I’m falling in love. I’m falling in love with the mountains. With the rivers, and the colors the sun paints across the cliffs during the late afternoons. I’m falling in love with the endlessly blue skies, and the kindness of the people. I’m even falling in love with the heat. As I was stretched out on a sun chair today, overlooking the mountains all around me I thought “I could see myself living here.”
I grew up in the south of Sweden. Where I lived, there are no mountains. We have a lot of rain, wind and grey skies, and the summer is usually short and disappointing. The kind of nature I’m experiencing here is unlike anything I’ve seen in my life. I’ve never hiked a mountain in my life, simply because there has never been any for me to hike, and I had no idea how great it could be. I can’t cycle, but I can walk, and this is the best type of walking there is: hiking. It’s been a word I’ve heard, but never quite experienced. And it’s better than I dreamed of.
So maybe this was the thing I’ve been searching for in my journey across the country? A new purpose in life, something that makes me want to travel from place to place to explore. And now I feel like I’ve found it, in hiking. Maybe I wasn’t mean to bikepack, I was meant to backpack. I’m watching nature in its rawest form, and getting closer than ever before. Being alone gives me a lot of time to think, a lot of it is about being right here right now and appreciate everything I get to experience, but a lot of it is also about my future. What I want to do, who I want to be, and recently: where I want to be. After having experienced nature like I have this past week, the very thought of having to give it up pains me. I want to hike mountains. When my hand heals, I want to try mountain biking. I want adventure at my doorstep, and I’m not sure where I might be able to find that. But isn’t that also so great? That anything is possible? That I’m finding out who I really am on this adventure, and getting to know myself and constantly stepping out of my comfort zone to find out what excites me.
But if this is how I feel after Arizona and Utah, I’m not sure how I’ll be able to cope after Colorado and Wyoming. If I could move here and take Sweden’s health care, educational system, my family and all other great things with me, I’d probably not even hesitate.
But back to the main point of this post: hiking. Like I said, I’ve never really been on a hike before. I’ve walked a lot, long journeys along the sea or around the islands in Stockholm, and I’ve loved it. But the closest I’ve ever come to hiking a mountain was Friday at lunch time when we’d sometimes go to Hammarbybacken which is the only high point in Stockholm (and it’s not a mountain, it’s a hill), and run laps up and down. I always came dead last.
(the good thing about this picture is that even though I look dorky, my former colleagues look even dorkier!)
So of course when I did research on the trails here in Zion national park, I settled for Angels Landing, a trailed marked as “strenuous” and “not for anyone fearful of heights”. I’m not terrified of heights, I just respect them, a lot. I knew I’d have to walk up a mountain and I’m not in the best shape, but how hard can it be, really?
Well, pretty damn hard. I was panting a lot, and sweating like crazy (that might have something to do with the 38C/100F degree weather) but it was so beautiful and so much fun. The switchbacks seemed never ending, but after about an hour I reached the summit of the first mountain, and felt so pleased with myself.
This I’ve learnt is a chipmunk, not a squirrel! It’s like Piff and Puff! (eh, Chip ‘n Dale?)
But little did I know, that the climb to the top had merely begun. After having walked up, up and up for more than an hour, I would now have to climb on the side of a mountain, with only a chain to hold onto to get to the summit. But I faced my fears and started climbing. Not only did the climb itself scare me, people were also going down when I was going up, so we had to meet and pass each other on the way. Nerve-wrecking!
Shortly after this picture was taken, I came across a bend, and saw this:
That is the very last climb up to Angels Landing. It’s steep, you have a 1400 feet drop on both sides and only a chain to hold onto. On some sections you’ll have to pull yourself up with your arms. My entire body just locked down and screamed a big “NOPE!” which I gladly listened to. I made it almost to the top, but it was just not worth getting to the very top for me. Way too scary.
Despite not making it to the very top, I felt so proud of myself, and so accomplished. I loved it! So much that I’m now planning to do a lot more hiking during my stay here, and also when I get to Australia and New Zealand. Today my legs were pretty sore and I had a late night yesterday (I drove to the nearby town of Hurricane to see Paper Towns at the cinema) so I mostly hung out by the pool and walked around Springdale to buy a small camelbak backpack and a hiking skort. I can’t be hiking more mountains in jeans, and the drawstring backpack I’ve been using up until now is falling apart. The camelbak has a built in water system, so that will help a lot as I won’t have to carry around a bunch of bottles. Now I’m even more excited about my last month here, hiking is so much fun!
Isn’t the backdrop with the mountains just gorgeous? Who wouldn’t want to live here.
Tomorrow I’m heading towards Arches National Park, and in a few days I’ll get to Colorado. There I will be staying a night with one of my mothers instagram friends (!!) before I’ll spend a few days in the Rockies doing my new favorite activity: hiking!
So much fun stuff coming up, that’s for sure!