For the past several years Kim and I have been lucky enough to be able to travel to some far-flung corners of the world, chasing adventure while working on behalf of causes we feel strongly about. This year, instead of seeing how many passport stamps we could acquire, we decided to load up our car and travel to the gorgeous, otherworldly vistas of Southwestern Utah. The impetus for this year’s sojourn was running into people on our previous travels who inevitably would ask us if we’d been to volunteer at Best Friends Animal Society’s sanctuary outside Kanab, Utah. We hadn’t. In fact, we weren’t even aware it existed (something I felt ashamed about with hindsight, being a son of the Beehive State). Everyone spoke glowingly of both the place and their work, and soon enough we decided that 2014 would be the Year of the Desert for us.
“I went into the desert seeking shelter from my enemies, and there the desert made me strong.”
Kim had never been to Southern Utah, and it’d been sixteen-plus years since I’d last been through. A road trip would also provide the chance to pay long overdue visits to both family and friends, along with affording us the opportunity to travel to numerous national parks.
Of course, things don’t always go as planned. Trying to coordinate our volunteer schedule with Best Friends became an arduous, months-long task that left us feeling less-than-hopeful that simply showing up and crossing our fingers would work out for the best. So instead, we made ourselves a home in Kanab for two weeks and used it as a hub to venture out in whatever direction took our fancy on any given day. Bryce Canyon and Cedar Breaks National Monument to our north, Grand Canyon and White Pocket to our south, Grand Staircase-Escalante to our east, and Zion National Park to our west, along with a few other stops along the way.
Everywhere was less than a two-hour drive from the studio apartment we’d rented, and we did our best to spend every day headed off in a different direction from the last. Along the way we met some people who would endear themselves to us, and places we’d call home during our stay. We even paid a couple of visits to Best Friends; our fingers-crossed strategy ultimately working in our favor. It was beautiful. Walking some amazing dogs with the gorgeous red cliffs of Angel’s Canyon as a backdrop, spending time with some of their cats in need, feeling the sun on my face and spending quality time with my sweetheart.
Like any good road trip, ours had a song (for me at least). The last time I drove through Southern Utah on an extended trip Sugar’s Beaster was on non-stop repeat and at a volume that I’m positive could be heard three states away. In particular, Tilted and its roaring drums (“I wish you understood / A couple of words get so much mileage”). This time through, a different song kept playing as the miles rolled by beneath us. It was the one always humming in the back of my head, even if it wasn’t the one blasting out of the car stereo.
There is an unquantifiable magic for me about the desert. Beyond the breathtaking and commanding vistas is a feeling of being in a place that is removed from everywhere else; a space that feels out of time, and one that is a shelter from the hobgoblins of life with their sharp teeth and anxious appetites. I always leave the desert feeling better, feeling more whole, feeling strong.