Friends walking through desert canyons

Looking Up


Contemplation and Discovery in Canyon Country

There's this idea out there, about conquering mountains, a certain terrain - perhaps by foot, maybe by bike. We see it in articles, social media posts, in our own retelling of an adventure.

But nature isn't something to be conquered. Fears, yes. Insecurities, bad habits, to-do lists. The last season of your favorite show. But the outdoors? Often in the wilderness what we find ourselves battling isn't the trail in front of us, but ourselves. Those things we tell ourselves when our feet are hurting, our packs heavy - that's what we work to overcome. And when we do, boy, does that other side of the hurdle feel good.

Because what you'll find there is that nature is to be loved, and respected, and cared for - and if you do those things, chances are it will care for you right back. It can take patience, understanding and cooperation. A reflection, perhaps, or our own relationship with ourselves.

At least that's what I kept finding myself thinking as I placed one foot in front of the other, the soft sounds of the world around us bouncing off the rocks and carrying us forward.

jumping in the desert


The sun was beating down on us as we began our 3-day trek into Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. Having flown in from Oregon and California respectively, and after spending the five days prior driving, hiking and camping all across Eastern Utah, this is what we had really come for – an escape to the wilderness, turned off and unplugged. Together.

Open road


Days earlier we had kicked off our trip in Salt Lake City. Initially destined for hot springs, the unexpected snow drove us to chase a different kind of heat a quest that led us camped on the edge of a cliff in Canyonlands, our tents secured by rocks as added protection from the wind that would ultimately keep us up through the night, whistling and moving around us as we laid still, untouched.

In the morning, delirious from exhaustion but giddy from our surroundings, we stood together looking down into the canyon below, yelling into the expansive depth and listening for our echoes, our voices repeated back to us.

Think for a moment. How often do you really hear your own voice? How often do you then listen to what's being said? It's easy for our voices, whether internal or projected, to feel lost in the world around us, or in our own clutter. In those moments, I highly suggest you yell into a canyon and remind yourself of the power you can project.

Shifting perspectives and locations, we found ourselves on the canyon floor, hundreds of miles away, weaving in and out of the cool, shallow waters as we followed the gulch, the canyon walls seeming to swallow us as they towered above. Vibrant green foliage pops against the red walls, made brighter by the clear, blue skies. The light and shadows chasing each other, creating a dance with no move the same.

We eventually found ourselves with our packs thrown to the side and our bodies blanketed in the soft, welcoming sand underneath Jacob Hamblin’s Arch, a spot we would then call our home for the next couple of days.


Sleeping in tent


Each night, the sounds of frogs vibrated through the canyon and nestled up against us. During the day, as one does when in a dream playground, we explored. While I often appreciate the solitude found in nature, this trip reminded me of the beauty of interactions with strangers on the trail. The excitement that comes with sharing something that feels like a secret. Hushed tones, sparkling eyes.

On our way into Coyote Gulch, we came across a couple. Upon telling us there are many petroglyphs and ruins to be found along the walls, the woman advised us:



“Keep looking up… that’s where the good stuff is.”

I left the canyon and I haven’t looked down since.

looking up through canyon


Photos by Jules Davies, Kate Rentz & Chelsea Parrett. Words by Sarah Lewis