Arches – pretty but crowded.

Besides being a beautiful course, a major reason I wanted to run the St George Marathon was so I could work in some parks before and after. Over the years, I’ve visited many of Utah’s phenomenal vistas, but I still wanted to cross off a few “biggies” from my wish list. The ironic thing about Utah is that you are never done; its crayon-box landscapes and special, secret places leave you hungry for more. Now, I want to return, stay in one area and do some serious, focused hikes.

On traveling solo

I made this road trip alone – flew into Salt Lake City, rented a car and basically drove around the state clockwise. Every time I travel solo, it worries my family. Friends often ask “Aren’t you afraid to travel by yourself?”

My first solo trip was in 1987. I was 23 – more than half my life ago, and long before Eat, Pray, Love was even a twinkle in Elizabeth Gilbert’s financial projections. I spent 3 weeks in France, arriving on a backpacker flight. I stayed one step up from hostels, in unintentionally shabby-chic hotels that cost $10-15 a night. Shared bathrooms. Creaky stairs. Cracked café-au-lait cups and receptionists. I could practically feel Charles Baudelaire’s spirit lurking in the peeling, baroque wallpaper. I made bread-and-cheese sandwiches in my room and noshed on apples from the street markets. Then with a full belly and open heart, I wandered the maze of streets until nightfall I had found Paradise, and I was hooked.

A few years later, I drove the four corners by my myself (Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona), and I’ve been at it ever since, going as far as China toute seule. Who knows where I’ll head next?

I’ve traveled to more than 30 countries with my ex-hubby who remains one of my closest friends. More recently, I’ve traveled nationally and internationally with now-ex-boyfriends and with my best friend, Pam. These trips have been fun and rewarding in different ways. But the allure of traveling solo is a unique experience everyone should embrace at least once.

Being anonymous and out of context is a grounding sensation. Without the percussive narrative of your daily life forcing a prescribed beat, a quiet slowness settles in and your senses become magnified. In Arches, I ventured off on a rare isolated trail. The landscape was utterly quiet; the sand crunching under my hiking boots was the only sound. I was startled at one point to hear a raven cawing in the distance. It felt as interruptive as hearing a siren blaring on my city street.

You are the only person you know on the road, so you listen to yourself.  You eat what you want. Stop where you want. Linger when you want. Drive by what you want. You experience true silence and stillness. You wake in the morning and fall asleep at night deliciously in your own skin, with deference to no one.

Am I afraid to travel alone? Sometimes. But fear will keep you on the couch in your living room. I’d rather get out, experience the world and run marathons, than sit inside and watch a Netflix marathon. Not much scares me about traveling by myself – unless I watch too many gratuitous episodes of 20/20. Using common sense and being prepared helps, but there is always an element of risk.  Everything you have always wanted is on the other side of fear.

Without further ado, here are some shots from my trip. To see more, check out my Instagram page.

 Canyonlands – my favorite national park so far. and I hardly got to see much of it. This section is called “Islands in the Sky.”

 Dead Horse Point. A small gem.  That’s the Colorado River, carving out the canyon.

 Capitol Reef had been on my wish list for awhile.

 Wire Pass, a slot canyon in Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness/Escalante Grand Staircase. Doing this hike the day after the marathon was not ideal.  My quads were aching which really affected my range of motion.

 A hike in Salt Lake City. This was a bit of culture shock to me.  After trekking solo in uncrowded conditions elsewhere in Utah – just me, the ravens and the coyotes – this path was overrun with perfectly coiffed, 30-something housewives, walking designer dogs en masse while wearing the latest Lululemon gear. to be fair, it is absolutely their turf and not mine, and The fall palette was gorgeous. But still, every experience is relative.