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Spinning Through the Splendors of Utah

The roughly 150-mile stretch of I-70 between Green River and Salina, Utah contains some of the most breathtaking scenery you’ll ever see. Around mile marker 129 you’ll find something called the San Rafael Swell, where hundreds of millions of years ago, geological forces pushed up a great mass of earth. Over the eons, parts of the earth came crashing back down onto the salt flats and created these canyons and buttes and outcroppings.

In that area there is also a 30 mile-long wall called the San Rafael Reef. From what I was able to read at one of the scenic overlooks, Spanish explorers took great care to go around this wall because it was just impassable. Then finally in 1970, with the help of generous amounts of TNT, civil engineers were able to blast a narrow passage through the reef for I-70 to pass through. Just on the other side of that passage, I was able to get a decent photo of the Swell.

Although I wasn’t able to get off the paved/beaten track to see them, I was driving right through the middle of dinosaur territory. There are petrified dinosaur tracks all over the place in this area, as well as petroglyphs created by the Fremont indian tribes and the Snake Clans. Even more scenic were the Coal Cliffs to the north, striped in shades of copper, pink, and tan.

As I approached Salina and the turn to the north, I entered Fishlake National Forest and another abrupt change of scenery and weather. I was surrounded by pine forests and snow-covered mountains–many well over 11,000 feet in elevation, and the mist was releasing a fine drizzle. All of this lifted on the other side of the range when I turned to the north in Salina. The sun came out and I was treated to views of the valley: snow-blanketed open fields to my left, low foothills to the west, and majestic mountains to the east (the San Pitch range) and north–my first hint of the upcoming Wasatch Range outside of Salt Lake City.It’s fitting that Mt. Nebo–the highest peak in the Wasatch Mountains at just under 12,000 feet–was my send-off, reminding me of how small I am, and how small we all are, in the grand scheme of things. During a five-hour drive and a four-hour flight, you have a LOT of time to reflect, think, and process. What started out as a bucket-list trip ended up being in large part a spiritual journey. I gained so much understanding and peace being out in the middle of nowhere by myself, and I left a lot of things behind. I left my guilt in a darkened room filled with sage smoke in Sedona. I literally buried my sadness–and hope–in the depths of Monument Valley and prayed the giants above and around me would keep their watch over me. I broke off a piece of my heart and left it peacefully in Moab, knowing I would be okay if it stayed there forever.

Six days, four states, 432 pictures, 1132 miles of driving, and one electric scooter. There were times when I went almost an hour without seeing another vehicle, and even hough I’ve never been so physically isolated in my life, I never once felt alone or lonely. I was never scared or worried. Some people will call me reckless for embarking on this trip by myself when I can barely walk, let alone physically manage in a major crisis. Others will think I’m brave for even attempting this journey. I felt neither of those things.

What I did feel was joy, peace, and contentment. Many tears flowed during this trip, but not from sadness. It was from the release that comes from true healing, and letting go of toxic emotions and things in your life that make you unhappy. I’m not saying you need to crawl into a cave for a week to do this–hell, my idea of “roughing it” is a night in a Motel 6–but there’s a lot to be said for immersing yourself, and only yourself, among some of the most overwhelming things the Earth has to offer and pondering just where you fit into all of it. I’m so lucky that having MS didn’t prevent me from having this experience. And if *I* can do this alone, so can any able-bodied person. You have no freakin’ clue how much time you have left. Figure out what you need to let go, where you need to be to do it, and just. Freaking. Do it. There’s no time like the present ;).

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