the great adventure: day 1
one’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.
~ henry miller
i need to admit that for me, turning 40 wasnt really a big deal. in fact it was at the age of 38 that my life was thrown into crisis. ive documented that story in a series of previous posts entitled resignation. check it out if you need a little perspective on where ive been, leading up to this point.
38 is too young for a mid-life crisis but i was having a major crisis. it produced severe apathy and a debilitating depression that i still wasnt fully recovered from when i began planning the trip. 2 years removed from my last ministry role i was seriously struggling with hearing from god and trying to decide if it was time to give up and pursue a different career path.
this germinated my desire to track god down and get an answer. isaiah 45:15 really stuck in my mind:
truly you are a god who hides himself…
i was determined to find him and in in my experience i had always found him hiding in the wild places, so i set a loose itinerary leading me through the wilder places of the west and headed to denver where brian was eagerly waiting to join the quest.
early on saturday, june 16 we left aurora in brians tiny honda fit with everything we could think of crammed in everywhere we could think to cram it. we were to pick up jase in fresno halfway through the trek and i remember wondering where he would sit.
seriously. there wasnt much room.
so we set out on i-70 headed west hoping to make arches national park by early afternoon so we could get in a good hike before dark.
having never been very far west of i-25 i was transfixed – intently taking in every inch of scenery that flew by us. as we passed over the rockies we reached grand junction and realized that i was just moments away from being in a state i had never been in before. it was a little surreal. i even tweeted the line from the lord of the rings where sam says:
if i take one more step, itll be the farthest away from home ive ever been.
at the state line we stopped and got out to take a picture. as i set up my tripod and tried to adjust the amount of light in my lens another car pulled up and two gentlemen got out and headed toward the sign with the same intention. they asked if we would take their picture. we shared a fascinating conversation with brothers kc (kenechukwu) and gozie okwelume, both from nigeria. gozie had just graduated from ohio state university and was on his way to a promising electrical engineering job in san jose. kc was an irrigation engineer back home in abuja, but had come out to accompany his brother from ohio to california and see some of the wonders along the way. both were incredibly pleasant gentlemen and i thoroughly enjoyed meeting them.
i remember thinking how strange it was that i had to go to utah to be friendly enough to meet some nigerians, but i think theres something about traveling that sort of breaks down barriers that exist in our everyday lives. when coming across someone else on a journey theres some sort of shared experience that creates an open space for such interaction.
not far from the border we decided to take a different route to the park than the one google recommended so we turned south on hwy 128 and followed the winding road through a small canyon cut by the colorado river. before very long the awe of it overtook us both so we stopped the car and got out to enjoy it and take some pics. i even skipped a few rocks. we werent in any particularly notable place or park, just along the side of the road somewhere in utah reveling in the creators handiwork.
when we arrived at arches we were informed that although their website claims they do not take reservations for camping, they actually do take reservations and were full.
plan b was to go find something in the immediate vicinity. we drove back to a campground we had passed on the colorado river just outside the park called goose island blm. after we pulled up to the camp host site, i got out to see if there were any open spots. from his hammock in the shade a shirtless, middle aged man named bill quieted oscar his weinerdog and got up to point us toward a site. i noticed the hammock design on his back and wondered how one gets this job.
bc making money while laying in a hammock sounds like the perfect job.
after setting camp and getting into the park we went to a couple of different spots where you could drive right up and park within a short walk from some of the arches and other monoliths. we walked around a bit and got some really great shots of courthouse towers.
as well as the windows
these were stunning but it was our final destination of the day that proved to be the most inspiring. we decided to drive out the 7 mile washboard dirt road to the tower arch trail. after crawling down the road for an hour, we reached the trailhead and shouldered our daypacks with enough water and trailmix for the 3 mile round trip. we were the only ones there and the sun was beginning its late afternoon slide as we began working our way over a large outcrop and down into a small valley.
i was certainly not prepared for the startling realization that about a third of the hike in was uphill in deep red sand. but after slogging through it and somehow beating the setting sun, we found tower arch. it was amazing enough just to look at from the trail, but having seen pictures from the other side i knew there was a better view and went scrambling up a scrap of large boulders to find my way up behind it. brian followed and when we topped the heap we were rewarded with a fantastic view as the sun highlighted the easternmost rocks leading out into the valley south of us toward moab.
we bouldered further up the escarpment on the northeast side of the arch and were able to catch the sunset itself.
dusk enveloped the landscape as we hiked back to the car and made the hour-long turtle-paced drive back to the main road and then to our campsite where we both quickly fell into a deep exhausted sleep with sore muscles and full hearts.
its been a long time since i felt that good being that tired and though i did not hear from god, i saw him in his creation. it was unmistakeable and i knew we were headed in the right direction.