About travel nursing…

I get asked all the time what I do, how it works, why I do it and then those questions are almost always followed up by “Oh, you must be single?” God forbid a woman go out on her own and follow her career path while she has a man back home.  No, I’m not single. “Oh, is he loyal?” Yes, he’s loyal.” Fiercely.  If he wasn’t, I wouldn’t be with him.  Our older generation makes me laugh and simultaneously roll my eyes.

Anyway, enough about that.

I’m done! Seven LONG months in California spent working at two different hospitals came to an end at 7:55pm Thursday night when I clocked out of the hospital for the last time. I walked off my unit after a rather crazy final two hours in which I got two admissions, one of which was entirely too sick to be on that unit (I’m not an ICU nurse and we’re not an ICU floor!) and the other, well, let’s just say I’m glad I was clocking out for the very last time. My final day was good other than that– our unit secretary baked me a goodbye cake, one of the staff members ordered us all pizza, and my patient who had previously complained about every single nurse she’d had, bought us several dozen cookies which she gave us right after I discharged her to home, a place she’d been longing to go since she arrived at the hospital two weeks prior.  I attribute her liking me right off that bat to our first day together when I had a student nurse with me all day. He was a super cute young nurse, 21 years old, with glasses that made him look like Clark Kent and a smile that could land him a modeling job.  Yes, my 67 year old patient had a huge crush on Mr. student nurse which meant I was automatically on her good graces because he was working with me.  Our patient-nurse relationship started out on a high note and I made it my mission to ensure my next two days with her, sadly without my student to charm her, would continue on a high note.  Luckily, all went well, and we bonded.  My last day was a good day, overall, and I was blessed to meet some great people during my three month contract who made my final day memorable.

With that being said, well, this assignment was also eye opening and pivotal to my career as a nurse. I was floated about 60% of my shifts. That means I’d show up to my designated unit and my name would not be written on the board next to patient rooms. Meaning, I wasn’t going to work on my unit. So, I’d ask and normally someone would scramble to find where I’d be working.  “The annex” they’d say, or “medical overflow in pediatrics” or “cardiology” or “mom baby overflow” or (insert other location here).  So, I’d find my way to whatever unit I’d be in for the day, finally arrive a few minutes after 7am and then get started with my day.  As a float nurse I had good days and I had horrible days.  That’s the life of a nurse in general, but as a traveler it’s just a tad bit worse.  I had my worst days as an RN at this hospital in California.  I worked hard for every. single. dollar I made on this assignment. I learned so much and great even more so as a nurse.  For that, I am thankful.

When I first started travel nursing I knew I’d be WAY out of my comfort zone.  And then, when I decided to switch from night shift to day shift while traveling, which is a challenge in itself when you’re at your home hospital!!, it was a bigger challenge than I ever imagined.  But, I survived. I’m a day shift nurse now, and a seasoned travel nurse, and I’ve somehow made it work.  Don’t get me wrong, I have been absolutely miserable in doing so most days, but I have learned and grown through the challenge — and that means it was a success.

I packed up Thursday night and was out the door and on the road back to Colorado by 9:30am Friday.  Leaving was bittersweet.  Staying with my great aunt (who is 98 but looks/acts in her early 70’s) was convenient and having my dogs with me this time around was a nice treat. I missed them way too much when I was flying back and forth this past fall.  And, of course, there is my family. Being close to family is a treat. Being able to grab dinner with my mom, or run errands together, or meet my dad for dinner… those moments are priceless. I am really going to miss them.  Mom and Dad if you’re reading….. please move here when you retire! Please 🙂

The dogs and I drove back via the southern route due to hard rain and some snow in California, and snow above Vail. We took highway 99 and cut across through Bakersfield and Barstow (I can never remember what highway that is) and then jumped onto 15 for a bit before cutting over to 40.  We spent the night in Arizona to break up the drive.  And then on Saturday morning we left around 7:30am and drove 40 until Albuquerque when we took i25 south to Colorado.  We had almost perfect driving weather the entire drive except an hour in California and an hour in Colorado.  The car ran well. The traffic was much less on that route than on my regular route through Las Vegas and St. George Utah.  That route is completely saturated with Vegas traffic.

We arrived “home” at about 7pm Saturday night.  It had been exactly two months since I’d been in Colorado, and I smiled widely the last 30 miles. Ben was waiting with flowers (he’s so sweet) & the dogs were through the roof excited to see Ben’s dog, Beckley.

It’s so, so nice to be back.  Colorado views still take my breath away.

On Sunday we went shoe shopping for me — I bought new climbing shoes because I’ve missed the climbing wall sooooooo much & it’s 14er prepping season 🙂 And then I had a spa appointment for a fancy pedicure. Ben bought me a spa gift card for our three month anniversary that expired on the 8th (12 months later!) so I made an appointment for Sunday knowing it would motivate me to get my butt back to Colorado regardless of whatever driving weather we faced. As mentioned, I was blessed with good weather, so making it to my appointment on the expiration date was not a problem.  I enjoyed a relaxing pedicure on Ben, right after I bought shoes that will soon destroy my toes.  How Colorado 🙂  After, we headed to our favorite Taco spot in Boulder and I ditched my diet for my favorite tacos and a flavored margarita. It was bliss.

Yesterday I got back on the Keto bandwagon and Ben joined! Today, he’s at school while I’m at home writing this and job searching. Because, if I didn’t mention, I’m job less. I decided not to extend my 13 week contract in California and have since turned down almost every job that my recruiter has sent me. If there’s one thing I learned in California while getting my butt kicked at work on the daily, it’s that from here on out, I am being much, much more picky with the assignments I’ll even interview for, let alone accept.

So for these next few weeks I’ll be hiking, job searching & enjoying doing whatever it is I feel like doing. That’s the beauty of nursing — you work, work, work, most days wayyyyy too hard and then when you’re off — you need it, badly, and you enjoy it.  And with travel nursing? You work, work, work and then you bask in the amazingness of having that little bit of extra time off in between assignments that you wouldn’t be able to have as a permanent staff member. This time off alone is worth the contractual suffer fest.





Gypsy Nurse

In September I started travel nursing again. Ben was accepted into, and began, a two semester long Masters in Enviornmental Law program in Denver so I decided to use the time wisely— go to CA and make some extra $ while working as a travel RN. My first assignment was on an oncology unit in Visalia for 14 weeks. My second assignment is currently going on in Modesto where I’m on a cardiac unit but really it just means I’m in the float pool (insert eye roll).  It’s over April 7th. 

For my first assignment I flew back and forth between CA and CO a lot. For this one, I am temporarily living in Modesto. I am a day shift nurse now (crazy, I know, I never thought I’d make the transition from nights to days) and needed to place some short term roots rather than play the travel back and forth game for three months.  

It’s hard. I miss Colorado like crazy. But, there are perks. The weather, for one. Seeing family a tiny bit more often. The ocean.  Not flying so much. And of course, having my dogs here. For the first assignment they stayed with Ben. They’re here now, and that makes me so happy. 

Anyway, on my off days I’ve been trying to get outside.  Two weeks ago Ben flew in for three days and we spent his 35th birthday weekend in Monterey, Carmel & Big Sur. We took Copper with us… and we had a wonderful time! 

Today I headed to Yosemite National Park for the first time in 20+ years. I haven’t been since I was a kid. I’m pretty sure Tyler was about 3 years old the last time we were there. 
It’s still as pretty as ever and bonus: it was totally NOT crowded! Two of my favorite pictures from today: 

 Zain, Copper and I walked the 0.5 mile paved trail to Lower Yosemite Falls (pictured above) and then later Zain and I walked to Mirror Lake for a better view of Half Dome. Note: climb Half Dome re-added ro Bucket List
On Sunday I fly back to Colorado for the first time since I left on Jan 8th. I’m so excited, I can hardly wait! I’ve missed it so much.

Travel nursing is hard, but it gets in your bones. The extra $$$, the 3 months & done attitude, and the constant challenges a new work places throws at you… When I’m done with California in 9 weeks, my eyes are set on continuing my travel nurse life in either Colorado (in a new area of the state), Montana or Alaska. We’ll see 🙂 

Wild Alaska

To the lover of wilderness, Alaska is one of the most wonderful countries in the world ~ John Muir 



I can’t quite explain Alaska.  While we were there, someone asked Ben and me how it compares to Colorado. And when I think of that question now I don’t quite have a good answer.  Alaska is wild. It’s rural.  It’s like no where I have ever been. Yet, it’s still America.  And it feels like America. But, it’s not commercialized like here in the lower 48.  It feels like how I wish America were here in Colorado.  It feels more like Colorado was 8 years ago when I moved here, before more and more transplants arrived.  I’m growing sour on Colorado.  Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE IT HERE.  But over the past 8 years it’s changed drastically and as each year passes it becomes more similar to California.  And for that, I’m growing sour.

But, Alaska. 

Ben loves Alaska and wanted to show me his favorite place. So last month we traveled from Seattle to Alaska (our first time flying first class and OH MY GOODNESS, IT WAS AMAZING) and spent 8 days traveling the beautiful state. And oh, how beautiful.

On Sunday:  I flew to Seattle to meet Ben who’d been there for a week or so climbing Mt. Rainier.  We spent the day exploring Seattle with Ben and his two friends.


That night, we flew from Seattle to Anchorage.  At close to midnight, when we landed in Alaska, it was will light out (Now THAT is weird). We stayed in a cabin right in downtown Anchorage.


On Monday:  We drove a few hours to the entrance of Denali National Park. We stopped in Talkeetna on the way – cutest climbing town!  That night, we camped outside of Denali National Park.




Our camp spot for Night 2



Walking back to our campsite on Tuesday morning we stumbled upon this big gal.


Of course, we kept our distance and tried not to disturb her. Moose can be very dangerous.


On Tuesday: We took the Camper Bus well into the park.  Denali does not allow private car access into the park past the first few miles.  Shuttle buses are required.  The camper bus is an old school bus available for the hikers & backpackers to take into the park. A section at the back of the bus is removed for backpacks. This is different from the tourist shuttle bus that also travels through the park.  It took us about 5 or so hours to get to (almost) the end of the road to Wonder Lake Campground where we’d spend the next couple of nights.



Can you spot the three grizzly’s out the window?


Poor quality on the iPhone, but we saw this wolf up close to our bus



Up close and personal with grizzlys



Mama and her two cubs



The Denali Park Road



Next time we’re in Denali we’ll take the bus to this spot and backpack. It’s a backpackers paradise. Beautiful Alaska range views & great hiking opportunities.



We started at Riley Camp & ended at Wonder Lake Campground

On Wednesday:  We woke up to sunshine, but so much haze, due to a fire we didn’t know existed at the time in the Yukon. It was hot, humid & sunny but we didn’t have any views of the massive mountain range in front of our camp site because of all of the haze. We got our bear spray, bear bell & bug spray and headed out on a hike.  If I learned one thing about Alaska on this day it’s that Alaska is a temperate rain forest.  Which means: TUNDRA which is like stepping on a sponge, OVER GROWN PLANT LIFE, BUGS & TREES. Oh – and the rivers are HUGE. After a 5 mile hike to the McKinley River, we headed back to camp to eat and relax and explore Wonder Lake.  After that, we walked to Reflection Pond. Total was 10.5 miles for the day I believe.


On Wednesday night we got our weather window when the haze began to clear around 9pm and Ben realized the mountain range was FINALLY coming into view!! Denali, formerly known as Mt. McKinley but always referred to as Denali in Alaska, came into view.  Approximately ONLY 1/3 visitors to Denali NP actually get to see Denali who stands at 20, 310 feet making her the tallest mountain in North America and technically the third most prominent mountain in the entire world (but arguably the most prominent in the world).  She creates her own weather and she’s often covered in clouds.


Ben when he realized the mountain was coming into view


The haze slowly fading so we could see her.


Meanwhile…. mosquitos were also coming out as the evening cooled. It was about 9:45pm at this time and the sun had not set



She’s a giant


Our view from our camp spot

What a wonderful evening we had watching Denali from about 9pm-11pm.  And then, the haze returned and she disappeared.  But we got our opportunity and were so thankful!

Thursday: We woke up really early and headed out on the first 0630am shuttle bus.  Time for the Alaskan coast! Our camper bus ride was quite entertaining! We saw more grizzlys & some caribou!



After getting back to the entrance to Denali National Park we retrieved our car and headed to get some coffee & some food!  Eating backpacker meals and snacks for three days is a bit rough.  We were ready for some real food (well, our options were somewhat limited, but it was better than eating dehydrated food out of a bag!) Hot dogs, hamburgers, fries and coffee.  And then, we drove to check into our Air BnB TINY CABIN in Moose Pass, Alaska which was nestled between Whittier and Seward.

Thursday night we went to dinner at Seward Brewing Company in Seward and then retreated to our little cabin.  Our tiny cabin was perfect and it was nice sleeping in a bed rather than on our sleeping pads in the tent.  Also, HELLO FIRST SHOWER SINCE MONDAY MORNING!

Friday:  This was my favorite day.  On Friday morning we packed up and headed out of our tiny cabin.  We went to Moose Pass to get breakfast. I had a reindeer sausage breakfast burrito. Yes, I actually ate it. Reindeer sausage is pretty good 🙂  Then, we headed to Whittier.

To get into Whittier you have to drive through the train tunnel. Basically, this means there is a tunnel that was built many years ago for a train to travel into Whittier. At some point, they decided to open up the train tunnel to vehicles. There is a meter and a pay station.  Cars pay the fee and then wait at a stop light for the train to pass through the tunnel.  Once the train passes through the tunnel, the light turns green and the cars can drive, on the train tracks, through the tunnel.  It’s a 2.5 mile tunnel designed to withstand 150mph winds and -40 degree F temperatures.  Let me tell you – it feels very weird being in a narrow train tunnel, on train tracks, in a vehicle.  But, we did it & came out on the other side of the tunnel to a small tiny coastal town called Whittier.

Once in Whittier we picked up snacks for our hike & then headed to the trailhead for the Portage Glacier Hike.  

Alaska is known for many things…. including beautiful glaciers & it was really important for me to see one!


We were fortunate to get a perfect glimpse into the rain forest that Alaska has.  Green, lush, wet and beautiful.

That night we headed to Alyeska, ate a good dinner, and then set up camp in between Alyeska and Whittier.  We had the pleasure of sharing a campsite with a wonderful family from Germany who we made friends with.  I will definitely contact them when I visit Germany later this year. It was our last night camping in Alaska… which was very bitter sweet.  The next day was our last full day in Alaska.

On our last day in Alaska we explored the Seward highway, spent the afternoon in Anchorage, went to Simon & Seafort’s for dinner (which was busy… but veryyyy good!) & then Ben packed up his stuff for spending the next two weeks in the bush with his dad, brother and nephew.  I flew home Sunday morning & Ben flew to Bethel and then to the bush on a small plane to begin his fishing trip on the river.


Our trip was perfect.  And I can’t wait to go back to Alaska! There is so much to see and do. We saw a tiny fraction of the state and it was BEAUTIFUL!  My goal is now to obtain my RN license in the state and then take a travel assignment there for a summer. If you like wilderness…. it’s a paradise 🙂

Hut Trip #2 ReCap ~ A quiet dream

There is this place in Colorado I had never been. I’d never even heard of it.  It’s called State Forest State Park & the beautiful Nokhu Crags exist there. Nokhu Crags is a rock formation and mountain summit of the Never Summer Mountain range in the rocky mountains of Colorado.

Ben and I were into our first month of dating but since things were going so well we decided to book a trip away to a hut.  It was the end of January and both of us were craving another trip.

My previous post  describes my first hut trip of the season where I met Ben.  Since our first hut trip was so special we wanted to visit another.  This time, we picked a smaller hut with Never Summer Nordic Huts & Yurts. So you’re aware – they have a ton of availability throughout the winter and summer months.

Ben did the research and booked us two nights at the Nokhu Hut.  It was only a 1.5 mile snow shoe in from the parking area so it was perfect for just the two of us with our heavy backpacks.  Ben’s was the heaviest, I’ll add, since he didn’t want me carrying that heavy of a pack.  Such the gentleman…. even though I have carried my fair share of packs well before meeting him 😉  I must say, he spoils me.  And though I like to be tough and carry my own weight in my back…. it’s kind of nice to be spoiled.

Prior to driving to the trail head, I had worked the two nights before. I worked an overnight and headed straight home.  Ben picked me up and we headed out. I knew I was going to be exhausted hiking in. Luckily it was shorter and since Ben did carry more than half of the weight, I was okay with hiking in on exhaustion. Once at the hut I could nap all I wanted. We had no plans.

Below: Here is the route to our hut from the parking lot.  As you can see, we would be surrounded by beautiful scenery.



Near the beginning of the trek


Starting off…


We had some fresh ski & snow shoe tracks to follow


Ben leading the way


Our hut is somewhere around here…. look how much snow they had recently!!!




Porch, Snow shoes, Animal safe food storage



View from our hut




Inside of the hut.  It can sleep up to 6.


Posted on the hut wall?


Gotta love an outhouse! This outhouse has two stalls. It is shared with the neighboring Agnes Creek Hut.

Our time at the hut was spent relaxing, making food, lounging, watching a couple of movies on my iPad and hiking to the lake closest to our hut.  It was a cold and snowy trip. It was BEAUTIFUL and a rare area of Colorado that is quiet and relatively free of people.  We absolutely loved it.  We seriously cannot wait to go back this summer.  The Nokhu Crags are absolutely beautiful!!!


Trying to take a picture of us together while setting my phone on top of snow…. it got foggy


Ben exploring the Crags


Ben hiking up to glissade down


Beautiful Lake!!!




Ben made us duck gumbo.


Dinner for two 🙂


How interesting…. Neptune? We have the same favorite mountaineering shop. He wore this shirt the first weekend we met….. he definitely sparked my interest with that!


Nokhu Hut! This stove had no trouble at all heating up the hut.


Our little hut!


The hike out 🙂


Beautiful area!


Day 3


Hiking out….


Views from Day 3

We absolutely loved this trip.   We seriously cannot wait to go back this summer.  The Nokhu Crags are absolutely beautiful!!!

Hut Trip #1 ReCap! I wanted to do hoodrat stuff with my friend(s)…

Okay, it was only partially hoodrat.  Or minimally? But have you seen that video on Youtube of the kid who talks about just wanting to do some hoodrat stuff with his friend? If not, you must google “Hoodrat stuff kid” or something similar so it pops up and you can watch it.  Hilarious.

Anyway, the hut trip was probably more so hoodrat to Jason, Dave and Ben because of their alcohol intake at high altitude (did you know if you drink at high altitude, it hits you a lot quicker and harder?), but hey, they all came out good friends because of it 🙂  I guess you had to be there to understand.

I’m about four months behind on this post so hang in there! Let me remember how it all went down…

In December a bunch of my favorite people and I spent a very, very cold weekend in a hut outside of Leadville, Colorado.  

If you don’t know what a hut is: http://www.huts.org/


^ The 10th Mountain Division Memorial Hut ^

I think we started planning the hut trip back in September or something.  When booking a hut, on a weekend, with the 10th Mountain Division, you have to book very far in advance.  Luckily in September, despite being way late already (dates for the 2017-2018 winter season are already available right NOW!) I was able to find us an available weekend at the 10th Mountain Memorial Hut.  I recruited some friends and we reserved our spots.

As the weekend approached the weather wasn’t looking good. Or, was it? It was going to snow. A lot.  And it was going to be negative degrees.  Snow on a hut trip is good!  Most of the time.  It can also be dangerous and a lot of hard work if there is too much of it.  For those of us able to leave on Friday morning it worked out really well. We had to drive in snow, which came with two car fulls of us driving off the road on the way there (and the truck I was in having to be dug out & pulled out), but we eventually all made it to the trail head safely (some of us – aka me and Chris – only 2 hours late!).


That drive to the trail head, though!

Seven of us started off on the hike in to the hut together.  We were able to drive closer than we thought to cut down our hiking time, so I think we ended up snowshoeing in 3.4 miles.  It took a while as we were post holing some of the way (post holing is when you trudge through fresh snow, creating a trail.  It’s hard. And exhausting).


Beautiful snow shoe in!


Taking a breather


My hiking buddies


Making progress!


Rachel and I were the only girls for Friday and almost all of Saturday until Shawn arrived later that night with the Saturday group!

We reached the hut in the dark and it was snowing pretty steadily by then.  The wind had also picked up. We were so, so glad to reach the hut that Friday night.  Others in our group weren’t so lucky.  Jason and Kevin snowshoed in late Friday night before the storm really picked up.  So did Chris B, from a different trail head.  He had to post hole most of the way – not fun.  But the people who had to come on Saturday? Not only did they deal with a TON of snow on the highway which made the 2.75 hour trek to Leadville much longer, but they had to trudge through allllllll new fresh snow, making for a full day of misery just to get to the hut, spend a night, and head home.

Note: If you’re doing a hut trip, don’t go for anything less than 2 nights. It’s not really all that worth it if your trip is in the winter. Snowshoeing with a heavy backpack on is HARD.  Snowshoeing with a heavy backpack while it’s snowing, cold and windy? Misery. Really.

Friday night, for those of us who were there at a decent hour, was a lot of fun.  We were able to warm up eventually after getting the fire going and drying our bodies.  Our hut was roomy and comfortable.  We chatted. I met Ben (Side note: Ben, as mentioned previously, is my boyfriend. We met on this trip!) We made dinner. We drank some hot chocolate, or Bourbon, or Rumpleminze. Or all?


On the hut wall. Put your phones up and enjoy the place.  We did have cell phone service much of the trip much to our surprise.


Hut common area. The wood burning stove was amazing! Kept us warm!  The big pot on top of it? It contains snow which we collected and melted. It is where we got our water for the weekend…


So happy to be at the hut, warming up!


Jason & Ben both brought Bourbon.  Let the bromance begin…


Did I mention the bromance?


JD… always sportin’ the lei on adventures

Saturday we explored the area a bit on our snow shoes.  It was so cold. So So cold. It didn’t get very high above 0. I think maybe it got to 9 degrees, but that’s pushing it.  We spent some time outside until we were so cold we just wanted to be back inside.

We lounged around in the hut, made food, played cards, talked. We enjoyed a beautiful sunset!!!


The guys admiring the sunset


Just look at it… Sunset from the 10th Mountain Division Memorial Hut

That night the rest of our group joined us and it was nice to eat pizza that the group made, play cards, drink and laugh while keeping warm.  It was well below zero that night.  The treks out to the outhouse were just about the coldest treks of my life 🙂


Chris making one of the pizzas


Half of the group hanging out


Did I mention it got REALLY COLD OUT on Saturday night?

Sunday morning we made breakfast, packed up, cleaned up and headed out.  It was absolutely beautiful outside.


Beautiful Pano from the hut’s deck


The trek out


Oh look, it’s me and Ben! I think he asked me out the very next night? Maybe 2 nights later. But he didn’t waste any time 😉


Hut tripping with friends is SO MUCH FUN!  I can’t wait for our next trip!!! If you haven’t been on a trip with us…. you should probably join next time!

Stay tuned for the second hut of the winter season…. just Ben and I headed to the Nokhu Crags with Never Summer Nordic in January! 

Utah Trip | Bryce Canyon National Park (Part 2)

Continued from my previous post Utah Trip | Zion National Park (Part 1) 

After spending three nights in & around Zion National Park, we headed about an hour away to our home base for exploring Bryce Canyon National Park.

On the way there, we drove through a couple of tiny, TINY, towns.  One place had a sign that said something about homemade pie…. so we stopped and picked up two slices of apple pie with rum caramel sauce for later 🙂 We earned it!

The cabin was perfect!  It was quiet, clean and actually really impressive.  A modern yet rustic vibe.  Neat decorations.  Well built.  Perfect for two nights. We met the owners when we got there and they were friendly.  After days without showers we were finally happy to be able to get cleaned up and relax.

The next day we got ready and headed to Bryce Canyon National Park for the day.  We paid the $30 National Park entrance free, got a map, and picked an area to explore.  We decided to spend our time in Bryce Canyon hiking the easy Navajo Loop. To say it was beautiful and unique is quite the understatement.  We loved it.



After our 3+ mile loop in which we fully enjoyed the beautiful scenery, we decided to call it a day at Bryce Canyon.  Some day in the future I’d like to explore more but we’d been racking up the miles and were ready for a sit-down lunch and to relax for the rest of the night on our final night in Utah before the 9 hour drive back home the next day.  We left the Park and headed to lunch.

Photos belong to Ruby’s Inn: https://www.rubysinn.com/

Lunch was at Ruby’s Inn Restaurant.  If you’re heading to Bryce this is an excellent spot to be aware of… It has a restaurant with two salad bars, a buffet, regular menu items AND it is a hotel, has a gift shop and most importantly for us – a small grocery store & all purpose hiking/camping store.  We picked up tortillas, cheese, chips & salsa to make dinner back at the cabin.  Perfect.

That night we relaxed, cooked our dinner, ate that delicious pie we’d picked up the day before and watched a movie because much to our delight (well, mine!), the cabin had a Tv and Netflix which came in very handy for our final night.  I was exhausted and wanted nothing but a couch, dessert and a movie.

The next day, Tuesday, we drove back to Colorado.  We stopped in Grand Junction for some much craved Mexican food at Rio Cafe & made it home to the dogs before dark.  What a wonderful trip Utah was!  Thanks to Tyler for dog sitting my best friends, to Ben for planning most of our trip and for letting me listen to 90’s Pop songs and way too much John Mayer on the way back. I can’t wait for the next road trip!


Utah Trip| Zion National Park (Part 1)

A week or so ago I was able to spend several days exploring Utah.  I had driven through Utah plenty of times while making my way to and from California but had only spent time on the highways or in hotels around Salt Lake City.  I love in-state trips in Colorado but it’s still cold off and on at lower elevation and the high country still has plenty of snow and is way too cold for me for exploration that includes camping.  So, we headed to Utah!

Our plan included driving to Springdale, Utah on Thursday, camping on BLM land and heading to Zion National Park on Friday morning for two nights and three days of back country camping before heading towards Bryce Canyon National Park and staying in a cabin for two nights.  Ben had obtained a back country permit for us and we were planning on backpacking the East Rim Trail.

We did camp on BLM land on Thursday evening.  Prior to finding our spot, we stopped in Springdale at the Sol Foods grocery store and picked out sandwiches and a cheese & meat tray. After, we followed the road to the BLM area where we were allowed to drive up the 4WD road (which was pretty bumpy and crazy, I might add) and pick out a spot.  Our view for Night #1 was not too bad:

The next morning we packed up and left for Zion National Park.  It’s $30 now, per vehicle, to enter the park.  We obtained our back country permit at the Visitor’s Center and drove to the trail head.  In the busier and warmer months, which normally starts in late March and goes into late fall, Zion National Park’s main canyon road is closed to all cars unless you are staying at the lodge in the Canyon and are given a Red permit to drive to/from the lodge.  All other traffic MUST take the free shuttle that stops at 6-7 different stops in the Canyon.  Our trail head was not in the canyon, it was up and around the canyon, so we were able to drive to the trail head and park there.  We began our hike with our backpacks, plenty of sunscreen because it was really hot, and a lot of excitement!

The East Rim Trail reminded me much of a hike I did in California in August 2015 with my dad and his wife, Linda, to Winnemucca Lake. This hike was not as pretty, but kind of similar intermittent forest & desert terrain.  The beginning of the hike included much more dessert-like hiking.  Red rocks, a lot of dirt and sand and being able to see Canyon views.  Once we hiked about 4.5-5 miles or so we reached the top of the Mesa and the terrain changed.  We were on top of the Mesa which meant it was foresty (Excellent word choice, I know) with Ponderosa Pine trees, plenty of bushes, many deer and colder temperatures because of the elevation gain.  Some mud, some snow patches but because of such abnormally warm March temperatures, almost all of the snow on the East Rim had already melted.

To be honest, we were not expecting quite a change in scenery from the desert we had trekked to Utah for….  the pictures we viewed of the East Rim Trail were different from what we were seeing as the online pictures must have been from the other side of the East Rim, which we were planning on getting to the next day.  Most importantly and not to our favor, we learned at the Visitors Center that we were only allowed to camp ON the Mesa, meaning no camping with desert views or near the Canyon.  As much as we both remained optimistic….. we were a bit bummed.

After 6+ miles of backpacking, we found a spot near a spring so we could collect water and we set up camp.  That night we made dinner – backpacker meals using the jet boil, drank hot chocolate and camped under the stars.  It was COLD that night but the stars were plenty.

The next morning we decided to break our original plans and head back to the car.  We’d camp on BLM land again for the beautiful desert views and then explore Zion Canyon in the morning and hike Angel’s Landing.  Angel’s Landing is a strenuous hike that leads to incredible views.  We had researched the hike for a few weeks and were so excited!

Our trek back to the car was another 6+ miles.  By the time we reached the car we were hot, sweaty, exhausted, blistered and hurting.  Also, we met two college guys on the trail who asked for a lift back to the Visitor’s Center, so we had two extra people in the car for the 30+ minute drive back.  The trek back was tough but pretty and included deer, the canyon, the waterfall, the hot sun & heavy packs.


The drive back included seeing the above goats.  And me so thankful, but exhausted, after arriving to the car. Backpacking is no joke.

Once back in Springdale, the town outside of Zion, we went to the store again to wash up a little.  Thank you Lord for nice, clean public bathrooms 🙂 We grabbed some fire wood and some snacks and headed to the BLM land again to set up camp for the night. Our camp spot views were beautiful.

Ben made a fire. I read. We made dinner (backpacker meals with the jet boil!) and enjoyed our mildly warm night – MUCH warmer than the night before. It was also incredibly clear outside so we could see stars, relatively quiet on the BLM land despite being near the road and a great place to camp for free.

On our fourth morning we woke up and were sore, dirty and exhausted but determined to explore Zion Canyon and hike Angel’s Landing.  We headed back to Springdale.  We opted to enjoy a sit down breakfast and plenty of coffee at MeMe’s Cafe outside of the Park and see how we felt to ensure we really did want to go hike Angel’s Landing despite our blisters and messed up skin from the backpacking trip.

Angel’s Landing is a heavily trafficked, strenuous, 5 mile round trip trek with 1,488 feet of elevation gain.  After breakfast and relaxing we felt better and decided to go for it.  I bandaged up my toes (they were heavily blistered) and we headed back into the Park, parked at the Visitors Center and caught the shuttle which took us throughout the Canyon to The Grotto, which is the stop for the Angel’s Landing trail head.  We started our hike.

The first couple of miles are paved. Switchbacks.  Much of the area is exposed to sun and it’s hot.  There were a TON OF PEOPLE.  I’m not a fan of many people on the trail so this was a bit annoying for me.  On one hand, I am happy to see people out exploring our National Park’s.  Id so much rather see kids out on their spring break enjoying our National land’s than sitting on a beach or playing video games or sitting in a theater. There is nothing wrong with any of that – but I’d rather see them outside exploring our beautiful country.  On the other hand, I am a hiking snob and want the trail to be less packed.  I enjoy the quietness of nature.  This was not quiet.  This trail was extremely busy.


When we got to the scariest part of Angel’s Landing, I freaked out a little bit.  If you don’t know… I am terrified of heights.  To the point where many times I cannot complete certain hikes because I shut down.  Many people say they’re terrified of heights.  But they keep going and they finish their hike.  My fear is so bad and so irrational that it literally causes me to get so anxious that I have to stop and turn back.  This has been a problem of mine for years and while I’ve gotten better with managing the fear and can often continue on my hikes, I still have days were I am so scared that I stop, anxiety takes over, and I HAVE to turn back.

For 20 minutes I sat on a slope and contemplated whether or not I could complete the Angel’s Landing hikes.  The drop offs were steep.  There were poles with chains on the sides of the ledges in which we could hold on to while hiking the steepest, scariest parts.  But there were so many people that I felt very uneasy.  SO MANY PEOPLE.  I mean, thousands.

Ben was patient, and kind, and waited until I made my decision.  Eventually, after going back and forth with my decision….. we started the trek towards the top of Angel’s Landing.


This, above, is the ridge we walked along.


Ben, with the hike behind him.


We made it!!! Views from the top 🙂


Above is Ben heading back down.

Above is a picture of us with the Angel’s Landing ridge and the top of Angel’s Landing behind us.  Below is me on the way up.  So steep.


In this next picture of Ben, if you look closely, you can see a major part of the trail where there are the chains for safety down the steep, narrow part.  And, of course, you can see the drop offs.



We made it back down to the shuttle.  We were hot, tired, dirty, sweaty, hungry….. but we felt accomplished.  What a hike!  We got back on the shuttle, rode to the Visitors Center, got the car, went back into Springdale to grab so groceries and then started out trek to the cabin where we’d spend the next 2 nights while exploring Bryce Canyon National Park.

Zion National Park is unparalleled in it’s unique beauty! I can’t wait to go back and explore more of the Park.