Sunday, April 30, 2017: Day Nine

Sunday, April 30, 2017: After attempting to sleep in 29°F, Nathan’s alarm went off at 6:00am so that we could catch the sunrise. This made my night of freezing worthwhile.

Sunrise over Monument Valley

The sun rose directly behind the monuments. The whole experience was overwhelming. I knew I was blessed, but it settled in with me even more just how blessed our country is to have access to these kinds of experiences. We complain a lot about the state of our country [I know I do anyway], but I cannot complain about the diversity of geography, biology, and cultures within our boarders. Friends, we have access to a lot, and I encourage you [and continue to force/encourage myself] to get out there and see it. Get to know that which is unfamiliar to you. You’ll be better for it, even if you continue to disagree with it or dislike it.

Camping was unfamiliar territory for me, and to tell you the truth, I found it scary and difficult. I am eternally grateful for having experienced Monument Valley, but my lack of sleep was getting the best of me.

After an early morning in Monument Valley, we took Nathan’s Altima on a wild 17-mile ride through rocky terrain of Valley Drive. While I was excessively nervous about the ride; however, we were surrounded and blown away as we passed by even more deep red-colored monuments.

We left Monument Valley later in the morning to begin making our way to the Grand Canyon. Our first stop along the way was to check out Horseshoe Bend. We caught it at a busy time, but there was no denying just how incredibly beautiful the Colorado River looked in the giant horseshoe-shaped canyon.

Photo credit: Nathan (iPhone) of Horseshoe Bend

So, here’s the thing, we were planning to camp in the Grand Canyon the day after we camped in Monument Valley. I had not showered in nearly two days at this point and was exhausted to tears and nervous about what kind of wildlife might trap me in a tent this time. I’ll admit that I had a bit of a nervous breakdown. I almost gave up on camping in the park entirely. My lack of sleep made me emotional and anxious and I almost let my anxiety get the best of me. But I decided to go for it anyway.

Before setting up camp, we drove around and visited a few viewpoints along the canyon. Because we visited Arches, Canyonlands, and Monuments before the Grand Canyon, I was nervous that we could be burnt out on canyons. However, this was not the case. In fact, I think it made the Grand Canyon look even grander.

“All the earth worships Thee; they sing praises to Thee, sing praises to They name.” Psalm 66:4

It was another cold night on the campground, but unlike Monument Valley, we were able to have a campfire. Praises be! Seriously, this plus the other campers enjoying their campfires added a little comfort in my paranoid mind. I have to brag on Nathan. He was willing to change plans about camping if need. He did not make me feel bad about being overcome with anxiety, but he did help me to feel safe and reminded me that I was not alone in this experience. I knew this was an experience I did not want to miss and in my mind, we were definitely going to camp one more time. I was just scared. When the FOMO (fear of missing out) kicked in, it overpowered my (admittedly irrational but very real-feeling) fear of an elk kicking in the tent or a coyote attacking me on my way to the bathroom. So, I reluctantly agreed to sleep outside again.

So we set up the tent, got a campfire going, roasted hotdogs, and made s’mores. Basically, we experienced actual camping this time, whereas in Monument Valley, we experienced Monument Valley. My exhaustion finally got the best of me, and miraculously, knocked me out.

Tent set up at Mather Campgrounds in Grand Canyon National Park



Saturday, April 29, 2017: Day Eight

Saturday, April 29, 2017: After three days of being relatively off the grid, I’m finally trying to wrap my brain around what all we have done.

Following our adventures in Arches National Park on Friday, we took on Canyonlands National Park. Our immediate goal was to visit Mesa Arch, but as soon as we entered the park, Nathan and I both agreed that we did not set aside enough time to explore the park.

Mesa Arch was an easy hike that still managed to lead us to a notable arch that framed an incredible canyon view.

View from Mesa Arch

We continued to drive around and explore the park’s views, the Grand View in particular. There wasn’t a bad view in the park. Arches and Canyonlands took my expectations shot them into the sky like fireworks. I expected to enjoy the parks, but the hikes combined with the gorgeous surroundings completely blew me away.

Top of the World pose at the Grand View

Alas, we had to leave Canyonlands around 2:30pm to get to Monument Valley in time to set up camp for the night. That’s right. Camp. I camped. Outside. In a tent. In the cold.

Forrest Gump stopped running right before he would have reached Monument Valley, but we charged forward.

Queue “Against the Wind” by Bob Seeger and the Silver Bullet Band

The View Campgrounds overlook the West and East Mitten Butte Monuments and the Merrick Butte Monument. The sun set behind us casting a reddish glow over the monuments, and once the sun disappeared, the stars put on a show. Monument Valley is a Navajo Nation Tribal Park and is located far from any light and noise pollution. Because of this, the stars were the brightest I’ve ever seen them and the atmosphere was extremely quite. Even the other campers were whispering to one another and were asleep in their tents before 10pm.

Tent camping and going to sleep next to giants

We stayed up and watched the stars. But when we finally called it a night, the temperature had dropped to freezing, and my motivation to camp had dropped a bit as well.

I had never camped in a tent before, and my first experience was at Monument Valley. It kind of blows my mind that I was able to do that and make it through the night. I was nervous, excited, cold, very cold, freezing, and unsure about what I needed to do. I ended up sleeping in about three layers of cloths, including a sweater, a jacket, a coat, two pairs of pants, wool socks, gloves, and a hat. Yes, I slept in a hat. One would think a flannel sleeping bag plus my layers of cloths would warm me up, but no. I was cold all night. And I was also woken by what I assume were raccoons trying to break into the tent. Needless to say, I slept a total of three hours. The end.