After The Big Hike, I realized some things had changed.
First, penpal and I were BFF’s. You can’t spend two hours wondering how to survive a mountain lion attack with someone and not become slightly closer.
The wonderful thing about having penpal along was that it was my trip and I was doing everything I wanted to do, along with everything I didn’t want to do but did to expand my comfort zone (that I ended up loving, like the Narrows and The Big Hike), and he was there to share it with. It was still for me, but it was a completely different experience than if I had done it alone.
I’d come so far from wondering how I could “accidentally” leave him in Vegas.
The second big change I noticed was in myself. Holy cow. I hiked five miles in Birkenstocks in the dark and I was terrified for two hours straight. I don’t think me a year ago would have done that. I don’t think me at the beginning of summer would have done that!
I was coming into the side of myself that wanted to do nothing but try new things and adventure, and it was sort of foreign and I was having the time of my life discovering it.
It wasn’t all self-discovery, though. After our 3AM jaunt, penpal and I wanted absolutely nothing to do with darkness, hiking, or questionable mountain lion encounters. We had a hike, a nap and a shower behind us, and we wanted to see more of the Grand Canyon…but like, a touristy view.
We ended up driving down a bumpy road that has probably dislodged more than a few bumpers and curse words, wincing every time a particularly large piece of gravel would bounce off the bottom of the car (clunk, grimace)…but we ended up in Grand Canyon paradise.
We were surrounded by a completely different view of the canyon, with only the setting sun and a small colony of hummingbirds thrumming through the wildflowers to keep us company.
Penpal and I diverged, myself to take pictures of the flowers for half an hour and he to do whatever penpals do best.
After the meadow, we chased the sunset back to the visitor center, where we admired constellations while the visibly addicted to cocaine people that managed the restaurant burnt our pizza and then hooked us up with two free ones. Then we promptly fell asleep, woke up early for the sunrise the next morning (from the highest point in the Grand Canyon, what!) and headed back to civilization.
Actually, we were going to go to Bryce Canyon, but we made the mistake of telling our camping neighbors.
Every. Single. Thing. We told our neighbors we were going to do ended up not happening.
We told them we were going for a hike. Nope! Changed our minds and saw them at dinner instead.
We told them we were going to Point Sublime. Nope! Went to the meadow.
We half-jokingly discussed how we shouldn’t tell them our plans, so they wouldn’t be jinxed…unfortunately, we told them we were leaving for Bryce Canyon that morning.
That conversation expanded into an hour talking about sapsuckers, the bee crisis, and Florida…and then we realized we didn’t have time to go to Bryce.
Moral of the story? Never make friends with the people you camp next to, especially if they’re retired beekeepers on a cross-country roadtrip.
Actually, scratch that. They were awesome. But always, always make sure you have time in your schedule for one more national park.
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