For many folks, international travel plans (in addition to many other social norms and aspects of everyday life) have been halted, postponed, canceled, scrapped, and delayed until further notice. As a global hiking and adventure guide, international volunteer, nomad, and travel addict—"staying home this year" has been a humbling, stationary, and an entirely new episode for me. It has, though, made me extremely thankful for all of the travel I’ve had in the past, and I’m certainly looking forward to future travel endeavors. Staying at home created time to go back and reminisce, look at all the photos, reduce my carbon footprint, and recollect the fond memories. As I write this dreaming of foreign lands along with having travel bug fever, I am also grateful for having this opportunity and time to explore my own beautiful backyard.
I have resided in intervals for the last six years in the high alpine desert and Colorado Plateau of Northern Arizona. Being a workaholic, this meant I would frequently be working out in the field and traveling to other National Parks, states, and countries on a fairly regular basis. Previously in my guiding seasons, it was common for me to live in a van—embracing the van life. Because I was gone so much for work, it never really made sense to pay rent. I considered myself very lucky this year to be actually living in a house when COVID-19 hit! I've thought often of those who live in vans during these trying times. Previously those who lived full-time in vans commonly frequented cafes, gyms, libraries, laundromats, grocery stores, and other public areas while on the road. In many states, most of these amenities were closed, unsafe, and unavailable. I certainly felt I picked the proper year to rent.
While in the midst of official lockdown mode in the state of Arizona, I stayed home (accompanied by my three roommates and two dogs). During this time, I completed only a few very local getaways, hikes, mountain bike rides, runs, and campouts in the National Forest and Bureau of Land Management areas. I decided to go more into a “Martha Stewart'' mode with baking, cooking, arts, crafts, sewing, DIY projects, and gardening. This was in addition to taking online college courses, dog fostering, small volunteer projects, product testing for a few outdoor companies, completing daily workouts, yoga, aerial arts, obtaining my motorcycle license, writing a few blogs, and more. Needless to say, I kept busy, and I tried to remain positive and optimistic. But maybe I caught a little bit of “cabin fever” along the way?
Once lockdown was waived, I wanted to explore locally and partake in some of my other favorite past-times and hobbies—getting outside and having adventures! While being mindful of staying safe and respectful, and constantly aware of social distancing, I chose more off-the-beaten-path areas and went with friends while we kept our distance. Luckily, the Colorado Plateau region has a lifetime of outdoor adventures to pursue in addition to over 200 days of sunshine! Having grown up in Washington state, I have a strong appreciation for these sunny days.
I took advantage of the cooler temperatures and landscapes throughout Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah while backpacking, tent camping, and car camping. Here were some highlights of the last few months:
- We camped and hiked in the Sycamore Canyon region of Sedona, Arizona.
- After bike-packing the 50-mile Flagstaff Loop Trail, we then decided to take on a larger local bike-packing route of 4 days and 184 miles called The Cinder Cones and Craters Loop.
- There were numerous pack-rafting trips completed at Lake Mary, East Clear Creek, Blue Ridge Reservoir, The San Juan, Lake Powell, Lee’s Ferry on The Colorado River, Lemon Reservoir, and The Animas River.
- I explored Petrified Forest National Park, Telluride, Ouray, and Durango.
- I camped near the Grand Canyon and did a few day hikes.
- I completed a backpacking trip in the Mt.Baldy Wilderness area of the White Mountains.
- Hiked in the Gila National Forest and Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument.
- Just recently, I completed an amazing backpacking journey through Buckskin Gulch to Paria River.
And fortunately, I've managed to guide several trips in areas of Utah, Arizona, Washington, and was able to visit some of my family from ten feet away.
There’s that saying that “you don’t know what you have until it’s gone." How lucky are we to get to roam and explore this beautiful planet?! To have the capabilities, freedom, time, and means to travel, wander, discover and appreciate new areas. If Covid-19 has taught me anything, it is gratitude: gratitude for family, friends, community, time, adventures, travel, work, nature, and for these wild, scenic, and captivating landscapes we get to explore.