A bump in the road woke me up from my nap in the car. As I slowly come back around, I realized from the different terrain that we were no longer in Moab. Now, we were driving through the desert in a landscape that looked simply jurassic. I had flown to Salt Lake City a few days earlier to embark on the Mighty 5 Tour with Southwest Adventure Tours. Zion, Bryce, Capitol Reef, Arches, and Canyonlands are the five iconic national parks that make for a perfect week-long trip through the state of Utah.
Our 10-person group actually did the trip backwards, beginning in Canyonlands and Arches National Park before driving through Capitol Reef and traversing south until we hit Bryce National Park and Zion National Park before heading back to Salt Lake City. I hadn’t travelled like this before. Typically I travel with a small group of friends or, sometimes with only my camera. In recent years, Alex and I have also taken a liking to guided private tours for just the two of us and our crazy demands to see sunsets and sunrises. But a small group tour for 6 days, including hours spent in the car together as we drive across Utah - it was a first.
In addition to myself, the group consisted of 3 Canadians, two best friends, a couple of international exchange students, and a pair of endearing grandparents who were checking Utah off of their bucket list. This line reads like the introduction to a Hollywood comedy, but for 1 week, this group of people became my travel family. Somehow, this unlikely all over survived the trip with only minor bruises and beautiful memories.
When you meet a fellow traveler, it’s an unspoken social custom to share your stories of the road. Over lunches and dinners, I learned about the Canadians’ hiking trip to Guatemala a few years before, grandma and grandpa had vacationed in Egypt and Israel, and the exchange students had taken a summer in college to backpack in Southeast Asia. These conversations were always followed by questions about possible future trips, and exchanging ideas for how we could use our next vacation days to our advantage. Between chats, I instinctively reach for my passport and pat the pocket to check that it’s there. Over long drives between parks, we learned about the each other’s families, childhoods, and love for adventure. Not before long, I was looking through photos of family members on smartphones.
|An incomplete group photo.|
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Disclaimer: I was invited to join the tour as a guest of Southwest Adventures, but all opinions written, friendships made, and knees scraped are my own.