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Thankful in 2020: Adventure Travel Guide Edition

Alexi Kimiatek

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It might just be the one thing that EVERYONE can agree on this year: 2020 sucked. There’s no need to review; if we weren’t all in the same boat, we were at least in the same storm. Perhaps a good thing about times like these is that they tend to make us realize how lucky we really are, in one way or another. With that, here are some things I am thankful for this year, Adventure Travel Guide Edition.

Winter
First of all, I am bigly thankful that I had made the most of pre-Covid 2020. My January, February and March were full of both guiding and personal trips in Utah and Grand Canyon. I crossed off several bucket-list trips without knowing just how glad I would be that I did. I was at Grand Canyon the night they closed all hotels and restaurants, and I knew it would be a long time before I’d lay eyes on those rocks again. That being said, I was thankful that Grand Canyon had that time to recover and regenerate. The complete absence of tourists has been a healing period for the flora and fauna along the Corridor trails, and a rare opportunity for the residents of Grand Canyon Village to enjoy the peace of the inner canyon on the rim.

A person rapelling from red rock.
Image credit: Dakota Copeland

Spring 
As an adventure travel guide, I had a lot of…free time this year. Guides around the world lost our jobs as trips cancelled and outfitters went out of business. Luckily, I had just bought a new bike last year and spent the first weeks of quarantine pedaling off my anxiety in my own home, Sedona, Arizona. For three weeks, major trailheads were closed and people were actually staying home and the locals got to reclaim the nearly empty trails. I was also able to explore some seldom seen sites in the remote backcountry and catch up on long overdue play time with my dogs, who miss their daddy when he’s guiding all the time!

Summer
As the ‘Rona put on more pressure, it seemed as though the travel industry might never recover and social upheaval seemed imminent. Naturally, I was surprised to see that the summer guiding season in the mountains up north looked to be getting ready to kick-off. Many travelers were eager to get out of the house after months of quarantine and angst, and the northern Rocky Mountain states were still relatively Covid-free. I was immensely thankful for being able to return to full-time guiding for Wildland Llamas and work two months of llama treks in Yellowstone and the wildernesses surrounding Jackson, Wyoming. After thinking that I was never going to guide again, it was greatly rewarding to see that with some major adjustments and minor sacrifices, and the hard work, patience, and dedication of awesome people (and llamas), backcountry trips can run safely in the times of Covid.   

Alexi and his buddies, the Wildland Trekking llamas.
Image credit: Alexi Kimiatek

Fall
As the "second-wave" ravaged the US and election anxiety was reaching fever pitch, I decided to risk the trip and spend a month with my parents back East in Pennsylvania. After a long drive, a long quarantine, and long Q-tip jammed into my brain, I spent a month savoring the company of my parents. My mother, diagnosed with ovarian cancer earlier this year but unable to begin treatment until after the first wave of Covid (classic 2020), was recovering from major abdominal tumor resection and resuming intense chemotherapy. My dad has been working from home since March and I was able to put my guide skills to use by helping with cooking and going on lots of walks with both of them every day, a lucky circumstance that would not have happened if not for Covid. I am deeply, deeply thankful for the opportunity to enjoy my parents for a whole month and the memories from that visit are forever sacred and priceless.

A mother and her adult son pose in front of a tree outside.
Image credit: Alexi Kimiatek

Now I am back in Arizona, baking lots of banana bread, and have been lucky enough to guide a couple of trips in the center of my universe, Grand Canyon. Here in Sedona, the sun is shining, the shelves have toilet paper, and my dogs are enjoying the cool air of winter. Cautiously optimistic about the future of the world, I look ahead to the end of this impactful year and the transition to 2021. The winter holidays are a time for reflection and family, wishes and gifts. My wish list for this year and for 2021 is all for the human race, and my gift to the world is to try and embody these wishes in 2021 and beyond.

-Be kind

-Be considerate

-Be compassionate

-Be tolerant

-Be flexible

-Be helpful

-Be open-minded

-Embrace science

-Embrace diversity

-Know that we are all in this together, whether we like it or not

-Unplug

-Go on lots of walks

-Call Mom

-Read books

-Give belly rubs

-Love your Mother Earth

-Don’t throw out brown bananas

Alexi Kimiatek

Name: Alexi Kimiatek

Hometown: Sedona AZ

Where I’ve Been: I discovered my love for the outdoors growing up in the hardwood forests of New England. After finishing a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in evolutionary ecology I worked as a seasonal field ornithologist for several years before discovering the canyon country of the southwest. Enchanted by the landscapes and cultures of the Colorado plateau, I have been exploring the geology, flora, fauna, and human history of northern Arizona and southern Utah as a backpacking guide and fervent student of the outdoors. 

Why I Hike: Hiking is my gateway to the bigger picture, where I reconnect with my inner animal and directly interact with the natural world. Hiking is my ticket to the remote wilds across the world. Also makes my butt look great.

Lead the Way: Through epic outdoor experiences!

Ambassador Focus: #protip

Find Mewildlandtrekking.com

Instagram: @wildlandtrekking

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