Mid-semester, I was feeling exhausted and drained from adjusting to college. Of course, I wanted to visit home for fall break, but due to dates not working out, I pushed away the desire for familiarity, and instead, let my sense of adventure take over. I signed up to go camping in Utah, at Zion National Park. I can’t even name the 50 states (#CanadianProblems), much less know where Utah is.
Organized by CMC’s Outdoor Initiative, the trip was led by Will Sileo ’20, Cory Diamond ’20, and Santi Weight ’19. Except for one senior and one sophomore, the rest of the group were all freshmen. We were in for a ride (literally).
At noon on October 14th, 15 of us piled into two cars and set off. Having stayed up till 4 AM to finish a philosophy paper the night before, I quickly drifted into dream-state. At some point, I woke up to, “Now that she’s back in the atmosphere, with drops of Jupiter in her hair…” and realized we were in Vegas. I’ve never been to Vegas and was astounded by the views we passed.
During the 6 hours of being sandwiched tightly between two friends, with my feet propped up on a pile of gear, and a guitar on my lap, I realized one thing: the beauty of road trips. With views of mountains and deserts zipping past window panes at 85 miles per hour, accompanied by loud music and a light heart, I felt invincible. It seemed that we could drive anywhere and accomplish anything. I didn’t remember the last time I felt so free.
Entering the main area of the park was like entering another world. Never before have I seen anything like Zion. Towering sandstone surrounded us on all sides, yet, the shapes, color, and stratification of rock were all incredibly different. Awed by the beauty of the American Southwest, Ellen Broaddus ’20 described it to be “a different kind of beauty…there is something so raw and beautiful about the detailed etching on the red rocks.”
In the afternoon, we took a shuttle bus up to hike through Emerald Pools. An oasis in the middle of the desert, the trail meanders directly beneath waterfalls. At 4 PM, settling ourselves right by the water, we passed around a loaf of Collins bread and slices of ham and cheese; I don’t remember a sandwich ever tasting so good. In awe, I just sat and tried to permanently burn my surroundings into my mind. For the first time in a long time, I didn’t feel the need to do, but to simply be.
That night, most of us slept directly beneath the stars without tents. We had an incredibly clear view of the stars scattered all above us in the seemingly endless night sky. But most stunning was the full moon; it shone so bright I thought it could be day. Chilly from the wind, we all snuggled against each other; I fell asleep counting shooting stars and trying to find the Big Dipper.
The next day was probably my favourite day in a long time. We decided to challenge Angel’s Landing, one of the most treacherous, exposed and famous hiking paths in the world. Though a fairly strenuous hike, it offered one of the most stunning viewpoints one will ever encounter. Reaching 500+ feet in elevation, I looked past the guard-rails I tightly held on for my life, and a 360-degree, stunning view lay before me.
I wanted to remember the breathtaking canyon sprawled beneath me and the feeling of being weightless. I wanted to stop in the moment, since conquering the fin-like mountain formation jutting out of the canyon is what it feels like to be truly alive. In that moment, nothing else mattered. It was just me, the canyon, and the measureless oceans of space. Perhaps Walt Whitman best encapsulates the feeling: “The east and the west are mine, and the north and the south are mine…I can stop here and do miracles.”
Driving home the next morning felt nostalgic; it seemed as if we already missed Zion as we drove away. We played Damian Marley’s “Road to Zion” one last time, and drove through the tip of Utah, into Arizona, Nevada, then finally, California. With Marley’s lyrics: “I got to keep on walking on the road to Zion, we gots to keeps it burning on the road to Zion, man” in my mind, I held on tightly to the sensation of feeling alive.
To live in the present and approach adventures with intention is perhaps one of the best feelings any one of us could experience. The vastness of nature reminds me to take a step back, breathe, and enjoy the spontaneity of adventure.