A couple of weeks ago I went to Phoenix, Arizona!! I went for a wedding of my good friend Lisa Roth (Youssef) and her now husband Eddie. It was an amazing wedding! I was so happy to be invited and able to attend. So, why not turn it into a Great Adventure Southwest Style? That's what happened. The wedding was a great opportunity to take some time off and explore the Southwest U.S. I've never been to this area before and was super excited to explore. My amazing friends Ben and Kasha were flying in on Saturday to join me in the Great Adventure. I am so lucky to have friends willing to explore with me and go on remote adventures. So, it turned into another Great Adventure camping/backpacking/hiking style. I loved it.
I arrived in Phoenix at about 11:00p.m. on May 6th. I made my way to the resort where the wedding was happening and got a good night sleep. The next morning I had some breakfast at a nearby farm to table restaurant. After an amazing breakfast, I explored Phoenix and picked up some essentials for our camping/backpacking trip to come. Obviously whiskey and camp stove fuel were the top of the list. Maybe I picked up some bananas and some Doritos. Staples, you know. I came back to the resort and went to the pool and chilled out in the sun and had a couple drinks. An amazing day. After getting a good sunburn and a little nap in the sun, I made my way back to my room and got ready for the wedding. What an amazing wedding! They had legit fireworks!! For real ones!! So cool. And, I got to sit at the Mother and Father of the Bride's table. So I knew some people. That was super nice. I liked this wedding a lot. They really had a great one. At about 10:00p.m. the wedding was winding down and heading towards the golf clubhouse. I headed to the airport to pick up Ben and Kasha. I got to the airport and met up with them and we headed back to the resort. So good to see them! We had a drink and a game of cribbage and then some sleep.
The next morning we headed out on our great adventure!! We left Phoenix about 8:00a.m. on Sunday and headed towards the Antelope Canyon. We had a 1:00p.m. tour appointment. I was kind of worried we wouldn't make it, but we did. We went on a tour of the Antelope Canyon. It was a pretty special place. A shit ton of tourists, but the tour is the only way you can see the canyon. It was worth it. I maybe took 100 photos that day. I'm only happy with a few of them, but it was beautiful. I kind of loved it. We met some tourists from Germany. They were super awesome. After talking with them we made our way back to the Grand Canyon. It was a bit of a back track to the Grand Canyon, but worth it. On the way we stopped at a lookout point. After viewing the grandness of the lookout we headed back to the car and all 3 of us proceeded to get into the wrong car. As soon as I opened the door a Chinese tourist appeared from the back seat and screamed at me "Not Your Cahhh!!" At the same time Ben and Kasha were opening the passenger doors and he screamed the same at them. Amazing!!! We found our car and were off to the Grand Canyon. I love things like that on Great Adventures. My favorite.
We got to the Grand Canyon and set up our camp at the Mather Campground, where we would camp for 2 nights. After setting up camp we made our way to a lodge for dinner and back to camp for an early night. The next day we took the shuttle to the Kaibab Trailhead for a day hike. The Grand Canyon is an amazing place. I thought it couldn't get much better than that (until we arrived in Zion). After the day hike we went back to camp for a while then decided to do a sundown hike on the Bright Angel Trail. We were hoping to make it to the Ohhh-Ahhh Plateau. But alas, we didn't make it there. We did hike back to the trail head in the dark and that was an adventure! We had head lamps so we could see, but it was different hiking back at night. Finally made it back to the trail head and back to camp where we cooked a quick dinner of ramen noodles and had some whiskey, then off to bed. Whiskey is always good at the end of a trying day.
We all got up the next morning, broke camp, and headed off towards Utah. Zion National Park was our destination. On the way we stopped at Horseshoe Bend. I saw the sign for it, asked Ben, "You wanna stop there?". Response..."Uhhh...Yeah!". So we stopped. I had heard of Horseshoe Bend before and I was happy we came across it on our way to Zion. I wasn't expecting it. A great little side trip. We all hiked up to the bend and took a bunch of photos. It's the Colorado River! It was pretty cool. There were a shit ton of tourists there, but so worth it to stop there. After our side trip to Horseshoe, we got back on the road and stopped in Page, Arizona for some food, supplies, and booze. After an hour shopping, booze buying, and McDonalds stop we were back on the road towards Zion. Another 3.5 hour drive. Beautiful vistas along the way!!! Finally got to Zion National Park. I wasn't prepared for how amazing and beautiful that area of the country is. If you ever get a chance to go to Zion, go. It is beautiful!! Better than the Grand Canyon in my opinion. Green, canyons, rivers, water, amazing. I love it.
Arrived in Zion, picked up our back country permit for the next day and made our way to the campground for the night. Great campground, great everything!! We went on a hike that late afternoon. We were hoping to make it to Scout's Lookout and Angel's Landing and we did! It was kind of a tough hike, but we did it and made it back to the shuttle stop before the last shuttle took us back to the campground. Angel's Landing should be on everyone's bucket list. Zion is maybe the most beautiful place I've seen in the USA. Go!! We got back to our campsite, picked up the car and went into Springdale for dinner. Made a plan, over dinner, for the next day'sback country adventure and made our way back to camp for the night.
The next morning we woke up early and packed up for our Back Country adventure in Zion. We were to drive our car to the Hop Valley Trail head, pick up our pre-arranged shuttle and drive to the Lee Pass Trail Head in Zion National Park in the Kolob Canyon section of the park. All went as planned for the most part. We started our back country night on the La Verkin Creek Trail. I had arranged for us to camp at campsite #2 on the trail. It was a great site but 3.5 miles from clean water. We hiked in, and set up camp and had some lunch, then set off for water. Kasha had a couple injuries so she was not into hiking for water so she and Ben handed off their water containers and headed back towards camp. I was on my own this day, get water for the team and maybe explore a bit. I found my way to the La Verkin Creek and the Hop Valley Trail Head. I was looking for a natural spring called Beatty Spring. It wasn't clearly marked on the map and not marked at all on the trail. After hiking about 1 mile longer than I needed to I made my way back towards the creek and found the water source. Filled all the water containers and headed back towards camp. All in all it was about 13 miles that day for me. I finally made it back to camp after 6 hours and was rewarded with a great welcome back to camp from Ben and Kasha. They had enjoyed their day together and I was feeling good about my day so everyone won that day. They got to spend some time together, away from me, and I got water so everyone wins on day 1! The next morning we woke up early, cooked some oatmeal and breakfast and broke camp. We had about a 9.5 mile hike to the car (or so we thought) so we got an early start. After a day off from hiking, Ben and Kasha were ready for the day! I was a bit sore, but ready to go too!
We took off. All was going according to plan, most of the day. Then we came to a marker indicating the trail went up a ridge, instead of following the clearly worn trail. So we went up the ridge. Bushwacking all the way. It was an adventure. Ben was clearing the path and I was so thankful that he he was doing that. After consulting the map and the area, Ben and I decided we needed to get back down to the trail we were originally on. After back tracking and bush wacking we made our way back to the trail. We all thought we maybe had one more mile to the car. Mistake. After that mile we realized we had another 4 miles to the car. We were out of water and it was a tough hike. I've never felt in danger before, but this time I was really, really thirsty. It was a struggle the last mile to the car to Gatorade and beers. We ultimately made it, obviously, but it was a bit scary for a while. We were all so thirsty.
We made it back to the car, finally, and downed some Gatorade and water, and finally some beers. I was never so happy to see a car in my life. This was probably one of the hardest things I've done in my life. It was a great adventure to experience a Back Country night in Zion, but it was also hard to hike 13-15 miles per day, for 2 days straight. I loved it with all my heart though. I have amazing friends and we all got through it together. I hiked ahead for some of the last day, to give Ben and Kasha some more alone time, but we finished together. I love these guys. It was a great accomplishment. Especially at my age. Ben is one of the greatest supporters ever. For both his wife Kasha, who was struggling with injuries, and myself. What great encouragement! Thanks Ben.
After making it to the car we headed back to Springdale and checked into our hotel for the night. So amazing to have a bed and shower after a few days of camping!! The Majestic View Lodge is amazing and we went to the hot tub to soak away our aches and pains from the past few days. We met a local couple and they recommended some good places to eat in Springdale. Great suggestions. After a hot tub soak and some showers all around we headed out for a great celebratory dinner! Cold drinks and hot meals. Nothing better. Headed back to the hotel and played some more cribbage and sleepy time.
The next morning we slept in a bit and headed towards Springdale for breakfast. After a great breakfast we made our 4 hour drive to Sedona where we booked a resort for the night. Kasha had a massage while Ben and I played some cribbage. Then off to an amazing Mexican dinner at one of the top rated restaurants in Sedona. Amazing dinner and margaritas and then back to the hotel for some much needed sleep. First a stop in the hot tub, after hours of course. We got a good 15 minutes in the hot tub before we were kicked out. Closing time at 10:00 and it was well after that. But the guy seemed pretty cool.
The next morning we had some breakfast at the resort and headed towards Phoenix and the airport for our flights home. I checked into my flight first as it was leaving 3 hours before Ben and Kasha's. After checking in, we checked into their flight and made our way to the terminal for some food and drinks. After a couple of drinks with Ben and Kasha I was super sad to leave them, but made my way back to my terminal and gate for my connecting flight in Minneapolis. I was super depressed to leave them. But as I was sitting in the terminal, waiting for my flight to board and looking at photos on my phone, I heard my name. It was Nick Berard and his wife Tina and their son Max!!! They were coming to Phoenix for Max's first birthday!! Tina's Mom and Sister live in Phoenix. So, that helped bring my mood up. Max is awesome. After our brief conversation I boarded my flight to Minneapolis and then to Madison. Arrived about 11:00p.m. in Madison. I hate when awesome adventures like this come to an end, but they must.
If you ever want to go to Zion, you should. If you ever want to go to Antelope Canyon, you should. If you ever want to go to The Grand Canyon, you should. What an amazing thing, our National Park System, is. Go visit these areas!! You will not be disappointed. Thanks for a great vaca Ben and Kasha. Love you guys.