As a child I wandered across the planet, the galaxy and the universe in the fantastical places that books created in my mind’s eye. My imagination was vivid and I dreamed of travel. The older I got, the more I traveled – driving back and forth across the US from the Midwest to the West Coast, from Canada to Mexico. Each new journey was exciting and I ate up the scenery, the people, the foods and the culture. Eventually, I left the Americas and traveled far and wide across the planet. I have since visited more than 20 countries around the world.
During all those travels I encountered many pivotal points and critical choices. Looking back, I sometimes find myself asking, “What if…?” The “what ifs” of life are often negative. What if I had done that differently? What if I hadn’t said that? What if I had been a better person? Can you make the “what ifs” positive? What if…you said, “yes!” to an opportunity? What if…you smiled and someone smiled back? What if…you accepted an unexpected invitation or friendship? What if…you decided to try and see what might happen? What if you could see the world with new eyes? Recently, I have been making the “what ifs” of my life positive and proactive. Last month, the opportunity came to visit Whidbey Island. So, I hopped in my truck and took my mountain bike with me. As I walked the beaches, hiked the hills and biked through the forests, I realized that I was happy. Simple joy at being alive, using my body and saying yes to unexpected opportunities.
Not long after that, came an invitation to drive to Taos, New Mexico and stay a while with friends at their high desert property. And again, I said yes…No one said it would be cold with heavy rain while truck camping near Boise. I did not know that the transmission would begin to fail on my truck while still two hours outside of Taos in the mountains as the sun was setting. Oh and there’s no cell service in the mountains. On a more positive note, I got to visit some of the most beautiful places in the Southwest with almost no other humans in view. When I decided to go, I did not know that it would be a chance to heal deeply and renew my soul. Perhaps on a more subconscious, intuitional level, I knew it was exactly what I needed.
Every mile that I drove and every state line that I crossed brought new vistas and a growing relaxation in my mind and body. I was on the right path, I was headed in the right direction. Everywhere that I journeyed, I found natural beauty and kind people. I found myself smiling more and taking pleasure in simply being wherever I was at that particular moment. I slowed down and breathed more deeply. I noticed birdsong and the sound of the wind. I witnessed nearly every sunrise and sunset for two and half weeks. Every night I wandered out in the desert darkness and marveled at the enormity of the sky and the countless billions of stars.
I felt more alive than I remembered feeling in a very long time. I realized that I had made almost the exact same road trip more than 20 years before and I had visited many of the same places. It all looked different this time – more vivid, more beautiful and certainly more peaceful than I remembered. Were the places different? Or was I? Had the landscape changed or had I found new eyes?
Some of it was totally new – hotspring pools along the banks of the Rio Grande River, the summit of Devisadero Peak, the adobe and pueblo style buildings of historic Taos and bighorn sheep wandering through my Sunday yoga class. I took a childlike delight in these new things and I did my best to seal the wonder into my memories.
The realization of my changed perspective influenced the remainder of my journey home and I took my time wandering back to ZenRock. I had originally planned to take a different route home and see some other roads, but Moab, Utah called me back. I arrived one evening just before the sun dropped behind the towering red cliffs. I pedaled out to a single-track trail and sat on the rocks to watch the dying of the day. My heart seemed to sigh in contentment.
Sunrise the next morning found me on my bike again. Six or seven miles into the canyons without a phone signal I found an interesting trail, but it was marked as hiking only – no bikes. I was drawn to that canyon and I wished I could hike it, but I was supposed to get back on the road and be somewhere in Montana by evening. Why was I supposed to do that? I did not technically have a schedule to be anywhere…
So, I stayed an extra night in Moab, and I drove back to the trailhead that caught my attention earlier in the day. Morning Glory Arch trail took me along a deep canyon floor criss-crossing over a small river. Finding and following the trail was like a game – some parts were clearly marked with small brown arrows pointing the way and other areas were only marked by rock stacks put there by other hikers. Still other parts of the trail were completely unmarked, and I found myself backtracking from the edge of a drop off or a dead end filled with prickly pear cactus. I saw only a handful of people over the next two hours as I picked my way along. The day’s temperature had topped out in the mid-90s and I was grateful that my chosen start time near 5pm had me in the shade of the canyon’s walls for most of the hike.
As I approached the boxed end of the canyon, there was a quieting of the bird life and the wind. I could hear rushing water, but I couldn’t see the river. As I came out into a red-sand bowl I realized that there was a waterfall in the sheer rocky face and that the river went underground. I got glimpses of water through some deep cracks and I could tell that at other times of year there would be visible falls over 100 hundred feet tall.
There was also the massive Morning Glory Arch stretching across one side of the canyon. I whooped in delight and my voice echoed back to me. I took pictures and tried to get perspective on the size of the arch, but of course the pictures do not do it justice. I settled for lying on the canyon floor and staring up at the slice of blue sky visible through the arch. There was no one else there and nothing broke in on my moment. Hiking back out I stopped to put my feet in the river and soak my head in the cool waters. It was one of the best hikes of my life – what a gift!
I left Moab the following morning and chose the shortest route home cutting back through Idaho, Oregon and Eastern Washington. Keeping with my commitment to take my time and listen to my intuition I chose to stay in Twin Falls rather than Boise. I took a sunset bike ride and arrived at Shoshone Falls Park. The mist and thundering roar of these falls gave notice long before the falls came into view. Rainbows danced through the spray while I stood on the observation deck and marveled at the power of the falling water.
The paved trail that runs to the falls also runs along the rim of the Snake River Gorge for at least 10 miles and I explored it the following morning just after sunrise. There are multiple smaller sets of falls along the southern side of the canyon and birds of all sizes play in the updrafts of air currents. I did yoga and meditated at the canyon’s edge and once again felt a grateful heart as I marveled at the incredible natural beauty.
My final stop before returning home was in Yakima and I did not have any expectations to see or do anything except sleep one more night. The Yakima River Greenway surprised me and I took my last bike ride of the road trip…smiling the entire time as I realized that there is always something wonderful if we just slow down and take the time to look for it.
It is possible to have new eyes and get new perspective at any time and place, even places we have been before or places we see every day. If you followed my journey on ZenRock’s Instagram page, I hope you enjoyed my travels and lived a little bit of my adventure. I am grateful for my friends who invited me to travel and for those who supported me on the journey as I encountered challenges. I find myself feeling younger and more alive than ever. I encourage you to go out into nature whether close to home or a little farther afield. Go without expectations. Go with an open heart and open eyes. See if you can find the wonder in the world…see if you can find new eyes…