What I Did This Fall

Fall is not over yet, but for some reason my brain thinks so.  My mind divides the year into only 2 seasons: summer and winter.  I often feel like everything after September is winter, or at least if the temperature is below 50, my body interprets it that way.   It must be the Texas girl in me that didn’t grow up with a distinct fall (in Texas, 50 degrees is winter, you see…).

What I’m trying to get at, is the title for this post isn’t that a propos, since we’re in the middle of fall (and I’m still doing things in fall).  However, what I did at the beginning of fall seems so far away now- as if it took place in a completely different season.  Enough with the talking in circles, and I’ll just show you. 

carefree clouds over the desert
 juniper tree overlooking the desert
 The Courthouse Towers - Arches National Park
 Window Arch at sunset - Arches National Park
 Double “O” Arch - Arches National Park
 Delicate Arch - Arches National Park
 a juniper tree - maybe thousands of years old
Monument Valley

I went to the desert.  
When I graduated from high school, my best friend and I convinced our parents to let us drive out west.  We wanted to take a real road trip, the kind that Jack Kerouac wrote about.  It was on that trip that I experienced the desert for the first time, and it made a huge impression on me.  Northern Arizona, and the Grand Canyon in particular, pulled at me with a yearning I have not felt since, and made me promise to return again soon.  

On this trip, a friend and I meandered through Southern Utah and Northern Arizona, in an area of unparalleled beauty known as the Colorado Plateau.  This whole area at one time millions of years ago was covered by an ocean, which gradually receded, leaving salt deposits.  Throughout the next few million years, sand blown from the west alternately layered on top of red soil draining down from the Rocky Mountains, to form the striped rock layers seen there today.  Wind erosion has caused a lot of the rocks to form natural arches and other amazing formations.  We saw such formations at Arches National Park and Canyonlands Nation Park, which are both outside of Moab, Utah.  It’s impossible to convey the grandeur of these massive monuments through a photograph; somehow, pictures can’t do it justice.  It’s one of the most amazing places I’ve been.

Later we drove through the desert on our way to the Grand Canyon.  There is something very peaceful and serene in driving through such infinitely open spaces, bordered by a sky of the deepest blue and plateaus of rusty vermillion.  In a space so wide, you’d think the whole landscape would be laid out bare before you, unable to hide any aspect of its being, yet around each bend in the road, the scenery will change quite dramatically and very unexpectedly.  There is always another perspective offered to you, each one more intriguing than the next.  It’s amazing how each slightly different angle can change what is observed by such a drastic degree.  This was especially true as we drove further south through Utah and into Monument Valley, on towards Kanab, Utah, where we stayed the night.

My friend had never been to The Grand Canyon, and I think it’s something everyone should experience, so we had to go.  We got up at 5am the next morning to drive to the North Rim in time to see the sunrise over the canyon.  I had not seen a sunrise anywhere in such a long time, but to experience it in such an awe-inspiring location was magical.  When the sun rises, it’s as if its rays start to paint a rainbow over each layer of rock in the canyon.  Nothing but stillness and quiet prevail, and an overwhelming sense of peace and gratitude take over.  I felt like being there restored my sense of well-being and centeredness.  Suddenly none of the things that seem so important in “normal” daily life seemed to matter.  I was able to find contentment in just being.

sunrise over the North Rim of the Grand Canyon

Later we went on a ten mile hike along the edge of the North Rim and came to a beautiful look out point, where we could see so many layers of the canyon.  I wanted so badly to abandon our schedule and just hike further and further inside it.  I can’t come close to describing the effect this part of the world has on me - it’s like no where else I have ever been.
Grand Canyon North Rim

We had to get back on the road, and I think my favorite part of the trip is the drive from the North Rim to the South Rim.  Right outside of the North Rim, driving through Navajo land, the sky is vast and blue.  Red cliffs frame the landscape, and blond desert brush paints the ground.  There are small canyons, and huge rocks near a place called Cliff Dwellers, where people built houses in the sides of the boulders.  

Cliff Dwellers, Arizona

After driving about 4 hours, we made it to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon in time for sunset.

Grand Canyon South Rim right before sunset

After watching a great sunset, our time in the desert was over.  I didn’t want to leave, but I promised I’d be back again very soon.