As a few of my close girlfriends and I neared significant birthdays (ahem, the big 4-0), we decided that we’d plan getaways to celebrate. Never ones to plan a trip based solely on relaxation – though that’s never ignored! – we decided to plan adventures.
The first to turn 40 in our group was Kim. She lives the furthest from the rest of us, so for hers we decided to visit her in her hometown, and go on an urban adventure – sightseeing, restaurants, museums.
However, when Dawn turned 40 last year, she wanted to go big. And so it was that three of us (Kim’s unemployed – anyone hiring an HR pro?!) found ourselves flying west to Las Vegas, and spending no more than four hours in Sin City.
Instead, we steered our rental car east for a whirlwind three-day tour of three national parks in Utah – Arches, Bryce and Zion. Dawn and her sister Robin had hiked out west before, but this was my first time.
The Utah landscape is so different than the lush surrounds we have in Florida. Some of it is so barren, so desolate, but all so beautiful. Each bend in the road brought another picture perfect scene, and I kept taking pictures to beam back to my husband, who sat at his desk at work.
Arches was stunning, and the clouds and rain cleared as we made our way up to Delicate Arch.
Bryce was filled with astounding variations of scenery, and taking the paths less traveled certainly proved fulfilling. The moonlit hike, offered only during nights with a full moon, was incredible, and the scene turned lunar.
But it was The Narrows in Zion that Dawn was especially keen on hiking. She and Robin had been preparing me for weeks – it’s a river, it’s tough, it’s cold. Having had back surgery just five months prior, I was nervous. But, if my girls were up for it, I would be, too!
According to GORP.com, “people who hike the Zion Narrows assume a tremendous responsibility.” When we stopped by the park ranger’s desk at the welcome center, she suggested the same. And let us know that the water was a brisk 53 degrees.
The first mile was an easy, paved walkway along Riverside Walk. At the end of the walkway, we found steps down into the shallows of the Virgin River. Simply said, the path through the Narrows is the river.
Walking sticks in hand, shorts rolled as high as they could go and backpacks firmly in place, we stepped in the rushing river and started on our way. We think we went about 10 miles in total, and not one of us fell! There were slippery times, but it was certainly worth it!
Talk about breathtaking landscapes! Around every bend was a new rock formation, different striations, varying colors … it was surreal! The pictures we took just couldn’t capture the sheer beauty, but in my mind, everything is as vivid as it was when we were there.
No time to bask in the glory, though – our flight back home left at 10:30 p.m. that night from Vegas, so back to the bright lights and ringing bells we went.
The three of us agreed that hiking the Narrows was our favorite hike of our entire trip. It was a major accomplishment, and we were quite proud of ourselves for doing it!
Robin and my birthdays are up next, and thoughts are swirling around about our next adventure… I’m thinking rock climbing, surfing and stand up paddling!
Susan B. Barnes is a travel writer and photographer. A proud Army brat, she was born on a military base in Belgium and has been on the go ever since. While Susan has traveled across the United States and into Canada, she has also managed to visit such European cultural hot spots as Paris, London, Ireland, Athens and Rome, and has even explored the second largest reef in the world off the coast of Belize and the cloud forest of Venezuela, among many other exotic locales. Having learned to rock climb in Yosemite National Park, surf in La Jolla and swim with whale sharks in Mexico, she’s always looking forward to her next adventure.