Two Kentuckians, a Versa and an Open Road West , Part 1


YIKES, I’m TERRIBLE at being consistent with the whole blog thing.  I hear my writing is worth while but when push comes to couch, I choose couch; or the camera on my phone.  Either way, my thoughts get lost in the day to day  mundane tasks of adulthood.  But, not this time!  The trip I just returned from is worth being shared with my minuscule audience and if I’m at all engaging then maybe you will find the inspiration to get in your car and boil yourself in the Utah summer heat.

As a quick introduction/summary, Zachary and I drove across the wild west  in our very reliable Nissan Versa (seriously, this car can fit ANYTHING from full size wine barrels to an entire apartment worth of crud) across the great states of Oregon, Idaho and Utah to visit five state and national parks including Bruneau Dunes, Antelope Island, Capitol Reef, Bryce Canyon and Zion.  I collected pins for my pack from each place and now hold wildly different memories of each one, almost as if I visited different planets.  And now, lucky or bored soul, you are going to read about the most memorable parts.  Whee!!


Have you ever seen the movie, The Cell with Jennifer Lopez where she enters the mind of a little boy stuck in a coma?  Well his mind, for some strange reason is stuck in a desert of sand dunes and one lone tree.  This is what Bruneau Dunes looked like.  We arrived in Idaho to a mild temperature of 105 deg. F and felt the hairs on our arms start to melt off like little witches of the west.  Beyond our campsite, which was practically empty, were two brooding yet magnificent sand dunes; the tallest in the Continental United States.  We rested on top of a picnic table at our campsite and watched a sleeping night-hawk before embarking on our trek through the literal desert.  I’d never seen a sand dune in real life before so you will have to excuse my hang-over of giddiness when I tell you this:  IT WAS AN ACTUAL SAND DUNE, LIKE THE DUNES I’VE SEEN IN MOVIES; A REAL ONE!  The dunes come to a perfect point at their peak like some giant hands smoothed it out into a pristine mountain mo-hawk.  Shade hides one side while the sun dominates the other leaving this color contrast that made my mouth drop.  Holy shit, it was mesmerizing.  The other aspect that completely blew my mind was the way it just holds your weight.  I half expected my big butt to collapse the whole thing leaving me in the center like Ariel when Ursula traps her in the sea cyclone.  Obviously, I jest a bit but still it was a tad unnerving to trust your footing on the tallest pile of sand in the United States. At the top we ran into a self-described professional photographer called, Dave who graciously took some sunny photos of us and complimented Zachary’s Disney prince hair (his hair looks like Prince Charming from Shrek, only brown…it’s glorious).   From this vantage point we could easily see a calm lake, lush trees surrounding the lake and two much taller dunes than the one we currently stood (my grammar here is atrocious but roll with me; I’m no damn English teacher).  It.  Was.  Hot.  I was thinking we’d accomplished our hike for the day and a crisp cold beer was just within my reach when Zachary declared he must conquer the other dune and he must do it right now.  Shit.  It’s hot.

So we move slowly through the sandy trails among the trees to the base of the dune.  My mind is screaming at me, “Go back you dumb J-Lo wannabe; you can’t survive the desert!”  I ignore my angry movie-reference mind and follow Zack up the side of the dune only to be bombarded with another thought.  Everyone has seen that scene in Nightmare on Elm Street when Nancy tries to run up the oatmeal filled stairs (a common nightmare scenario); well, this is what trying to hike up a sand dune is like.  Every step sends you sinking to the left or the right leaving no progress but the increased rate of your own breathing.  I would take 25 steps and only make it 3 feet.  Needless to say I wasn’t mentally prepared.  So, I do what any rational adult would do and I start to run up the mountain like a kid running through the wave pool just so he can be number 600 in line for the water slide.  As you may have already guessed, this tactic was counter productive taking me 4 feet instead of 3 per every 25 steps.  I had to sit every minute to catch my breath and curse the universe.  I’m a persistent lady and made it up just before sunrise the following week…just kidding.  We made it to the top about 30 minutes before sunset and marveled at the sights below.  I was 100% giddy with delight about watching the sunset from the top of a sand dune.  I was invincible.  I watched as the wind blew parts of the dune away, a new pristine form left in its wake.  I watched the birds fly at eye level in front of the sun and land in the lake below.  I watched Zack lose a water bottle off the side and watched said bottle roll down the side of the dune and disappear from sight like a mirage.  It was absolutely spectacular and so worth the heat and physical challenge.  When the sun went down and the sand cooled off, I took my shoes off and glided down the dune like some sort of frolicking fairy, so proud of myself for getting through it.  When we got back to camp, we drank beer and watched…OMG I ALMOST FORGOT ABOUT THIS!  We saw the most spectacular moon rise.  Apparently the park had been on fire just days before our arrival making the moon appear over the dunes like an orange creamsicle.

If you want some serious mystical magic in your life, take the plunge and go to Idaho’s Bruneau Dunes State Park.  Next time I’ll tell you about Antelope Island in Utah, AKA the West’s true gate to hell.  Seriously, Antelope Island is a place you send me as punishment.