched a bit of TV before crashing. And that's how I coincidentally met a fellow traveler and musician with an awesome family leading me to celebrate Cinco De Mayo by having the best wings of my life (maybe Bob Saggot will narrate that for me if I ask nicely...I mean I don't think he's doing much else these days...)
The area was downright gorgeous and, as I mentioned, made me emotional. That connection with nature was fantastic and freeing. It was hard to take a bad photo with the weather, which ironically had been nice since just after arriving in CO (the morning before I got there apparently was cold and miserable). Even more ironically, the forecast was turning gloomy again the day I planned on leaving CO. The universe was definitely wanting me to experience Colorado in the exact way I did, I'm certain of that.
I've also enjoyed meeting strangers and making connections. I wasn't able to do this as much when I traveled to NYC or any other journey I've taken (Whether thats the location or my mindset, I'm sure its both in a way). This trip has already left me with some brief friends, making it more than worth it.
The emotions, and new connections, and the excitement of the journey is causing all sorts of internal dialogue of questioning previously established connotations and ideas about my life. Overall i would say in a healthy and productive way. The simple coincidence of everything happening exactly as it did with timing that ensured I met the people I met is pretty providential and I'm still trying to grasp at its significance. One could argue its been years in the making, all down to the every little decision and action I've taken in accordance to my perceived goals or "Destiny". This alone kept my thoughts occupied but in the end is just another part of the journey. One maybe more meant to help guide where I look to grow myself and less of what will grow. In the end, we don't control this big beautiful thing called life, all be can do is ride that wave ;).
I continued on towards Denver then arrived at my cousins place in Lakewood around 8:30pm. My car hit the 1000 mile marker for my journey as I entered his neighborhood. We had a delicious home cooked diner and a couple mile jaunt for some after dinner Dairy Queen (Dipped cones are where its at) as brilliantly proposed by Ethan.
The next morning Jason had made plans for us to see some of the area and spend time at the Red Rocks Auditorium where I could play my guitar and enjoy nature. The Park itself was breathtaking, seeing all the ancient sand deposits turned angular red rock formations stunned me and a pack of dear that came within 15 feet of me as I stood still.
We got to the Red Rocks auditorium. The massive formations on either side create a natural acoustics marvel that allowed me to be heard throughout the amphitheater even though I was unmiced on stage while 3 guys power washed the seats from the night before's event. My cousin grabbed some really cool photos of me playing in different areas and a couple of the people there for exercise or enjoyment (Them stairs are brutal) complimented the mini performance. One of the photos I may turn into my next business card graphic! Jason an I grabbed a hearty breakfast in Capitol City that offered some fantastic home made Banana Nut bread.
I then headed back to Boulder to meet up with Adam who moved from the Rochester area last year. I met a couple new cool people and learned about some of the major changes in town with the construction of a Google Campus and other growth factors as the economy is expands. This also furthered my interest in the area as a potential place to live and work. After a few hours I went back and met up with my cousin at Ethan's little league baseball game and ended the evening with an episode of Black Mirror with my cousin.
As soon as I entered Colorado, the energy of the landscape shifted. I felt insignificant in comparison to the monolithic formations of the rockies yet a sense of empowerment and motivation because I knew they could be conquered and climbed and enjoyed. On the way back from Red Rock, I had a great conversation with my cousin (it's the first deeper conversation I recall ever having with him). We discussed the lessons life has to offer, and how the most important things in life are not comfortable and require effort and practice. Contrary to societal concepts, always trying to be comfortable and not pushing yourself is a surefire way to stagnate. A big thing I took away from his words was a new view on how everyone faces struggles. Even if we succeed at overcoming a challenge in life, it can (and often does) repeat because theres more than one thing to learn and the universe letting us know there is more. I've had some repetitive struggles in my life the last 8 years and these words resonated. I'm trying to move forward by thinking about what I haven't learned yet as much as thinking about what I HAVE learned. This mindset is another helpful growth promotor and may help keep humility apart of my learning process.
Reminder to self; I do not and will not know everything, and to think otherwise is arrogant.
It began as many days do, with the sun shining in my eyes, waking me up. Except this time it was through The windows of my 2003 Mazda and not my bedroom. Today's itinerary was to check out Wind Cave National Park and camp in the area, allowing myself to relax a bit. I ended up getting to Wrinkled Rock Trailhead campsite about 12:30 the night prior. The drive from Rapid City to the campsite last night was interesting. First, after about 11 PM in Rapid City, apparently most of the stoplights just flash yellow, turning hem caution signs so as to not require one to stop and wait for the light to change (very convenient). Second, the drive snaked through the mountainous terrain that surrounds Mt. Rushmore, which in the dark took some serious concentration. I've been to the 4 big heads a couple times already so I didn't add it to this trip, but I drove right by the entrance. I also had to periodically stop for deer that were just chilling in or around the road as I tried not to overuse my brakes going up and down the winding roads of the Badlands national forest.
The Badlands National Forest is a beautiful area, I liked it more than I expected, and would love to go back and climb all the big rocks. When I got to the Wind Cave National Park it turned into a Prairie and the amount of wildlife surprised me. Bison, Pronghorn, and prairie dogs were scattered throughout, alongside the worlds nearly 5th largest cave system, the wind cave.
As I left the wind cave national Forest and noticed all the wildlife, I had a flashback to Ilex Forest in Pokémon Silver which is the only way your character could get to the next town. Since I was driving to Hot Springs, SD it felt like that was the main way to get to the town and therefore why I had that flashback. It was an odd feeling and brought me some nice nostalgia.
For some reason Google maps took me through a couple ranches to get here, which were bumpy dirt roads where I drove 15 to 20 miles an hour, and occasionally I had to navigate herds of cattle... A true pioneer. When I got to the reservoir I parked right next to the water, made some dinner and a little fire, then as it started to snow, went to sleep in my air mattress cubby of a car.
Then it happened, around 3:30am...I noticed a rustling of a bag somewhere in the car. At first I thought it was underneath my mattress and just readjusted...But then it happened again, and again, until finally I realized it was happening even when I didn't move a muscle...I wasn't alone in my car. DUN DUN DUN!
I quickly grabbed my flashlight and looked around. out of the corner of my eye I saw movement. I Iooked but saw nothing...so I waited, and sure enough, a field mouse scampered into view on my passenger seat, 2 feet away from my face. The whites of its beady little eyes caused a fury of rage as I realized I would have to get up and out of my warm cacoon...the worst...
I spent 20 minutes reorganizing the front seats with no mouse to be seen. I hoped he had jumped out (Also how I hoped he had got in). Then after crawling back into my sleeping bag within a few minutes it happened again. I looked up towards the shifter, and eventually the mouse ran back down through the passenger footwell up towards where the foot air vents were...that sneaky bastard...(Honestly taking my shoes ona nd off annoyed me the most)
I spent another 15-20 minutes stuffing paper towels in the various places I thought the mouse could come into the vehicle from. Then finally settled back down into bed close to 5am, over an hour of sleep lost as the sky was beginning to lighten,
Lesson: When you invade someones home, they may try to invade yours.
I love exploring. I did this growing up, usually through my experiences with Boy Scouts. But climbing the rock formation this morning made me feel alive. After, as I was driving, I stopped at a lookout and took a picture. An Asian gentleman in a Volkswagen going the opposite direction stopped as well and we exchanged brief introductions. Then he was also on the guided tour of the wind caves a couple hours later. This made me ponder about coincidences and what brings people together at different points in life, making me also consider the people I am interacting with now and what significance they will hold in my future.
I began asking a lot of questions about how they discover new things and the process of getting involved with those groups. It requires some certification, and then your resume of cave exploring gets reviewed to see if you're capable of navigating it yourself. I decided I'm going to do some research when I return about finding local chapters of the National speleological Society for cave discovery and exploration. During the summer there's a spelunking tour you can do of the wind Cave, and I may just have to return in the future to do so. Jack of all trades, master of none…
Lastly, because climbing above and below ground made me feel so free, I realized what's been happening with the mindset of my career and creativity the last few years as I was driving to my next destination. I've been following a standard career path which has led me to think in the lines of the picture that society wants us to color in. I used to thrive on coloring outside the lines (being homeschooled I think helped in that regards), thinking outside the box, not being restrained creatively...not that I can't come up with a good idea every now and then, but I definitely feel like I've developed too much association with these boxes. I need to start approaching my career and life mentality again from an "outside of the box" method, because I think that's why I've been having difficulty with my creative side the last few years. "
Out of the box, out of the box!"...
... for those who love the cardboard world created by the Nick Jr. show "Out of The Box"...
I've been planning this trip for about 4 months. It started when my position as a 3rd party marketing trainer and rep ended abruptly (though not unexpectedly). I had to make a decision at a point in my life where I wasn't interested in being decisive; continue following a career path, my "American Dream" where income and stability was my focus, or use some of the resources I'd gathered and live a little. After interviewing and declining some mid level management jobs, I jumped into the later. I asked myself, "If I didn't have to worry about a dollar, what would I do right now?"
The Answer was traveling.
Now since Dollars do matter and budgets are a thing, I decided to make a road trip apart of my near future, one that I could meet friends along the way, and end up visiting some really cool places in nature where I could relax, draw inspiration for my music and creativity, and preferably end up somewhere warm! The route took the form of driving to California, to a hot springs and permaculture farm I had visited a couple years back, while camping at as many national parks and forests as I can fit.
Thanks to multiple people suggesting I journal this roadtrip in someway, I am making this blog (which is a first for me) and already enjoying it! I almost considered not doing this (since my grammar isn't quite spot on and knowing when I'll have internet connection varies). But one of my musical soulmates, Michael Loukes, told me I NEEDED to at least journal the things I noticed both outside and inside of me as I could look back years down the road and likely cherish it. So now i'm taking the time to do so along with the potential assistance in personal growth as "writing your thoughts" can typically accomplish. So Im calling this the Introspection Perception blog and making a goal to record my inner and outer observations.
So here it goes...
Day 1 - South Dakota / Black Hills National Forest
Today is one of the longer distances on my itinerary, Rapid City and Beyond. I got in the car around 1pm and will remain driving till until 12:30 pm or so. I took my Chiropractors advice of drinking lots of water to not only stay hydrated but also to force myself to stop every couple hours to stretch the body (I hung my camelback off the headrest of my drivers seat for easy access, it totally worked!). I had a 3 hour late start because I realized it would be the last time I slept in my own bed for a month and I hand't seen one of my best friends (My roommate Andrea) in a couple weeks due to our busy schedules. We spent a little time catching up over our breakie of cham chams. It is a great boost to any day when coffee and funny conversation fill your morning.
South Dakota as we all know is very flat, but there is a beauty to this. Seeing long distances into the horizon produced an effect I found calming, and made for some great sunset photos as I chased the sunset (Which I got to watch for about 2 1/2 hours). I also realized how easy it is to convert old semi trailers into simple billboards as many people along I-90 have done.
I know I will get lonely on this trip. Part of that is intentional, but also so I can prevent distractions while I consider a lot of things in my life in terms of how I want to approach the next 5-10 years. I've already felt the pull of social pressure to succeed and make money, as well as increasingly noted how money doesn't bring personal satisfaction or happiness past affording basic living. Being a perfectionist who loves music, business, and being a jack of all trades, this leaves me with a huge list of wants and desires out of life. Most of these are not possible to pursue to their full extent if I commit to a traditional career that exchanges time and stress for a salary. I love working when I'm challenged, but I don't want to be defined by work more than I am defined by my personal interests (all about that give and take). So I am sorting out how to balance these in terms of time and effort so that I can succeed in creating financial security without sacrificing so much that my music and other passions are not followed to their potential.
As I write this, I am parked in a Qdoba parking lot after hours using their free wifi, I have a feeling I will become a free wifi finding master as this month progresses. its 11:05 and I have about 45 minutes to drive to my campsite where I plan on unleashing my twin air mattress and blankets for warmth and comfort! I don't know If i'll get a chance to put entries in every day (And this is likely the largest) but every couple days you should hear from me as it will also help me edit my photos. If I suddenly stop posting, I may have died, but It will probably have been a really cool way to die!
Im curious as too peoples thoughts on my format and approach so far. So a comment would be cool, especially if you've blogged (or read a lot of blogs) and have any suggestions. I'd say for my first this ain't half bad for sitting for an hour cramped in a car typing on my computer while I carefully watch slow moving cars hoping no body robs me in Rapid City's Qdoba parking lot...