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We're A Small Piece of This Big World | Hiking in Our National Parks | Personal Post

(Canyonlands - Island in the Sky District - Grand View Point Overlook)

This past weekend I arrived back in WI after 10 days on the road to Utah with plenty of stops along the way. We explored 5 different national parks in Colorado and Utah and spent a few days near Boulder, CO. I'm thrilled to share a little glimpse into this amazing trip through photos today and will probably ramble a little too much about certain hikes and experiences along the way (bear with me!!).

I also wanted to reflect a little bit about this trip and some of the thoughts I have whenever I'm in a new, gorgeously expansive place like all of these. I don't know about you, but I always feel so SMALL when I'm this close to nature...and not even in a bad way. We hiked in the Rocky Mountains where the elevation alone kicks your butt, snowshoed on 66+ inches of snow (that's taller than me!), stood next to magnificent rock formations that towered over us, walked at the bottom of huge canyons carved over centuries by water, looked over cliffs of stone continuously shaped by water and wind, stared out over landscapes that simply disappeared into the distance, and witnessed sunsets that take your breathe away. When you can actually see the results of tectonic plates shifting (layers and layers of rock thrust at various angles up into the sky) and centuries of slow erosion by flowing water and persistent winds, I'm not sure how you could not feel like a speck in time and space.

One thing I hear people say a lot after finishing a long or grueling hike, especially in the mountains, is that they feel like they've 'conquered said mountain'. They've defeated the beast and can go home triumphant. I have never once had that feeling. If you've ever hiked up a mountain, walked along a narrow cliff, scrambled over massive boulders along a trail, or simply walked on a rocky path, you know how important every... single.. step... is to your safety. One wrong move and who knows what kind of situation you'll find yourself in. So getting to the top or finishing that long, strenuous hike isn't conquering the mountain or defeating the trail, it is conquering your fears, proving to yourself what you can do, or pushing your body that much further than it's gone before. To conquer a mountain would be to destroy it completely (with machines, explosives, or heaven forbid, intensified acid rains) and that would be a tragedy, not a triumphant success.

Feeling small in wild places and experiencing grandeur in it's purest form makes me want to seek out more and more ways to be a part of it. These moments ignite a desire to protect the places I've seen so others can see them too and so I can go back. I'm reminded that, even though I may be just a small part of this huge world, what I do is important and impactful. My life can, should, and does have meaning and I get to choose what that is.

We started the trip at Rocky Mountain National Park. This is a view of the windy peaks from the road on our way into the park.

We snowshoed out of the Bear Lake Trailhead - destination of Emerald Lake.

The winter trail goes right across three lakes - this is Dream Lake.

Stopped along the ascent to enjoy the gorgeous view.

Made it to Emerald Lake!

Day two of hiking was at Arches National Park - we did a tour of the arches in the central part of the park. This is one of the most iconic arches in the park - Delicate Arch.

Balanced Rock

Nick in his natural habitat - camera in hand, of course!

A panoramic view at Delicate Arch.

Double Arches

One of my favorite parts of our National Parks is that they preserve local and native history - these are petroglyphs left on the rocks just up the trail from the Delicate Arch parking lot.

We spent three days in the Moab, UT area because it was so close to both Arches and Canyonlands National Park - day two in the area we decided to tackle a long hike. We packed up our gear, made some sandwiches, and headed out to the Syncline Loop Trail around the Upheaval Dome in the Island in the Sky District of Canyonlands. This is our view on the way down into the canyon - about a third of the way down.

(Trail info: this was a 13 mile, 7+ hour day for us, including the Upheaval Crater Spur Trail. The Syncline Loop is not for beginners or the faint of heart. There is a 1300ft elevation change - you go down and then must climb all the way out. We decided to start with the southern part of the loop traveling west. The descent into the canyon had a lot of short switchbacks, was very rocky, and had some steep sections. A majority of the mileage on this trail is flat in washes or canyons. The ascent back out of the canyon can be described more as scrambling over large boulders than hiking and happens fairly quickly. There is little shade and the trail isn't recommended in the summer months.)

Our view for lunch - at this point we were past the end of the Upheaval Crater Spur Trail.

This is the view of the crater from above at the overlook points. We begrudgingly took the 0.3 mile trek (yes, it felt like a trek after a 13 mile day) to the overlook to get an overall view of where we had been that day. The trailhead is behind us here and we went off to the left. We ate lunch down in the crater by the lighter formations. The ascent out happened behind the tall ridge opposite us at this point and then we walked the remainder of the loop off to the right.

Our final day in Moab we split the day between Arches and Canyonlands. We did the 8 mile Devils Garden loop in the northern part of Arches and saw 7 different arches.

Landscape Arch

I believe this is Partition Arch.

(If you look carefully, Nick is in the bottom right corner!)

Our best friend on several trails - the cairn. More on the importance of these in a future post.

We ended the day back in Canyonlands at the Grand View Point Overlook for the sunset.

We hiked a mile away from the parking area and hunkered down for about an hour waiting for the sun to set.

After Moab, we headed for Captiol Reef National Park where we camped for the night. We hiked the Cohab Trail to this overlook and then to Hickman Bridge.

Exploring a slot canyon - those gaps are just big enough to squeeze through.

Our final day of hiking was spent at Bryce Canyon National Park.

We hiked the Queen Garden Loop via the Rim Trail and Navajo Trail. Bryce is at a much higher elevation than the other parks so there was more snow and the trails were incredibly muddy.

The unique pillars, called Hoodoos, are formed by water filling cracks in the stone, expanding when it freezes and melting again. The large swings in temperature put a lot of stress on the rocks and they continuously break away.

Thank you for sharing a piece of this amazing trip with me!

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