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Travelogue 05: Moab, Sedona, Grand Canyon

April, 2019

We love the Southwest.

The distinctive color palette, gorgeous formations, wide open spaces… we tend to drive through it on most of our longer road trips for good reason. But neither of us had been to Arizona, and we figured it was time to change that.

What better excuse to check off a new state than to hike into the Grand Canyon?

Moab

This was my second time to Moab, and Jess’ fourth or fifth. If you haven’t been, it’s an incredible hub for all things outdoor: hiking, climbing, MTB, etc. No matter how much you do or see when you’re there, you get the feeling that you’re absolutely just scratching the very surface of what this place has to offer.

We chose a pretty popular spot for a hike, a spot where we could just drive into overnight, park the RAV, sleep, and hit a trail first thing. And we did, and it was sublime.

Crisp air, freshly greening plants, gorgeous formations – it’s the kind of thing worth getting out of a warm bed (SUV) for.

No trip (of ours) to Moab is complete without stopping into Moonflower Community Co-op and stocking up on loads of delicious vegan soup, snacks, and drinks. Love this place.

Full on snacks, we headed for a new spot for both of us, Monument Valley.

Monument Valley

You’ve seen this place in a million Instagram photos, regular photos, and paintings for good reason: it’s an incredible natural spectacle.

Wide open roads leading to frequent picturesque views (with tons of handy pull-outs for photos). It’s a must see and may well leave you in awe as it did for me.

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We really wanted to check out another popular photo spot here, Horseshoe Bend.

My initial thoughts were that it was… packed, and exactly as I’ve seen in a million photos. The hike was short, with folks lined up to selfie or take more or less the same shot.

Now, we absolutely believe that beautiful things oughta be viewed and photographed and experienced by as many people as possible, because why not? We don’t mind busy National Parks, or hiking trails for that reason.Maybe it was the scouting mindset (for an elopement location) that made the busy-ness and checkbox-ability of getting that same shot so much less romantic for me.

We took in the gorgeous view nonetheless, and chatted about the nature of travelling to popular photo spots, while we worked our way around the rim for some new vantage points.

And at the end of it, Jess helped me come around on it. I came in thinking it was kinda overdone, left thinking that maybe that wasn’t such a bad thing.

Jess has this great way of helping me see through snap judgements on things and it’s something I really love and admire about her.

Sedona

I came into Sedona pretty blind.

Maybe out of all the spots we visited on this trip, I did the least research on this spot beforehand (none). Jess had surprised me months back with the idea for the trip and most of its planning, which included a combined helicopter + side-by-side experience. She had me at helicopter.

And holy shit was I just blown away by this area. It’s gorgeous. The city itself feels like Estes Park in the desert, with even more dramatic views. We decided to spring for a killer airbnb and just kinda took a chill day to relax before the big day of helicoptering and side-by-siding.

The next day was Adventure Day and I was super pumped. Both our first time in some new vehicles.

In what seemed like minutes, we went from watching a safety video to hopping into the helicopter, complete with headsets (dream achieved), and taking off from atop the airport plateau.

This was a fucking awesome experience, and I was giddy.

We took in the sights, chatted with the pilot about the formations and history of the area… 30min of awe, and we set down again at the airport.

Still wearing our huge smiles, we headed for some lunch in town before the four hour side-by-side part of the day.

To sum up this part of the trip: Jess, me, a cooler full of ice-cold fruity bubbly water, dust, and SPEED. We got directions for a trail that sounded cool, drove through the town to get there, and were off hauling ass for hours, stopping here and there for to take in the sights and snap some photos. These things have a limiter that keeps your max speed at 40mph – probably a good thing. 40 feels like 150 when you’re a foot off the ground in basically a souped up go-kart.

Dusty as hell, wishing we had brought ear plugs, a little sore, we made our way back into town (only getting lost on the trails once) to return the Razer and head back to an airbnb and a much-needed shower.

Jess knows exactly the kind of controlled dangerous fast stuff I love.

Grand Canyon

I don’t think it really sank in that we were actually here until the first overlook on the trail we took down into it. Here we were, hiking below the rim of the Grand Canyon – one of the quintessential travel destination in the US and something we had always dreamed of seeing when we were much younger.

We had great weather, plenty of sunblock, maybe a little arrogance (this was the hike down afterall), and high spirits.

It’s hard to put this experience into words, but the word ‘awesome’ comes to mind. Incredible views, incredible sense of scale, incredible formations. You’re hiking with people from all over the world, speaking many different languages, all part of the tiny percentage of people that hike down below the rim.

Along the way we met Brian and Hannah who were also visiting from Colorado. Brian happens to be a wedding videographer, so we talked shop and all chatted travel on our way down to Jess and my endpoint. We couldn’t help but do a quick impromptu couples sesh along the way.

We went as far as skeleton point, a relatively easy three mile hike down, wishing we had the time to hike all the way down to the river with Brian and Hannah – maybe next time. We parted ways, stopped to rest, take in the sights, eat, and drink.

…before making the much much more difficult hike back up.

We were running a little low on water (my bad), and the views back up to where we came from weren’t exactly welcoming.

But we made it. With plenty of breaks, with rationing water, with snacks, with encouragement, with re-applying sunblock, with hiking poles – we made it back up.

Salida & the return

We say that every trip has a point where you’re overwhelmed by all the awesome shit you’ve been seeing and doing and you just kinda want to be home. After the Grand Canyon, we hit this Burnout Point.

The idea of heading straight back home to Cooper seemed great, and we almost did.

But we decided instead to take a little vacation from the vacation and just chill in Salida for a couple days before heading back, and we were both glad we did. We stayed at Amigo as usual, ate pizza, walked around the park, popped into some shops and happened to run into some friends that were on their way to Sedona.

I’m really thankful that Jess and I are pretty much always on the same page about taking rest days, even on vacations, and that our paces are in sync. Takes the pressure off of seeing and doing everything, and the trip much more enjoyable.

- Austin