In Search Of…: An Old Friend

Well, I made it. Sort of. Made it to the coast at least.

I was in Vancouver, Washington Sunday morning, sat in a coffee shop, planning my next moves. And the longer I sat there, the less I wanted to stay where I was. Which is a bit ironic.

I first got the itch for the west coast in college, when I visited Corvallis, Oregon. So, specifically, the Pacific Northwest. I love rainstorms, I love the mountains and trees, it’s perfect.

I know that I’ve grown and changed a lot over the last ten years, but I didn’t expect it to be this drastic in terms of things that I enjoyed. But it makes sense when I can pull myself back from it. When I visited the PNW last, I was a kid. I hadn’t been through any of my mental health issues (though it had started). And I loved to be miserable.

It sounds counterintuitive, but I was only happy when I was unhappy because misery was what I was comfortable in. I didn’t want to change, because change was scary. Fast forward ten years, and I’m just different.

I don’t want constant rainy days. I need the sun because it truly does help pull me out of those bad moods. The scenery, while gorgeous, became repetitive and by the time I got to California, I was over it.

But first, I had to get through Oregon. I drove straight through Portland. My experience in Seattle shook me, and honestly, I wasn’t ready for another big city. I made a stop in Salem for lunch, then headed west, through Corvallis and ended up in a town called Newport. It’s situated on the Pacific Ocean and was my first time seeing that ocean in person.

Oregon Coast Beach

I parked, made my way down to the sand and started for the water. I never had a plan, indicated by the fact that I still had my boots on, I just walked. As I got to the high tide line, I started taking my boots off. Again, no plan, just doing what felt right. I rolled my jeans up and walked straight into the tide. And I broke down.

I don’t know if it was just the symbolism of being on the opposite coast, experiencing something up close for the first time, or the fact that the ocean made my water-signed heart so happy, but it was a moment.

I’ve never associated with the ocean much. We went once when I was a kid, in Jacksonville, Florida. It was really overcast, I was afraid of basically all ocean life, and there was just nothing remarkable about it. It should be noted that it was the middle of winter when I went.

Oregon Coast Coral

But this experience made me question a lot. Why am I on this journey? What happens at the end of it? Do I just go back to living my normal, ho-hum existence, or do I find my next adventure? And how do I start making these experiences happen more regularly?

I’ve never doubted the trip. I’ve never been nervous. I’ve never been in awe of the trip or myself. All of this is because I’ve known from the beginning that this is where I’m supposed to be and when I’m supposed to be doing it.

Before this trip, the only thing that worried me was that I might get to the end of this and then there was just….nothing. Now, it doesn’t worry me because I believe I’ll know what my next adventure is at the end of it.

I headed down the 101 toward Redwoods National Park, and the drive further sank in my looming fit of depression. And the last, unanswered question came to me. What if I get to the end and there isn’t some enlightened sense of purpose? That there is just…nothing.

But I’ve found on this trip that when I interact with people, it pulls me out of the funk. And it’s really starting to sink in how much I value human connection. It’s hard for me to find people that I resonate with, but when I find those people, I need to maintain those connections and keep them healthy and strong.

I spent that night alone, at a blocked off rest stop. There were a ton of other people parked there, already tucked away for the night, and no WiFi signal to speak of.

When I woke up, I headed to Redwoods. And it was beautiful and amazing, though with the film of unease draped over it. I was blown away by the size of the trees. You truly can’t understand it completely until you see it in person. It was remarkable.

I didn’t stay long, though. I wanted to get to Sacramento at a reasonable time, and I was starting to feel that dis-ease permeating every bit of my body. The drive didn’t help a lot, but I feel myself pulling out of it a bit.

Generally, I am feeling a bit of apathy toward the trip. I’m not sure if it’s just a phase or a permanent feeling, but I’m emotionally and mentally exhausted. My sleep and body have held up much better than I thought they would, but with all the new experiences and exciting places, I thought I’d be happier. Hoping sometime in the sun will fix a lot of this. Lucky for me, I’m in the perfect place for it.

In Search Of…: Arches National Park

An update from the road!

I started yesterday morning in Moab, Utah, about 3 miles outside of Arches National Park. Moab is perfectly situated near the park, so I was able to get in early and beat some of the crowd. Prior to starting this journey, I had discovered a deal the National Parks Service had on its website. A year-long pass that will give you access to any National Park for a one-time cost of $80. Basically, if you’re going to visit more than two National Park’s in a year, it’s worth it to get the pass.

The pass gave me not only a much less expensive experience, but I was also able to essentially skip the line into the park. The entrances to the parks have several gates to pay at, and one to the side for pass holders. At Rocky Mountain National Park, it was just a swipe station with no attendant.

Arches Walkway

Once I was inside the park, I started the steep climb toward the main part of the park. And honestly, it was hard to focus on the road ahead of me. Even the beginning of my journey was unlike anything I had ever experienced. I had never been to the southwest, so it was a totally new experience.

I got farther into the park and couldn’t stop turning and staring at everything around me. I was in awe. In all of the planning of this trip, I knew I wanted to visit a lot of National Parks. I couldn’t anticipate how beautiful these places would be. I feel like I’ve said this many times over already, but pictures truly don’t do them justice.

After a few short stops in between, I made my way to the Delicate Arch Viewpoint. The trail was long and steep, which lead to a few nice conversations with fellow park goers. Most of us (myself included) were struggling up the path, which turned into discussions about what brought us there and where we were from. It was nice to have a group to share in the misery of climbing, and the beautiful views at the top.

Arches Arch

After, I was headed for the arches deeper in the park. I hiked the half-mile to the Broken Arch, and this was the part of my day that I resonated with the most. The arch was beautiful, but it was also here where I found a new bit of confidence, and a new mantra.

All through this journey, I’ve noticed a pattern of negative self-talk. If something goes wrong, I’m blaming myself. And while it’s not terrible or overt, it is toxic.

I’m learning to accept every part of me. Continuously beating myself up because I took a wrong turn or didn’t plan something right only leads to the negativity I’ve been trying so desperately to get away from. I’ve spent a lot of time cutting away the negativity in the forms of other people and experiences, but haven’t spent the same time removing it from myself. 

The more aware I become of these things, the more work I can put into correcting those negative patterns and grow. And important to that growth is understanding that if I do fail, it’s ok. Which is where my mantra came from.

“In all things, I did my best.”

I don’t think I’m the first person to have that thought, but it was the phrase that came to me while having this moment in the arch.

Following this moment, I was ready to exit the park. I had originally passed up The Windows on my way in but decided to make one last stop on my way out. It was clear that it’s proximity to the entrance, combined with it being later in the day, made this a popular part of the park. It was also the place with the highest congestion of arches.

Arches Selfie

A lot of visitors, including a school field trip, made for a lot of people to work around. And it was clear how impressive this part of the park was. Everyone was head in the clouds, in awe of how these magnificent bits of architecture could be naturally made. It was a very humbling experience.

After the Arches, I drove myself to Salt Lake City, roughly four hours away. Going to spend a couple days here, so I’m looking forward to slowing it down for a bit.