Girls Weekend: Vernal, Utah
Have you ever done something for the first time and it didn’t go as planned? This was that trip! Share your trip malfunctions in the comment section below!
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Nikayla and I started making weekend plans the Monday prior to leaving…so five days early and with a lot of excitement; I had never spent a weekend away from my partner since meeting him over a year ago (besides the first two weeks that we started dating and he was traveling in Norway with his family) and this weekend was 1) going to be my first time away from him, 2) first time going to the location we picked out.
I avidly pour my attention into google maps when planning to venture anywhere, cross-referencing it with my paper atlas and blogs across the internet and had our plan designed by the end of Monday. I had picked out three hikes for us, had a handful of campsites to choose from just in case we ran into already-claimed spots or inaccessible ones, and had our menu decided for what was supposed to be two days, two nights in Eastern Utah.
The drive out to Vernal, Utah was relatively effortless, we traveled through small Utahan towns and crossed a handful of reservoirs on the way. The plan was to arrive at the first hiking location just in time for golden hour and it absolutely did not work out that way. Google Maps took us down one wrong road, then another different dirt road that had been turned into a private road unknowingly to Google, and finally after getting enough service for the map to load on the phone, down the dirt road that ended up being unfriendly to anything but ATVs and side-by-sides - but it was the right one we needed to be on. I had marked a potential campsite off of this road and after discovering that we would not be able to access the intended hike, we decided to find a place to park our cars. We traveled down the “dirt road” that seemed like a great option from Google Maps which quickly had us driving sideways through thick, loose sand. We stopped halfway down this one-way path and 20-point, u-turned because we realized that we were either going to get stuck in the sand or stuck sideways due to the uneven path. We parked at the entrance to this path, right off the main dirt road, and called it a night.
After getting settled enough, we wandered down the very sand road that we had just backed out of and headed straight for the massive petrified sand dune that had a perfect slope angle to walk up. We reached the top, sat in the wind for a little bit, and as we began wandering down, the sky transformed into a gorgeously colorful sunset. That’s about when my anxiety took an absolute turn for the worst. I want/have to include this part because I don’t want to chalk this trip up to be something unauthentic. While we saw some amazing things, it doesn’t cover up the fact that I was sobbing in my car at 10 pm because I was so anxious and uncomfortable. I’ve dealt with separation anxiety before but have been writing it off lately as me having been in an unhealthy relationship prior to my current one; I basically thought that phase of my anxiety was long over. Wrong, very wrong. While it was incredibly embarrassing, it was eased by having Niki with me who time and time again has proven to provide me with a judgement-free friendship that is both supportive and understanding. (PS - KEEP THOSE FRIENDS). She encouraged me to write, or read, or paint to ease my worries and remained calm and collected with me. I laid awake, starring at the night sky, jumping at any little noise I heard, for a couple of hours before sleep eventually took over; smoking doesn’t help me in these types of moments, even strains that are meant to help mitigate the effects of anxiety, mainly because I am a low-key control freak and when my anxiety strikes, I feel like I need every availability to have total control over myself (my mind will usually trigger bodily reactions that make me feel ill or like something is seriously happening i.e. heart attack symptoms). I had to keep reminding myself that I had two dogs in the car with me, one who barks at any noise passing by and one that barks when it’s absolutely needed, so I had that to take comfort in ultimately.
Zuki and Nezra woke, as usual, before sunrise and after an hour of Zuke licking my hand/putting his paw on it to wake me, I opened the car up and let them roam. This also meant that I wasn’t getting anymore shut eye and within a few minutes, Roo had woken Niki, and thus we were now in the same boat. We lounged, watched the sunrise, and waiting for the sun to warm the land before ditching the sleeping bags. We cooked breakfast and made coffee, me standing on top of my cooler to avoid being bitten by fire ants roaming below my vehicle. We packed up and headed out to the planned hike for the first part of the day and thankfully, this time found it with ease. The hike toured us through many different aspects of the landscape, ultimately bringing us down to the reservoir shoreline where the rock slab face went straight into the water, allowing you to walk into it without having to float immediately. The best part about this hike was that we got to physically see real dinosaur tracks which was mind blowing and surreal; that, coupled with the ability to get in the water, made this such a great experience. After the dogs repeatedly ran from the water to our bags and shook all their water off, we packed up and headed back to the cars to continue onto the next plans for the day.
We drove back into Vernal and went south to Naples where we parted from the main highway; the further in we got, the more gas/oil sites we started to drive through. There were hundreds of them. It was oddly unwelcoming to be around and once we finally arrived to our hiking location, we quickly realized that this was not a hike, it was a destination and not a totally noteworthy one at that. Think Goblin Valley times negative twenty in size and rock formations. While unique for sure, it was not really worth the one hour drive out to it. We tried to hang out until golden hour/sunset to photograph but ultimately it was pretty boring and my anxiety about the upcoming night’s sleep began to boil again. In truth: I wanted to go home.
Instead of having to back-track an hour to Vernal to begin our drive home to Salt Lake, I discovered that we could keeping driving and therefore keeping our return trip home at the three hour time frame that we had driven out to Vernal with. We tried to stop off at Pelican Res to see if there was a site to camp at but it was so windy and it was becoming more apparent that I wanted to just get home. We decided to stop to make dinner on our drive back to Salt Lake and said our goodbyes after whipping up some yummy tacos and rice.
So, the takeaways from this trip include the fact that I will need to try this again, taking a trip without Chris, as this was a good first try and in reflection, I don’t know how I expected this to go completely smoothly because this was entirely a new experience for me, so it’s necessary to keep trying this. I cannot wait for Nezra to grow out of her terrible-two phase which is creating so much frustration that I had to constantly remind myself that Zuke went through this phase as well, that it does end, that all of the training with click one day. For me, having girlfriends has always been an interesting aspect to my life; I have not always been viewed as a girlfriend to other girls, I think I give off a weird vibe and have honestly spent so many years not giving a flying fuck about maintaining friendships with girls because they can be so mean that it’s not worthwhile…so finding/having even one girlfriend has really changed things for me lately. I realized that I have someone else to share my time with and it’s healthy, for Chris as well. I still want to return to the Vernal area but I want to venture deeper into Dinosaur National Monument instead, maybe spend some more time at the Red Fleet State Park, and definitely seek out better campsites beforehand.