You may have heard that Chuck, Joe, and I got kicked out of Zion National Park after the government shutdown last Tuesday, but we didn’t let it ruin our trip. On a whim we decided to drive toward Monument Valley, and on the way discovered Highway 12 in Utah, which was described to us as “the second most scenic highway in the world” (apparently there is a highway in New Zealand that is even prettier, but that remains to be seen).
The scenery was, literally, breathtaking. At points the speed limit would drop to 30 miles per hour simply because the people who post such things knew that over the next rise or around the next bend everyone on the road would put on their brakes and gasp at the view.
One night we camped in the desert on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land, and sat around a juniper-wood campfire, perfuming the night air with sweet-smelling smoke.
The next day we hiked to the top of a 100-foot waterfall, stripped down to our shorts, and leaped into the pool just above it, gasping at the shock of the cold water.
That night we camped by a lake in an Aspen grove (see photo above) at high elevations, shivering in the chilly air under a sky full of brilliant stars.
The next day, on the advice of a well-meaning stranger, we drove fifty miles on a dirt road toward the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, throwing up a huge cloud of dust, only to find a chain across the road seven miles from our destination.
We never did make it to Monument Valley.
I was hugely disappointed that our Grand Canyon adventure didn’t work out. Even though I had been to the Canyon earlier this year (for the first time) I hadn’t gotten nearly enough of it. We had been told by that same well-meaning stranger that we could camp right there on the North Rim, that there was no guardrail there, and that you could walk right up to the edge and look down–for a mile. He had done it himself, although he confessed that he had crawled on his hands and knees, terrified of heights. I drove down that dirt road with that vision in my head, as excited as I’ve ever been at what we were about to see.
But, of course, we didn’t get there.
So imagine what a gift of grace it was to look out the window of my airplane on the way home and see–just a few miles below me–the Grand Canyon. I pressed my face to the window and looked until it had completely disappeared from my view, drinking it in like someone who couldn’t get enough, and who didn’t really want to leave behind all that stunning beauty.
But several hours later I landed in Richmond, Virginia, the place that I live, the place that I love. And I discovered once again that what they’ve been saying all these years is true.
There’s no place like home.