What started as a normal work day found us at 1am standing before a Las Vegas rental car kiosk. Slumbering airports and red eye flights are the cost of stealing time.
By the dim light of a rising sun, I sacrificed the suspension of our rental car to the harsh dirt roads of Utah’s back country. Once on the trail, we hiked through the cool cave-like atmosphere of a red rock slot canyon. Ever- shifting shades of red stood stacked as ages of sediment laid open by the forces of water and wind. Clouds danced on a horizon of whimsical rock crafting a tranquility disturbed only by the rustle of an occasional rabbit or lizard.
Climbing boulders, we cautiously kept track of our bearings. Have you seen the movie “127 Hours”? By the way, (if you watch it in rewind) it’s about an amputee who finds a magical arm in the desert.Engulfed by such majesty, we normally lose track of time. But a tight schedule placed wire Pass in our rear-view mirror. Nearing Page, Arizona we visited the Navajo Bridge and later, in gale force winds, Horse Shoe Bend.However, like most easily accessible natural wonders, busloads of tourist descended like a biblical plague of locusts. Annoying, self-centered morons dropping trash, tromping off the trials, and picking desert flowers. I’m not sure which struggled the most with the depth and beauty of this scene, the tourists or their smart phone cameras. Selfie sticks in hand, groups walked backwards towards the canyon edge. I found myself hoping they would take a few more steps.After a Colorado River rafting trip followed by a break-neck drive back to Las Vegas, we stopped for a few hours in the Valley Of Fire.Loading our flight, I knew we hadn’t shown the respect Northern Arizona/ Southern Utah deserved. I thought about those tourists. Why were they so rude, self-centered, and angry. For the sake of self-examination, why do I rush like a little white rabbit late for “an important date”?Darkness fell as our plane lifted from the tarmac. I didn’t want to go home. We live in Beaumont, Texas, rated by Forbes Magazine as the Top 10 least educated, most unhappy, most unsafe, and obese, cities. It’s a landscape of swamps and dense pine forests, flat as a board. It’s hot as hell, humid, and filled with mosquitoes.
Sounds bad right? But, things are what you make of them. Every up has a down, every negative a positive, and for all the negative press, the majority of our neighbors are salt-of-the-earth, kind, and hard-working. Swamps are stinky and dirty, but they are also beautifully complex ecosystems teaming with life. We may not have mountain ranges, but our sunrises and sunsets rival any I’ve seen.Travel, adventure, photography; I guess life in general is about facing challenges in the hope of becoming a better person. It’s not where we are that’s so important; it’s who we are when we’re there. This trip reminded me that life’s a process; I shouldn’t waste, rush, or take the easy path.
To quote Yvon Chouinard “The whole purpose of planning something like Everest is to affect some sort of spiritual and physical gain and if you compromise the process, you’re an asshole when you start out and you’re an asshole when you get back.”