Sunday, August 1, 2021

RV Trip to Moab and Bryce Canyon - Post 3 of 3

The last hiking day of our trip was a bit somber for me. It kind of happens that way sometimes. I start thinking about how wonderful my life feels when I'm outside in the dirt (or sand, or lake, or ocean, or jungle). 

The limited social pressures to combat, the limited physical stuff to take care of, the ample freedom. 

I feel like I can breathe and love and see my family so deeply out there... and then I remember that I have to go back home.

It feels sad to me.

And then I feel sad that I feel sad because, in my hardest moments, I start to question myself and wonder why I've allowed myself to settle in a place and build a home that I feel sad about returning to.

And then I start to think about what I could do to change things, and all I can come up with is:

Gather my family close, sell everything and start all over.

Seriously... when I picture an ideal situation, I'm living in a temperature controlled hut-like structure with plenty of natural light in a forest near a clean, warm river that flows calmly into the Atlantic Ocean. I'd have my family, my marked-up falling-apart old-smelling beloved scriptures, a notebook of lined paper, my favorite colored pens, my phone, my Apple watch and my computer, clothes for 7 days, tennis shoes, Teva sandals, a swimming suit, my piano, my bike, and a really, really comfortable mattress with two amazing pillows. Everyone else in my family would have a comparable list of things that were important to them, and everything else? I could sell it all.

There is something that happens to me when I immerse myself in nature. I don't think I'm alone in this, and I think many people would nod in agreement, so maybe it's okay that it's difficult to explain and even more difficult to explain in writing... 

But it's something about alignment. Spending time outdoors aligns my head with my heart and then aligns my head and heart with God.

Kind of like magnetizing a nail. If you rub a non-magnetic nail in a single direction with a magnet, the nail becomes magnetized because the electrons in that nail begin to shift their orientation. They start to align. And as they align, the metal nail actually changes one of its physical properties and becomes magnetized itself.

In this metaphor, I am the nail. Nature is my magnet. Of course, I could be totally disproved by science, but all I know is that breathing in nature aligns me in such a way that I, too, feel physically changed. Ordered. Calm. Capable. Strong. The world makes more sense to me. My priorities are more clear because the dissonance between my head and my heart evaporates. (My head usually tells me that dishes and home improvements and vacuuming and Oreos are the main priorities, and my heart usually tells me that family games and walks and scriptures and long talks are better. (And Oreos. They both believe in the importance of Oreos.))

Anyway. I guess what I'm trying to say is that I tend to like myself and my results better when I'm immersed in nature. I did try to convince everyone that we should take a year and RV around the country, and I wasn't even kidding. No one else seemed as excited about it as I am, but I'm going to figure out how to do it. Because even if they don't admit it, the kids and Brian and even the dog are happier out in nature, too.

RV Trip to Moab and Bryce Canyon - Post 2 of 3

Arches National Park was fun, but we decided on day two to take our 'car-house' full of family to a more dog-friendly part of town. We were halfway to the Corona Arch trail before we recognized the irony of hiking to the Corona arch during the Corona pandemic. Ha.


For most of us, this hike was the favorite!

The trail was interesting and diverse with sand here and rock there and even a set of chains and ladders to scale some more intense areas. And hiking with Maisy really did make it even more fun.

It was her first hike (of course), and she's still learning vocal commands, so there were some moments of frustration as she wanted to explore every. single. little. thing along side the trail. But she was just so cute and little it wasn't a problem to pick her up or coax her along. 

And by the end of the two solid hiking days she got to be pretty good at it!

We traveled through some desert areas.

And some weather-y areas.

And some rocky areas.

And eventually found ourselves nearing the end.

I love that Miles's hair blends right into the rock. He's such a happy kid these days.

This was the toilet bowl. Not sure if we saw the name somewhere or if we just made it up, but it really did look like a giant toilet bowl. 

And here is the Corona Arch:

The sun felt amazing up there, and Brian and Eliza went to bask in the warmth under the arch for a while.

We unpacked our lunches and ate in style, watching the rain in the distance move through the mountains. 

This McKenzie. How I love hanging out with her. She is funny and confident and smart, and she's always up for an awkward selfie.

We stayed at the base of the arch for a long time, but eventually it was time to go back.

Can you spy Timothy on the rock?

I got lots of comments going up and down about hiking in a boot. People seemed to be impressed but, honestly, I'd been so immobile for so long that hiking at all felt absolutely amazing. I think people looked at me and saw the limitations that the boot put on me, but it my head the boot was giving me freedom. I think there's a lesson in that somewhere...

I did need help sometimes, though. Like, whenever an ankle would be necessary. Going up and down steep grades (or even low grades) was difficult because my ankle couldn't twist or bend to accommodate the terrain. But thankfully I had a strong helper by my side.

This girl. Every time I see a picture of her I smile.

She was an amazing hiker. 

After the hike we found another picnic spot and some beautiful light. And, since it happened to be my birthday (did I mention it was my birthday?), the kids didn't even squak when I asked if I could take some pictures of them.

Can we pause for a moment and note this handsome kid? He's growing so incredibly fast these days.

That night as I was snuggling the littles before bed, they both wanted to take a selfie because it's your birthday, Mom! So, here we go. And Eliza made triple sure that her braid was highly visible in the final product because, braids are amazing.

Perfect birthday!

RV Trip to Moab and Bryce Canyon - Post 1 of 3

Ever since the kids heard about this thing called an RV, they looked forward, starry-eyed, to the day they would be able to vacation in one.

"It's like a house! But also a car!" says Timothy. Seriously, what could be more exciting? Ahem.

Brian and I, on the other hand, felt a little intimidated about the prospect of figuring out the logistics of being in charge of something that was like a house, but also a car. Little things and big things, like are the roads easy to navigate? How about parking? What do we do with our poop? Are there enough beds for us all? Where would we drive? How much will it cost? And on and on and on and on... 

But the kids really were excited, and since I know that everything is figureoutable, we decided to go for it and take a 5-day trip through southern Utah for some hiking and sleeping on the road.

We loaded the RV with school stuff, food stuff, sleeping stuff, kitchen stuff, hiking stuff, dog stuff, and finally, ourselves, and took off for Moab in the early afternoon. 

Excitement was high.

We drove and drove and drove. Singing along to Dear Evan Hanson, studying physical sciences, switching seats, and stopping to eat dinner... which was odd because we literally stopped, and ate dinner. No fighting about what to eat, no drive thrus, no stress. Well, no stress unless you count cooking the food in a kitchen the size of a postage stamp.

That night we made it to Moab and pulled into the RV park under cover of darkness. But the darkness couldn't hide the scenery. Can you call it scenery when there's nothing but gravel covering a parking lot with RV's packed inside like sardines? I don't know, but what I do know is that I was surprised and quite disappointed. By the time we'd cleaned up, figured out how to fold the bench into one bed and the kitchen table into another, found and distributed all the bedding, hooked up all of the water and electricity and sewage, taken the dog for a walk, smushed around each other to brush our teeth and get our pajamas on in a hallway the size of a bicycle, and had the children and the dog tucked into their sheets, I crawled into our bed at the back of the RV and looked at Brian with a slightly panicked face. "We are paying to do this?" I asked.

It was like camping, but with none of the best parts. "I haven't even seen a star yet!" I complained.

It was bad enough that it surpassed slight annoyance and flopped into a humorous category without much effort, so we fell asleep shaking our heads and laughing (slightly) at the madness of it all.

The next morning we awoke and had to undo all the things we did do the night before. Bedding folded, kitchen table and bench erected, pajamas off, hook ups unhooked, etc, etc, etc, and we headed off in search of a hiking trail that would restore a little bit of our sanity. Soon we hit a traffic jam and then eventually found ourselves in a long line to get into Arches National Park. 

Maybe it was something about that line... maybe it was something about the stuffiness inside the RV... maybe it was something about the lack of sleep or the stress of the night before... maybe it was something about the website I had pulled up saying that no dogs were allowed on any of the hiking trails throughout the park... but the energy inside of me started to rise and it created a buzzy heat that made me want to run. Run away from all of it. I realized in that moment that I had not stepped outside of that RV for 24 full hours. Because we were carrying a house along with us I hadn't needed to and because there was so much need inside of it I hadn't thought to. 

But I thought to now.

I noticed the cars jam packed around us and the road inching slowly along outside of us and looked at Brian with the panic of a crazy woman. "I'm getting out," I said. "I'll take Maisy and meet you at the entrance."

I thought he'd be shocked, or at least a little surprised, but he looked at me right back and said, "I think that's a great idea." 

Apparently I hadn't been hiding my craziness as well as I'd thought.

From the moment my lungs filled with the fresh air of the mountain, I was cured. Fifteen minutes later I climbed back into the RV a new woman, and since the steep learning curve of the RV life had already been scaled, we found the next few days absolutely amazing and have decided that we're going to sell our house, buy an RV, and travel around the country exploring nature and begging for our food. 

Well, that's my plan anyway. Brian said no. So I guess I have to choose between them.

I'll keep you posted on that decision.

Our first hike was to Delicate Arch.

These kids are awesome little hikers.

We had such fun all along the trail.

Here we are coming up to the arch:

And when we finally made it Timothy was sure he needed a little nap.

Here are the boys after a rather disappointing realization that we were not going to let them climb to the top of the arch after all.

Can you believe, in all the years I lived in Utah with the Delicate Arch prominently displayed on the license plates, I had never once seen it in person? 

My booted foot made it aaalllllllmost the whole way, but when we got this close to the arch, the rock we were walking along was slanted at just the right angle to make it rather unnavigable without a pivoting ankle. And when the wind kicked up and the cliff loomed close I decided maybe it was safer to just see the arch from a distance this time.

Eliza needed some extra cuddles at the top because that wind really was kind of cold, and she really was kind of tired, and we had forgotten to pack her fruit snacks, sooooooo.....

It was a fun hike.

When we got back down to the bottom we found a fun little picnic area in which to cook our dinner. But first we needed firewood, which involved a hatchet, which gather all sorts of excitement from the boys.

Poor little Maisy hadn't been invited to come along on the hike (not our rules, Arches National Park rules), so she stayed behind in the RV in her crate. It's a good thing it was a beautiful, mild day in terms of weather, and it's another good thing that she loves her 'spot'. She was happy to see us come back after the hike and was even happier to be let out to play around our picnic spot. Don't let her cute little grumpy face fool you, she's happy.

Timothy's in a cute phase of 'take a picture of me, Mom!' and I'm happy to comply (almost) every time.

Miles is in a cute phase of needing bribes every time I want to get a picture of him.

And Brian, the grill-master, cooked up some amazing chicken and hot dogs for us all.

That night we drove back to our (still unsightly) RV Park and did all the night time things again. This time it went much smoother because we knew what to expect and, even more helpful, how to do it. We snuggled up and watched Abominable (which was delightful) and fell asleep much happier than we'd been just 24 hours earlier. The outdoors is magical that way.