Journal Entry: 2/17/16 – in a plane heading east, 10:54 a.m. PST

This entry is the third part of a three-part series written in my journal during our trip out west in February 2016. Read part one and part two for more adventures!

The rest of our trip flew by pretty quickly, even though the days felt long most of the time. Jay and Britni met up with us in the Grand Canyon for the weekend, and together we went on a 3-mile hike into the canyon (6 miles round-trip), walked the rim, and took a shorter trek on Bright Angel.

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The Grand Canyon far exceeded my expectations in ever way. I don’t know what I was expecting, but it was vastly different than the phenomenal trip we had there. Maybe I felt jaded or despondent about visiting there again after not feeling totally “wowed” the last time I was there as a kid. Or maybe it was because of how over-hyped the whole Canyon is. There are a gazillion advertisements lining the highways near the Canyon, plus tours, souvenirs, and swarms of tourists. So many different companies compete for your money and time, and try to to rope you into whatever it is they’re selling. Compared to the peace and tranquility at Zion, the Grand Canyon could be Las Vegas. At least, that was my expectation the closer we came to the rim and our lodge at the park.

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Journal Entry: 2/12/16 – Grand Canyon National Park, 7:34 p.m.

This entry is the second part of a three-part series written in my journal during our trip out west in February 2016. Check out part one and part three for more adventures!

Last night we crashed in Page, AZ after a full day in Zion. We loaded up the car, went to breakfast, and made it onto the trail by 8:30 a.m. For the next six and a half hours, I experienced some of the most breathtaking scenery I’ve ever seen.

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The hike to Observation Point—eight strenuous miles, estimated to take five hours—kept us awe-struck at every turn. We were definitely among the first people on the trail, and the hike was tranquil and serene the entire way. Most of the canyon was still dark, as the sun wouldn’t hit this east side of the canyon wall until afternoon, and we watched the sun creep over the giant wall next to us and bathe the western canyon wall in sunlight and bright colors.

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Journal Entry: 2/10/16 – Zion National Park, 9:21 p.m.

This entry is the first part of a three-part series written in my journal from our trip out west in February 2016. Read part two and part three to see the rest of our trip!

Tonight we’re sleeping at the bottom of Zion Canyon in southern Utah. After a typical “budget travel” dinner of bagels and cheese in our quaint cabin at Zion Lodge, we walked back to the Lodge for some postcards. Looking up at the clear night sky, I swear the stars are brighter here than I’ve seen in years. Even though the sky felt infinite and so close, I had to remind myself that we are at the bottom of steep towers of sandstone, like a cathedral standing solemn and majestic around its humble patrons, possibly further away from the night sky than I was back in Illinois.

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Zion is a spiritual experience, to be certain. It’s impossible to stand at eye-level with these vast, looming canyon walls and not feel insignificant, but I’m also entirely in awe. Being in places like this brings my visceral flesh and humanity to the forefront of my mind. The things I’ll accomplish in my own life will pale in comparison to what the slow trickle of a thousand rains carved into this landscape over centuries. The rocks I grasped while climbing Angels Landing this afternoon have stood here forever; I am only one small living being to graze their surface. Even so, the entire park feels isolated, solitary, untouched. They say that swarms of tourists fill the canyon every spring, summer, and fall, but in mid-February we had nearly the whole trail to ourselves. By the time we descended the Landing around sunset, we knew there were only two other people still on the trail behind us. It felt peaceful to know we were alone and wouldn’t be bothered by anyone else, even though it was also a little eerie.
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