Everyone keeps saying the “desert call you back when it’s time for a change” and I’m starting to believe them. For the past two months, I’ve had photos of the Grand Canyon, Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend pop up in my social media feeds almost daily – sure, I liked a few posts of friends who had visited recently but didn’t think the Facebook algorithm would torture me daily with these gorgeous landscapes, if anything they were calming and so pretty. But alas, I had to take a week’s vacation and was torn as to where to go. I had this nagging sense that I needed to go back to Utah and/or Arizona and couldn’t shake it as I attempted (and failed) to plan trips to Hawaii, the Galapagos and London within budget and using points. Maybe the desert (and mountains) was calling me back but why?
Time to find out…..so I booked my trip to return to Red Mountain Resort in St. George, Utah, a place I had visited nearly thirteen years ago at another cross-road in my life – one filled with grief, loss and excess weight. Now I was just happy to relax and sleep for my birthday to de-stress but the universe had something else in store for me. Two days before I was to leave on my vacation to celebrate my birthday, I received a layoff notice effective at Christmas (note: I like gifts for my birthday like wine and chocolates). Well, if I didn’t have a cross road to deal with before, I sure did now. But would the desert and/or mountains have an answer for me?
Oh how I wish answers didn’t involve 4 a.m. wake up calls and 7 a.m. flights to the West Coast. Hauling my carry-on luggage and wearing my hiking boots, I was surprised by the number of drivers on the road at 5 a.m. as I made my way to the airport. My flight to St. George, Utah would involve a connection in Denver so today was a “day of firsts” for me – my first United flight, my first visit to the United Lounge in Philadelphia and my first time in the Denver International Airport. For the most part, there was little stress (other than the tight squeeze in the new forward lavatory on the plane) until I thought about my connection at Denver. Here’s the video of the landing. On the approach, I thought “wow there’s nothing out here, what a great way to design an airport” and then we landed and kept driving right to the gate. It was so easy unlike the East Coast airports that are stuck between the cities, residents and highways.
Our flight from Philadelphia arrived at Gate 24 and my connecting flight was leaving from Gate 94 in the same terminal just 70 (yes, 70!!!!) gates away. I had less than an hour to connect. As I flew in first class, I was one of the first off the plane and started my fast walk nearly a mile to the gate (apparently ¾ of a mile) – I walked fast with my bag and zipped around slow walkers, avoided the quick stoppers and managed to admire the high ceilings and open airport down to the “garage like” feel (and look) of the commuter terminal. In between, I managed a restroom stop and chatted with the gate agent for a luggage tag as all bags were gate checked. Only my purse and small backpack fit overhead.
I was richly rewarded with the 70 gate hustle during take off and on the way to St. George, Utah as we flew over the Rockies and toward the mountains of Utah. In the one flight, my eyes were glued to the window to admire the views below and afar. Lucky for me (and my thighs), I had an empty seat next to me so could move to the window seat and have the row of two seats to enjoy the small space. As it was lunch time, I pulled out my snack bag and enjoyed my meal with a view.
Upon landing at St. George, Utah airport, I was exhausted from the long travel day and time change but ready to begin the adventure. In the van to the resort, there were five others like me – ready to explore. Three were friends from Chicago-NYC-Palm Beach, another was meeting friends for a 50th birthday celebration and the man from NYC was back for the third time to hike. We each had a story, each a reason to be here and each hopes for enlightenment of some kind.
Maybe it’s my age now, maybe it’s the explosion of “wellness travel” or maybe I really do need a dramatic change, either way, the desert and/or mountains were calling me – I’m here! So now what?