It all started Monday morning. A tired, reluctant group of twelve students piled into two vans, packed to the brim with camping backpacks, coolers, a bag of avocados, and extra sleeping bags. That day, we went through four states in 12 hours, from Ojai to Zion.
We arrived in Utah much later than expected (thanks to my small bladder and everyone’s endless stomachs). So, we went to dinner at Brick Oven, a pizza place right off the highway. Three extra-large pizzas and endless amounts of root beer later, we were back on the road and didn’t get to camp until nine pm.
When we stepped out of the car, blanketed in our warmth, the shock of the outside air sent a chill through my spine. Maya, Lucy, Megan, and I set up our tent with the faint glow of our headlamps and our breath billowing out of our mouths in a fine mist. The night was filled with tossing and turning and shivering.
The next day we went on a mile-long hike. Sounds easy, right? I was terribly mistaken. The hike, called Angel’s Landing, was around a 1,500 ft elevation gain, so it was extremely vertical. Maya, Lucy, and I struggled on our ascent, but we stopped at a nice switchback for lunch.
After that hike, we drove to Paria Canyon in Arizona. Our campsite, White House Campground, was situated in a nook on a ginormous expanse of land with jutting rocks outlining the area. Over the next three days, we stayed in our little campsite, crossing rivers and the highway to explore the area around us.
We traversed through coursing riverbeds, hiked through alcoves of artfully carved rocks, and witnessed mighty hoodoos- weathered rocks which balanced on slim columns of rocks beneath them.
The last day, leaving our tiny campsite, I felt a little nostalgic. The past three nights at this campsite were filled with campfire jam sessions, a heated card game, silent night hikes, and feverish cooking and dish cleaning.
Music blaring through a little red and blue speaker in our van, we set off to Lake Powell to go for a swim. At first, I couldn’t imagine swimming in a frigid lake, especially with it being pretty cold outside already. But, as I sat on the rocks surrounding the beautiful blue water, the sun beaming down on me, I decided to jump in. Well, I had to ask around for shorts first, but then I was ready.
After a few anxious minutes, I jumped into the lake. I immediately scrambled out, goosebumps lining my arms and legs. But, the feeling afterwards was amazing. My heartbeat slowed down again and my skin felt kissed by the sun.
After the lake, we all got dressed again and made our way to the Lower Antelope Canyon, where we had a guided tour through the gorgeous rock faces. Our tour guide told us about the fascinating history of the canyon with funny anecdotes sprinkled in the mix. By far, that was my favorite hike. Words cannot describe how beautiful the intricate rock faces were and how great it felt to walk through history like that.
That night, we stayed in Lee’s Ferry, a windy, sandy camp right next to the Colorado River. We all sat silently as the dazzling moon rose slowly over the mountains into the hazy, dark night sky. After, we chowed down on some delicious quesadillas and read from a book about traveling down the Grand Canyon. A little while later, I cuddled up in my two sleeping bags and drifted off to sleep while reading a book.
The next morning, we made our way to Lonely Dell Ranch, where we split up into groups of four and explored the area surrounding the historical building. For lunch, we stopped at another part of the Paria River. As we sat by the running river, a group of friends and I started singing. Then, we began performing a full form a cappella concert of about five songs worth. We continued singing all the way back to the ranch, where the whole camp trip started planting trees with Chuck, a volunteer worker who helps run the farm and is beginning to restore the buildings surrounding it.
Then, we drove all the way to Utah, through snowy mountains and small towns. We were on the sixth episode of Atlanta Monster, a podcast we began on the first day. We sat listening intently as the narrator, Payne Lindsey, told us about the fascinating case of the Atlanta Child Murders in the early 80’s.
We stopped for lunch at Chipotle and scarfed down the food happily, filling our bellies for the rest of the drive. We got all the way to the Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, where we stayed the night. That night’s dinner was a feast of mashed potatoes, stuffed mushrooms, steaks, and salad. Exhausted by the long drive, we went right to sleep.
That morning, we woke up to snow surrounding our tent. I bundled up and got ready for our big drive, the first stretch before the long haul on Monday. Before heading out we stopped by the sand dunes, which were blanketed in a thin layer of snow. It was freezing and I immediately began to shiver. We hiked up to the top of the dunes and Mr. Byars, the leader of the trip, gave us the idea to slide down the face of the dune on sleeping pads, flattened cardboard boxes, and on a Frisbee. We stayed there for about an hour, tumbling all over the sides of the dunes.
We drove for hours and hours, stopping at gas stations to get snacks and fill up on gas. We stopped by a big gas station in Primm, a town right next to the California border. We’d been to it before and I recognized the hotel across the street because it had a roller coaster encircling it. Mr. Byars told us all to load up in the vans again, but when we pulled out of the gas station parking lot, we pulled into the hotel’s right after.
Instantly, our van yelled in excitement. We raced out of the vans towards an empty part of the parking lot where we circled up and Mr. Byars told us that we’d be staying there for the last night. I craned my neck to see the rainbow Buffalo Bill’s sign attached to the side of the building. We all rushed to our rooms and took long awaited showers. We settled down watching the Oscars and catching up with our families.
On Monday, we woke up, well-rested and ready to get home. In my van, we finished our podcast and spent the last few hours belting “Country Roads” and Macklemore at the top of our lungs. We pulled up to school around one o’clock. I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited to see the familiar hills and classrooms of our campus. We spent another hour scrubbing the vans clean and then did a final stretching circle.
When we were officially let go, I was elated. Finally, I could take a proper shower and go to bed in my comfy sheets. But, as I slung on my backpack and walked back to my room, there was a glimmer of nostalgia. I knew I’d remember this trip for a long time, despite the grueling hikes and freezing nights. I’d remember the sleepy conversations in the frosty mornings in our tent, the euphoria of finally getting back to camp, the hours and hours of conversations as we road tripped around, and the glowing fire that housed our guitar-filled singing. Of course I’ll remember the places and the views, but what I’ll cherish most were the people right there with me.Share