So I received an email from 20somethingBloggers about a Blogger Carnival where people write about their best travel adventure. Though I can’t call myself the most eloquent writer, I have plenty of travel stories to choose from the write about. And the one I decided to write about is my alternative spring break trip I had during my last spring break of college. There were three different types of alternative spring break trips students could participate in and the one I chose was for the Colorado Plateau restoration in Moab, Utah.
So to boggle my memory a bit as it’s been about 5 years since I went on this journey …. it was the description of this volunteer trip that really attracted me. Outdoor camping, rafting, and visiting the Arches National Park in Utah … it all sounded like such an exciting way a girl could spend her last spring break of college.
First day of the trip was complete chaos. We had to wake up at this completely unusual hour of either 6 AM (though as of now, that just seems totally the norm to me) to meet up with the rest of the group in a van we had rented a few days previously for the trip. It took some consoling of my parents to convince them I’d be ok on this trip where students will be alternating driving a slightly larger version of a mini van (more like a commercial van). The trip was to take about 22 hours from Texas to Utah …. though prior to arriving in Moab, we’d be stopping at an Econolodge in Colorado first. Much entertainment was to be required.
So after the 15 of us (I believe the number was around 15?) stuffed the van with all our belongings and sleeping bags, we started up on the road trip of a lifetime (literally …. I think the last time I was in a car for that long was back in elementary school on a family trip to the Grand Canyon). The chairs from what I recall were poorly made for the human body …. there was no place to rest our necks!! 90% of the time, those of us who were in the seats were squirming for a comfortable position to sleep in. There was one nook in the back of the van that consisted of everyone’s luggage bags but enough support for one person’s entire body and neck. It essentially was the greatest spot to be in to sleep during the trip.
In the meantime, we jotted down the funniest quotes we ended up saying to one another. There was a book to keep record of what everyone actually said.
During this extensive adventure, we alternated driving the van. At one point I did it too, largely because I wanted to be able to say that I’d successfully driven a few miles (at least until the group leader said we won’t be able to get to our destination at the speed I was driving hehehe) a minivan of 15 people. I never got to touch the steering wheel after this but it was probably for the better because at one point at about 18 hours into our trip, we were driving through insane amounts of snow and on a road that was completely pitch dark.
I remember it so well …. the snow and darkness was so intimidating to me that the thought that crossed my mind was, Oh my God, am I going to die here?! I have never been so scared for my life until then. I mean, yes, we did have a trustworthy driver who’d driven through snow before but still … it’s a very scary experience especially when you’re relying on fellow colleagues to drive through treacherous weather.
Well, thanks to our very skilled through-snow-experienced driver, we finally arrived at our destination in one piece (or pieces since we’re separate people?). I have not slept as well as I did that night and in the morning …. oooo, all the snow!! After having been deprived of this gorgeous white phenomenon by living in southern Texas, I was as excited as a little girl on Christmas morning/a puppy that’s never seen snow ever. After we took multiple photos with the beautiful white Colorado mountain backdrops, we had breakfast and further resumed the rest of our trip to our true destination.
Our true destination was the hardcore roughing it style …. we had a site to place our tents and there would be no electricity or running water aside from that the Plateau restoration people brought to us in a jug container. Our source for voiding would be the nearby port-a-potty which I had to say was relatively clean for what it was (in fact, after it was cleaned one day, it smelled like orange dreamsicles!! NOT kidding here ….).
One habit I developed early on during this trip was waking up early at dawn, prior to sunrise, to go use the bathroom but as my sleeping spot in the tent ended up being right smack in the middle, I had to walk over everyone in order to reach the end of the tent. Well, after my first morning of attempting this, I decided to never try it again. This was because the first time I tried to walk over everyone, I ended up grabbing one part of the tent doorway, slipping on one foot, and landing across three sleeping campers. After that, I decided to just hold it in until everyone else woke up as I noticed I managed to get by if I sat up and wrote in my journal of my experiences amongst the sedated campers.
Days consisted of waking up around sunrise, brushing our teeth and washing our faces as much as we could in the below freezing temperatures with the limited pump water provided to us while still fully clothed in our parks and near ski-pant equivalent thickness of pants. After breakfast, we’d head on out to the plateau region to set up fences and set up trails in the area to make it more friendly for visitors and to encourage preserving the plateau wildlife.
The scenery was absolutely breathtaking. You could see the mountains of Colorado and Utah wherever you looked and just gorgeous landscape everywhere you worked. It had been a while since I’d last encountered such a majestic scenery of the American lands.
The days usually went that we ate breakfast, went out into the “fields” (I’m not really sure what else to call it here as we didn’t really have any grassy fields in the Colorado plateau area) to work, returned for lunch, then returned to work again until dinnertime. Food had never tasted as good as it did then and all we would eat were pasta dishes and tuna salad sandwiches (might I add cold dishes) …. yet they were the best food ever.
Some nights we drove to the nearby town for marshmallows and chocolate bars to make s’mores around a campfire. One night we went into town to use the shower (gasp!!) at a small inn.
Yes, it is true. We almost went on for five days – which was the entire trip length – without showering. Ironically, that part of the trip didn’t bother me much though my hair was starting to freeze up every morning to the point where it was starting to pull on my headband. You couldn’t believe how excited we were to see running water after being deprived of it for nearly 4 days!!! I had never appreciated “technology” and industrialization as much as I did at that moment. You’d be surprised at how much the roughing it experience can change your outlook on life.
Then on some afternoons, we made a visit to the Arches National Park and also did some rafting on the waters. The National Park scenery was just one straight out of a tourist book. There were so many high altitude areas in the park to take pictures of, it kind of hindered my adventurous side as I have a terrible scare of heights but I took advantage of exploring as much as I could.
Some of the craziest moments I remembered from this trip aside from the others I had mentioned also were when I would wake up in the morning to the sight of my water bottle being nearly completely frozen from the drop in temperatures overnight, having to use the bathroom but not being able to find one so I had to make good use of a rock nearby the river we had rafted on, feeling the wave of exhaustion take over me in a grocery aisle in the nearby town because my body realized it no longer had to work to keep me warm ….
Out of all my travel adventures, I would have to say this was the most memorable one for me. By going on this trip with a group of random students I’d never met before, it gave me an opportunity to meet new people and truly bond with them in ways I never imagined I could. We all were given the opportunity to undergo a spring break of lasting memories. Five years later, I still remember how crazy it had been and how I’d been so excited to embark on such a spontaneous trip. This alternative spring break experience really changed my outlook on life and has made me the person I am today.