NOTE: This was a sponsored trip, however all reviews and opinions are my own.
I came home from my American Latino Expedition 2013 adventure a few days ago. The experience reminded me of taking a trip to another country (even though our experience was in my home state). You wait, count the days, anticipate, prepare the best you can, finally make it to the destination to find each day punctuated with a gasps of wonder. And then…it’s over. Before you know it, you’re home, back to the daily grind. Then you’re sad, because it sinks in exactly how special the experience really was. And you know it was a one-time deal, which makes it all the more special.
I did my best to savor every moment of every day, even the rough spots. Whoa, I’m such an emo whimp, tears are building in my eyes as I type this, lol.
I had no idea what to expect. None of us did. So to calm our nerves, we gave each other gifts before we even left for Glen Canyon. I silkscreened shirts, and Nicole put together snack bags for each of us. Comfort food, yummm. (Coming soon – a recipe for her fabulous Chocolate Chip Bacon Potato Chip Cookies!)
Once we flew into Las Vegas, were were met by Midy Aponte – she is the director and brainchild of this entire project! She surprised us and told us that she would be joining us.
You can read all about our arrival HERE.
You can read about the food we ate at the resort HERE.
The scenery was majestic – the view from our room looked like a painting, not real life.
The air was hot, but clean. Purifying! I shared a room with one of my besties, Denise from Pearmama.com. We’ve roomed together before and she is aware of my snoring, lol! The first morning, we had a breakfast call at 6:30, then we caught a boat that would go three hours through the canyon to take us to Rainbow Bridge. Glen Canyon is so huge that we started in AZ and ended in UT. Park Ranger Cindy was there for just us, and gave us a mini-lesson on the history.
She ended up helping in much more significant ways. All this time prepping for the trip, I was most worried about the kayaking. I had already lost 15 pounds and had been walking in two-miles spurts at home to get ready for the physical requirements. However, when we arrived to the starting point of the hike to Rainbow Bridge, the first thing I noticed was a steep hill of soft white sand. Park Ranger Cindy lent me her walking stick and I had no choice but to conquer it one step at a time. Every step, I was like “I HATE this.” Step. “I HATE this!” Step. That was because I chose to focus on the negative. Normally I’m so optimistic, people want to smack me. So I had met my match. Park Ranger Cindy helped get me to my happy place by making me stop to drink water while she pointed out the pretty flowers that had just bloomed.
It wasn’t all about the hike, the sun played a huge factor as well. I’d say it was close to 100 degrees. This hike challenged my every nerve, inside and out. I would have been crying if it weren’t for me needing my breath to keep moving. See my video plea here! It sure helped to have so much support from my teammates.
Finally, we turned a corner to see a bit of the bridge. Yup, that sneak peek alone was worth the hike. We carried on until we reached this shaded area where you could stop, take a break, or go on. By the time I reached it, my hands trembled, my knees quivered and I felt like I had to throw up. I leaned against a short rock and sent Patrick a text. The lady next to me chuckled and said, “Honey, you can’t text, there is no reception here.”
I sighed and shoved my phone in my bra. The rest of my team chose to go the rest of the way, so I hung out with some of the crew from the boat. I started to feel weepy and alone and like a loser. I knew I had to buckle up and get my act together. Just then I felt a buzz in my chi-chi. A text! It was Patrick! My text not only went through, but it also allowed him to send one in return.
LOL! His reply (the couple kissing) was just what I needed to get me though. Denise had a similar exchange with her husband too. I truly believe that the connection to our loved ones is so strong, messages can get through anytime, anywhere, you know? With or without his text, I would have made it through. But it’s always nice to get a little love from beyond, you know?
So, yup. I guess you could say I had a bit of a meltdown. The place is so spiritual, grand and beautiful – unbelievable, really, it breaks you down on so many levels. The bridge itself reminded me of something from the SciFi channel – like you walk through it to be transported into another dimension. This place has been here for so long, there are even dinosaur footprints! It’s proof that time passes, no matter what our struggles, the world around us continues to evolve. so we might as well make the most of while we are here!
After my ugly cry, the boat guy chatted with me to calm me down. I told him about another ‘smaller’ hike we had the next day. A Japanese lady next to me said, “Oh that hike is harder than this! Steeper, lots of up and down. Very hard!” At that point, I just pretended I didn’t hear her. The last thing I needed was something else to worry about!
We made our way down the hike, back to the boat. Exhausted, thirsty, hungry…but feeling sooo accomplished. When we boarded the boat, Midy handed us cool box lunches, which we gobbled down, followed by a nap until we reached the marina. What a day. And so much more to come!
After a shower and a micro nap, we were good to go for the evening’s agenda. OK – here is something goofy that happened. A couple things. When we got back to the hotel, I carefully removed my sneakers because they were filled with sand from the hike. I figured I’d dump them out later. Then I whipped off my socks. Turns out, all the sand had gathered inside my SOCKS, not my shoes, so I ended up with two piles of sand on the carpet in our room. I scooped them up and put them in a coffee cup to take home to use in a shadow box. Craft ideas never die, people!
Here’s another moment. I packed a LOT of clothing, not knowing what I would need. In fact, I took along most of my apparel from REI and Columbia. But, for some reason, I only took one bra. After hours of hiking and sweating in the sun, I decided to wash it in the sink to get it fresh for the fancy dinner were had that night. BAD idea. It was padded, and with no “spinning” feature like on a normal washer, it was a heavy mass of water. I tried everything to dry it in two hours – snapping in the air like a sheet, blow drying, even hanging it out the balcony (hidden from public view, of course). That sucker would not dry. What the heck was I going to do? Thank God, Denise had one for me to borrow. See why she is one of my besties? LOL. Now I know to ALWAYS bring extra bras! Sorry – TMI.
Next day – we ended up happily looking through a telescope at spots on the sun with Park Ranger Cindy. She gave us more history lessons about the canyon and we said our goodbyes to her. I gave her one of the silkscreen bandanas I made, so she would think of us every time she wiped sweat from her forehead!
Next we visited the Glen Canyon Dam and then kayaking!
Here is my blog post about that experience.
The next day, we woke up, knowing it was our last. We took a tour to Antelope Canyon, where our guide, Leonard, gave us a lot of insight on the land, the history and even photography tips. He told us, “At the Grand Canyon, you walk up and you say one big WOW. But here at Antelope Canyon, it is one WOW after another and another…!”
He was correct! As we walked through we could see so many shapes and profiles. Here is a shot that looks like a flame.
The peaceful feeling stayed with us and we piled in the SUV to drive four hours to the Las Vegas airport for home. Well, it kind of stayed with us. Time was short and we barely made our flights, but the race against the clock only added to the memories of this trip! Even harder than the hike, was saying goodbye to my teammates. Man, we had such a great time. We all saw things in each other that none of our other friends never did. Because we were all immersed in this once-in-a-lifetime excursion together.
I feel like this adventure really changed my life. I accomplished physical activities I used to laugh off. Thank God there were no cameras for my clumsy moments, there were plenty. But like we were saying on this trip – these challenges, they are not about weight or strength so much as they are about attitude and state-of-mind. You have to be willing to make sacrifices, push yourself, be confident and determined and be uncomfortable at moment in order to reach new levels.
Just like the big picture of life!
And because we didn’t have strong wi-fi, it taught me to disconnect from the Internet. It was difficult because I’m used to checking my phone all the time, but you know what? After a while you realize that the best signal is the one right before your eyes, or the person sitting next to you.
I hope this blog post inspires all of you to take a chance and something that you’ve always written off. Me and hiking? NEVER. Now, thanks to this contest, I can say YES!
If you are looking for a family or girls’ outing, I highly suggest visiting Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. I’ve never would have thought to visit here, even though it is in my own backyard of AZ. I have a lot of friends who visit there often and I never understood why until now. Not only is it breathtaking, but also rich in history. There are many mysterious legends, as well as facts that will make you want to explore the area even more. Not to mention the healing waters, the giant mesas and winding canyons.
I would love to thank Midy Aponte and her team from the American Latino Heritage Fund, Aramark Parks & Destinations, REI, Columbia Sportswear, the crew at Lake Powell Resort and Marinas and the National Park Foundation for making this trip happen! It was a huge undertaking for them, they received 53 applications from across the United States, and I’m so honored that our Latina Blogstars team was one of the three that were chosen! And for those of you who are interested in trying out for next year, Midy says she is already working up a bigger and better expedition – ALEx14!
Lastly, special thanks and glitter to my homegirls – Monqiue, Denise and Nicole. Thank you for inviting me to join your team to be a part of this project. Like Nicole would say, “We’ll always have Glen Canyon!” And much love to my family at home who encouraged me!
Love to all of you! May your kayak paddles of life never stop paddling!