It wasn't the clean air or the clear starry sky nights that were the most nourishing. It wasn't the fact that I got to spend 5 days camping with my best friend or that I hiked on smooth flat rock with gorgeous views that made me feel alive.
All of those things made my heart sparkle and glow.
But what surprised me the most was the quiet. The stillness.
It was startling in a way to be in complete soundlessness. I had forgotten about being out in the middle of nowhere how quiet life can be.
I realized that living in a city or town, the sounds from the freeway are running in the background, even though for me, my house is nowhere near the freeway.
It was the stillness and deep quiet without the background noise that soothed me the most.
Canyonlands with Dear Friends
We started in Canyonlands, Utah, with 5 other couples. Now a delightful annual affair, we hiked, ate together, talked and laughed, did yoga up on a rock, and listened to Dave Van Manen play his guitar, Helene Van Manen singing with him while looking up at the dark night as stars and planets began to appear and pop into our vision.
It made me happy and I knew right away that my body was restoring, rejuvenating, and healing.
This is the beauty of being in nature.
There is nothing quite like being out under the stars and seeing the Milky Way and the Big Dipper.
Exploring Arizona, Utah, and Nevada
My husband and I traveled south as we left the group and headed into Northern Arizona and the Vermillion Cliffs National Monument. We camped on BLM land and set up with our pop-up tent. We now can go practically anywhere since Thom outfitted the truck to go into the backcountry.
And that's what we did. We went into places where there was no one else.
The next day we ventured into a magical, truly unique place in the world. White Pocket in the Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness, Arizona, is a remote sandy area 20 miles in with only 4-wheel drive access.
It wasn't easy to get there with the deep red sand. We let the air out of the tires so that the truck could glide over the sand. Even then it was a bit dicey. White Pocket is a hard-to-reach patch of Navajo sandstone that features colorful and unique rock formations
It was scary at first but like most adventures, you feel the fear of the unknown and after a while when nothing bad happens, you realize you're not going to die. It took a couple of hours of driving through the sand to get there.
When we arrived, it took our breath away. OMG.
We walked out onto the landscape of deep red ridges and white rock formations that looked like rising Parker house dinner rolls. No kidding, it was the craziest thing.
It was unlike anything I've ever seen. We spent hours walking around the swirling, layers of contrasting colored rock and wave-like formations. Magical. Surreal, Majestic. It was definitely a moment of wonderment.
We found a place to camp where someone else had camped before us...a rule that when you're dispersed camping, you don't want to create any new spaces to honor the land and go where someone else has been, not create new paths.
After dinner, we hiked to the mountain that was our view from the truck. We slept under starry skies.
More canyon adventures
Another adventure led us into Peek-a-Boo slot canyon. We had been through Antelope Canyon near Page, AZ, on a guided tour but we had heard that Peek-a-Boo was more challenging to get to and that we could go on our own.
We aired the truck tires down after nearly getting stuck in the deep sand. We kept going in even deeper sand when we were stopped because the vehicle in front of us was blocking the road, completely mired down in the sand. Thom jumped out of the truck to help them. An hour later, we were able to get them unstuck. A few minutes later they had driven on the wrong path which faced a cliff below. They had to back up in order to get on the right road.
Thom was able once again to get them out of trouble so we all proceeded to the slot canyon together.
Peek-a-Boo did not disappoint. It was tight and beautiful and carved out by years of rain and wear on the rocks.
Suddenly we heard thunder. I saw lighting and my heart stopped as I knew that you never want to be in a flash flood in a slot canyon just like this could sweep you away in the blink of an eye.
We had no business in there so we got out as fast as we could before the rain started.
We aired the tires back up and drove to nearby Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park in Utah to see what the dunes were like. Actually, they looked red to me, not pink but we got out and walked on the sand.
The sand felt warm on my feet and again, all was quiet with a gorgeous background.
We passed a sign on the road for the Maze Rock Petroglyphs. We were the only ones making the 1-mile hike there but it was fascinating to see the wall drawings of ancient Puebloan Indians.
I wondered what the symbols meant, who the people were that carved them into the wall, and what their lives were like. I wondered how they would fit into our lives and knew I imagined would suffer greatly if I had to fit into theirs.
We had more adventures on the way home, camping on BLM land in Nevada near Tonapah and then driving home through Monitor Pass. There was deep snow and wild streams from melting snow and ice. We made it home in the same way we started...seeing snow and rain in May. So weird.
The best things I got from this trip
Being in nature is a healthy elixir for your mind and your heart.
It's as if the mountains, the air, the sky, and the beauty of the place remove any stress and gobble it up. Any worries evaporate in the beauty of nature.
The stillness calms your nervous system. It frees you of having to think, to do. It can be such a salve for your soul.
I had more new ideas and thoughts that came to me on this trip. And it didn't happen right away. It took some time to let go and just be in the moment. I wasn't distracted by screens or by things I think I "have" to do. There was time to just be to sit and ponder the next steps of my life... a luxury that most don't create for themselves.
You will be uncomfortable at times. There isn't always running water. There isn't a way to wash your hair and there aren't warm showers and you will definitely feel dirty. It's messy. And wonderful.
Everyone can't go to the places we went. But You can still go for a walk. You can open your windows and you can manifest the trip of your dreams.
When you take care of yourself in this special way, you have fun, lots of it.
Focusing on what's important
Being in nature helps you remember what's important in life. How is it that I want to live my life now? Am I making the most of my time here? What is my purpose? These are the questions that always come to me as I'm hiking or looking up at the blue skies.
When you're free of the internet, the constant doing, and the screens, your brain has a chance to rest. When there's nothing to think about except why the rocks are the color or size that they are you can truly relax.
Being in nature, your brain is able to reset its neurotransmitters.
Being in nature gives you peace of mind. It clears out all the doubts, the overthinking, the comparing yourself to others, the people pleasing and it frees you up to just be you.
Over to you:
Take some time to be in nature today. Go for a walk, sit in your backyard, and listen to the birds. See if you can find stillness. Find a way to be outside and in the present moment.
Fall is a time for us to slow down, to ground ourselves and to nourish our bodies. This retreat is designed to help you stop and listen to what it is you need right now. It's a fun and restorative weekend with mindfulness exercises, morning yoga, an online cooking class with the fabulous Chef Bai, healthy recipes to try at home, meditations and group calls to connect you with other women.