Let’s Hit the Road, Mack

By Tanner Wilson and Mackenzie Harder

       It’s a flick of the wrist every time a vehicle passes by to turn off your high beams. It’s a tent set up in the stark of night that reveals a stirring peak at dawn. It’s a can of chili boiling over on a fire pit grate. There exists a longing for these sensory experiences while stuck in the daily humdrum of routine. You’re reminded of what is truly essential when your only preoccupation is getting over that next ridge or finding a clearing horizontal enough to pitch your tent to avoid a back ache the following morning.

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     Evading the bustle of our lives as students in San Diego often leads to retreats in national parks both nearer and further than we anticipate. After a collaboration over coffee and Google Maps, only the open road and a few gas stations lie between us and our next adventure. Over the course of the last year, we had the privilege of roaming through eight of America’s national parks during any spare moments we could clump together. We’ve driven thousands of miles to visit parks like Death Valley, Yellowstone, Zion, Bryce Canyon, and Joshua Tree just to name a few. These phenomenal places set aside for recreation and wilderness are equivalent to Disneyland for any outdoor enthusiast, and they are just a Parks Pass away.

     One of our favorite trips this past year was in our own backyard. Growing up in Arizona, we have both stood amazed at the Grand Canyon’s rim numerous times. But, what is truly special lies far below the guard rails. From the rim, the raging waters of the Colorado beckoned us to stand on its sandy shores 5,000 feet below. Permit in hand, we descended into a playground of relentless switchbacks and wall hugging pathways to finally stand level with the Colorado River and strain our necks to see the snowy rim where we once stood. Our campsites, wedged between dramatic canyon walls, provided easy access for naps beside the river and photo opportunities aplenty. After a restful few days exploring the nooks and crannies along the canyon floor, we didn’t think anything could be as breathtaking as the inner canyon until we began our ascent back up to the South Rim…

     Debatably grander than the last park, the Grand Tetons proved to be the unexpected highlight of our late summer’s journey from San Diego to Yellowstone National Park. Backpacking up Death Canyon, through Alaska Basin and over Static Peak was filled with wildflowers, glacial lakes and Mackenzie breaking a rib. By taking frequent breaks for advil and for Tanner to get “the shot”, we were able to slow down and truly take in the extraordinary surroundings. Among the many highlights of our time in the Tetons were waking up on the backside of the Cathedral Group, swimming in glacial lakes, playing cards in our tent while avoiding the rain, and conversing with fellow backpackers about bears and life. 

     All in all, these trips in the midst of hecticness, offer respite from unwanted stress and packed schedules. When we spend time on the road or in the backcountry we find time to slow down, reset, and re-familiarize ourselves with one another. At the end of the day, what’s a few more miles on the odometer? 

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You can find more from Tanner and Mackenzie here @tannerwilson.film and @mackkharder