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Maria Scheller / Her Campus

A Week Out West

When my friend Abbey randomly texted me on a Tuesday afternoon weeks before spring break saying, “Spring break, road trip out west?” the obvious answer was yes. My original plans for spring break had just fallen apart, and I was yearning for new experiences. She came over that evening to plan the trip with me, and after hours of back and forth, we ultimately settled on flying to Arizona, renting a car and making our way through Utah and Colorado with lots of camping and hiking in between. A couple of days later, she asked if it was fine for her friend to join, a friend that I had only briefly met once, Hunter. I agreed, and then later ended up bringing along my roommate and best friend, Cypress. 

During the weeks leading up to the trip, I was both excited and nervous. I knew that this trip would present many challenges, including that I was unfamiliar with how my group would travel together. Traveling is often the true test of many relationships and friendships, and I was worried that we did not all know each other well enough to make good travel companions. I was also worried about the physical challenges of this trip, knowing we would be waking up early and hiking for hours most days, only to return at night to sleeping bags for the night’s rest. A few days before we were to fly out, my roommate and I were panicking, realizing that we were neither mentally nor physically prepared. We had barely packed, the weather reports were dropping every day with nightly lows now at 8 degrees Fahrenheit, and the idea of being on our own in the wilderness with rattlesnakes and scorpions nearby was just settling in. Everything will be fine, we kept telling ourselves. Whatever happens, it will make a good story. 

We pushed past challenge number one on the second day of the trip. We were in Sedona, and the weather was gloomy. We decided to hike Cathedral Rock anyway, and on our ascent to the top, it started raining, then hailing. The rain was causing little waterfalls on the rocks we were climbing up, making everything wet, cold and slippery. We contemplated if the hike was now dangerous and whether we should turn back or not. Abbey was adamant about continuing, though, so we all followed. Thoughts of pneumonia and slipping and falling to my death were crossing my mind, but I shoved them aside and enjoyed the view instead. 

When the rain slowed, I allowed myself to periodically stop and marvel at everything around me during our climb. Being from Florida, the scenery there was nowhere near what I was used to. The bright orange sandstone was almost other-worldly. Eventually, we made it to the very top and to the best view of Sedona, just as the skies were clearing. We found a little crevice on the edge of the formation to sit on and basked in the view while singing any sun songs we knew such as, “You Are My Sunshine” and “Here Comes the Sun,” before the sun finally peaked out from behind the clouds. At that moment, I felt a huge wave of gratitude and decided that I would push myself as far as possible during this trip. 

There were many more challenges before we got to Utah, but we conquered them all fearlessly. Our first challenge in Utah was at Angel’s Landing, which is known as one of the most dangerous and difficult hikes in America. There have been over 14 deaths on that hike in the past 20 years, so it was not a hike to take lightly. After the switchback portion of the hike, I was exhausted and having difficulty breathing due to the altitude, but I was still persistent and wanted to push through it. When we got up to the first dangerous portion of the hike (where you are walking along a narrow cliff holding onto only a metal chain), Cypress started to panic. She was not sure about continuing after seeing how sketchy the trail appeared. I was able to convince her to move forward and overcome her fear, though I was a little fearful myself. We ended up going as far as we could but had to turn around before making the final trek because the trail was covered in ice, and we did not have the proper shoes to prevent us from slipping. I am proud of us for how far we made it on that hike, but also extremely proud of us for putting our egos aside and turning around when it was too dangerous. Many people have lost their lives on that hike, and we were smart to not put ourselves in a position to suffer the same fate. 

When I returned home on Friday night, I nearly collapsed into my bed, thrilled to turn off all of my 5 a.m. alarms. Although the sights were worth waking up early for, I did not mind designating a day to sleep in till 2 p.m. As I reflected on the trip, I realized that I pushed myself more than I ever thought I would and learned so much from this experience. I was forced to problem-solve, innovate and push my body and mind beyond what I thought possible during this trip. I got to connect with nature and learn about myself and my friends on a deeper level. I was not very close with Abbey and did not even know Hunter. Cypress was not friends with either of them either, but after spending a week together on the road, we all certainly developed a strong connection that will always be there. 

Elysia is a features writer at Her Campus UFL with a major in Economics and minor in Business Administration. Her interests include writing, traveling, yoga, and reading.
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