Adventures in the American West: Seen to be Believed

‘The landscape of the American West has to be seen to be believed and has to be believed to be seen.’ – N. Scott Momaday

Due to Covid, I have spent the last two Christmas’ at home…alone. So this year I was determined to hit the road. As I saw my dad in October and my brother in August, in addition to the cost to fly east was more than I spent on airfare all year, seeing family would not be economically feasible. When I was in early brainstorming, a travel group I am part of on Facebook had a post about Antelope Canyon. I knew it had been closed throughout the pandemic, as it is part of Navajo Nation, so thought I would see if it was open and if reservation spots were still available. The answer was yes to both!

Antelope Canyon has been something I have wanted to do for a long time and decided why not! In addition, I could knock off two things from my childhood bucket list…Monument Valley and Four Corners. And, as I was driving about 16 hours to get to Northern Arizona, I would cap off my trip with Christmas at the Grand Canyon!

I am going to share all about my trip in the coming weeks…expect many posts about this trip. It was life changing and I almost did not go! I had booked everything in September/early October and beyond thrilled. Then, at the beginning of December, the bottom fell out. Due to lots of reasons (many are VERY frustrating), I am not teaching as many classes in the spring. This has a lot of ramifications, including loss of significant income and my health insurance in the new year. I knew that I would have to return to the restaurant industry full force…which is fine, I enjoy the life that restaurants have provided and it is great when you are in a new town. Anyway, it was all very overwhelming and increased my general anxiety but I was going to have the two weeks off regardless of what January looked like and I had already paid for everything. So off I went and from the first mountain views driving through Montana, my mood significantly got better as I moved further south.

I was concerned with weather as I live in Northeast Washington and Montana/Idaho have reputations when it comes to winter weather. My dad went to high school in Idaho and has mentioned on more than one occasion it was one of the worst winters of his life. But I truly lucked out. There was a bit of snow going through the chimney of Idaho into Montana but once I got about an hour from Missoula…85 mph baby! Bluebird skies all the way to Moab…it was awesome! A bit more snow on the way back but I was able to stay on schedule and arrived home, at a decent hour, in one piece!

The weather in Arizona was cold but not miserable. The Grand Canyon was WINDY but that was at the end of the trip and Spokane is windy too, lol. I brought my fleeces and winter hiking tights. My Danner boots, particularly my Trail 2650 shoes (my color is no longer available but linked a color I love and they’re on sale), were perfect. I have had both pairs for several years and still amazing. If I wasn’t on a trail, I was in my Blundstone’s (a note-I discovered Blundstone when in Australia and have had these for about two years. I love/live in them now, and they’re great for life in the PNW, but the break in was long and sometimes painful. I also have the Chelsea boots for (primarily) my restaurant work and they are significantly easier to break-in and just as comfy). I drove in my Uggs and happy for my Sorel snow boots for sunrise over the canyon.

For the trip, I spent one night in Missoula, Montana, one in Moab, Utah, one in Monument Valley, Utah, three nights in Page, Arizona, one night just outside the Grand Canyon, and one night in Salt Lake City on my way back. I wish I could have spent more time in SLC but I needed to get back home. It was a lot of driving and constantly moving but when you’re driving through, truly, some of the most spectacular landscapes in the world, it is enjoyable. I took approximately 2,500 photographs…seriously.

A note regarding Covid. Navajo Nation was hit very hard. It is the largest reservation in the United States, covering portions of four states. Most areas are rural and accessible water is only available to about half. They live in multi-generational homes, that are often quite small. Some drove hours to get the vaccine. Due to this, masks are mandatory throughout Navajo Nation, even for your planned outdoor hikes. It is enforced. Proof of vaccination was not required anywhere that I went but rules could change (I brought mine just in case). I was happy to oblige as it is the right of the Navajo people, who have historically gone through so much, to determine their best practices. Natural wonders found within the nation were closed for 18 months on only reopened end of July 2021. So please follow posted notices and acknowledge you are on land where people have lived there for ten thousand years.

I hope you love following along as I have my Adventures in the American West!

A special side note…the Grand Canyon, as you will see, means a great deal to me. I made a post on Instagram regarding my feelings of the park and my dad. The Grand Canyon Conservancy saw this and reached out. My dad and I, and my favorite photograph of us, will be appearing in a future newsletter.

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