I really needed a vacation.
As much as I enjoy my job, my co-workers, and my clients, the late hours and constant meetings, phone calls, and emails were wearing me down. I was started overwhelmed by the constant stream of emails and phone calls. It is a bull-faced lie to tell people that “if you do a job you enjoy, you will never work a day in your life”. We all need a break from time to time to reset our inner-clocks, clear our minds, and gain fresh perspective on life. After a particularly busy month at work, I was more than ready for mine. I had a log weekend coming up, so I just had to decide where to go.
I choose South East Utah.
I’ve always wanted to see the cliff-dwellings and petroglypths of the Four Corner’s region of the United States, but I never made the time. I had driven through the region on several occasions, but I never stopped to explore. For those of you who don’t know, Colorado and Utah are home to amazing ancient Native American structures literally built into the magnificent cliffs of the desert. Ranging from a hundreds to a few thousand years old, these feats of architecture are truly breathtaking to behold. The desert boasts many known archaeological treasures, but it also has many undiscovered sites.
I only had 2 days there, what did I find?
As controversial as Bears Ears has become in the political arena (especially in Utah), I couldn’t understand how such a beautiful place could be so hotly debated. Due to the fact that I had to squeeze in this trip over a long weekend I could only spend a few days in Bluff. Those two days barely scratched the surface of all Bears Ears had to offer. Maybe it is the nature-lover in me that carried away by the striking red desert and the call of coyotes. Maybe it was the history-lover in me that gazed in awe at the ancient monuments left behind by times gone by. As I hiked along the San Juarez river, and climbed over rocky bluffs I felt like there was nothing else in the world but that time in that time and that place. I was grounded and free in a way I’ve never felt in a city.
It didn’t change my life, but it did clear my mind.
I am not the kind of person to claim that one trip changed my life forever. I didn’t “find myself”, or “see God”. I didn’t have some grand epiphany that made me reevaluate my existence. What I did do was get some much needed time ad space to re-center myself. I spent more observing, experiencing, and pondering and less time worrying, planning, and reacting. I have to tell you– it was amazing, but it wasn’t easy. Honestly, the landscape itself did most of the work. Here are some of the key factors to my Bears Ears rest:
1- I got out of my comfort zone.
Though I have wanted to visit this region (now known as Bears Ears) for years, I have never been. I went somewhere completely new, and I even took an extra step and went on the trip with people I didn’t know. In our group of 4 explorers, I only knew 1 other person. As an introvert I don’t generally enjoy spending extended amounts of time with people in general, especially not strangers. Instead of allowing myself to pull away, however, I allowed myself to get to know these people and appreciate what they had to offer on the trip. As a result, I learned many interesting things about local plants from a a botanist, and got to see amazing places that only scientists with years of field study in the desert can show you.
2- I turned off my phone.
I know you are all sick of hearing it, but I am saying it anyway: TURN OFF YOUR PHONE! I admit, going to the middle of desert where there is spotty cell service and no wi-fi makes it easier to avoid temptation. When I packed by bags for the trip on Friday I made the conscious decision to leave my charger at home. For the 48 hours I only used my phone for taking pictures, and it felt amazing.
3- I didn’t force a schedule.
Unlike most popular tourist destination, Bears Ears isn’t rushed or crowded. There is no need to do a lot of scheduling to “see all the sites”, or “make it to the show”. You can do everything at your own pace and on your own time. There isn’t traffic to dodge, lines to stand in, or closing times to beat. For the most part we only saw 1 other group of people for every 2 hours we were hiking, and that was on a holiday weekend. There is no hustling or bustling when you are exploring the desert. You can eat, sleep, and hike when the mood strikes.
4- I got fresh air
Again, you are tired of hearing it but I am saying it again: GO OUTSIDE! Get some sunshine, get some fresh air, look at some plants, and get some exercise. I know my weekend of hiking in 90-100 degree weather in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of the desert, isn’t for everyone. However, the sunshine, scenery, and atmosphere of Bears Ears was what I needed to reset my mind and body. Whatever preferences you have for nature and landscape, go for it! Even if it’s just for an hour, it helps.
I Went. Will I go back?
In short, I plan to. I don’t know when I will have the time, money, and energy to go again, but I hope it will be soon. Yes, technically I crossed this destination off my bucket list, but I feel Bears Ears still has so much to offer. It is a big, beautiful, and rich area, and I only saw the edge. Maybe I will save up my vacation time next year for a more extensive (and more intense) camping trip. I don’t know when I will go back, but I know I will. If there ever was a perfect place to re-center yourself, Bears Ears is it.