2022 – REI Adventure Experience

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This is my review of my REI Adventures trip experience. So you are aware in advance: if you are reading to get an idea of what the trip is like, the trip ends for me on day four. After day four, the blog post gets a bit more personal. Despite my aim, I will still include the location data for each hike as normal. If you want to skip to the short version, here is my brief review.

Day 1: Zion National Park – The Narrows

Shortly after meeting the REI group in the host hotel at 7AM, located in Las Vegas a few miles from the airport, we headed in the direction of Zion National Park. Staying at the host hotel was implied, however was not covered in the trip cost, which I will admit was a little odd considering how early you need to meet in the morning in this hotel lobby. This could have been handled differently by REI’s logistics team. With REI’s leverage, I imagine they’d even be able to get discounts for their continuous guaranteed business and include this implied stay within the trip cost. Despite this small annoyance, this is actually my only real complaint with the entire trip.

This first hike is the hike many people often associate with Zion. While we didn’t do the entire stretch of the Narrows, it was a refreshing tidbit of what hiking in the Narrows is like during the hottest time of the year: Refreshing and crowded. Since, some sections were deeper than others, having a crowd in front of us, gave us a good idea of what was to come. Also, with the crowds, I didn’t feel the least bit of pressure to take out my camera (photos are with my phone). There were zero chances for excellent shots, keeping me focused on the trail.

Easter Egg for Group

NameThe Narrows
LocationZion National Park
Trailhead/ParkingTrailhead: Riverside Walk Trailhead
Parking: Zion Nation Park Visitor Parking
Trail NameRiverside Walk – 0.9 Miles
The Narrows Bottom Up – 1.8 Miles (Turn Around @ House Rock)
Riverside Walk – 0.9 Miles
Hike Length3.6 Miles
GaiaGPS Link2022 – REI: House Rock and Back

After the short hike, there was a fun instructional demonstration of how to setup our tents, camp ground shower information, and then dinner.

The whole setup for camp was a bit extravagant, though I will admit very comfortable. Zero camping experience necessary to enjoy a setup like this. In fact, I would argue that what we had was glamping or car camping. Because of how extra this was to me, I actually didn’t take advantage of all the options nor take a photo, though they give you a tent large enough to stand in, foam air hybrid sleeping pad, carpet runner, fake grass entrance mat, short little night stand table looking thing, and a cute little lantern.

The camp shower was actually really nice, though since each shower was operated by a 6-minute coin system and we were going to stay here another night tomorrow, I saved my coin for the next day and hopped in the river next to our campsite, though I really did want to take a dip in the river. Best river swim experience I’ve had. The water couldn’t have been colder than 60 F.

After that break, dinner was served which was the moment I had realized what I signed up for. The meals were superb every time and I didn’t know how to process it nor show my appreciation. The entire time, one magnificent meal after another, I was thinking that I should have packed more cash for the tip. I can only hope, the review I left and blog will make up the difference.

After dinner and the dip, I found myself talking to a fellow attendee (keeping names private) in the sand by the river. Really chill down to earth dude. ๐Ÿ”ฅ

River Next to Our Campsite


When I woke up the next morning, I found that the group had their tent flies on. At first I thought I set my alarm to wake in the wrong time zone, but apparently it happened to rain in middle of the night. It must have not been long or hard because I didn’t even notice. Plus, my stuff wasn’t even wet. Though the night before, I did not get much sleep due to the delayed flight and Uber issues I experienced getting to the host hotel so maybe that played a part in my ability to sleep through it.

This was the first flight I have ever experienced a sudden pull up by the pilot just as we were about to land. After we pulled up the pilot said something along the lines that a Southwest flight that had priority over them to land and that we would just fly around Vegas for 10-minutes. Then after, Uber’s app kept crashing on me so I had to use Lyft. Nothing wrong with Lyft. I just really wanted to leverage that $15 I had in “Uber Cash” before it expired at the end of the month. Oh well. ๐Ÿคท๐Ÿปโ€โ™‚๏ธ If you land in Las Vegas, keep in mind that there will be a lot of traffic at the pick up location for Uber, Lyft, and other taxi services.

Day 2: Zion National Park – Angel’s Landing

Usually not a huge fan of posed photography, but it came out great for this guy

This was the hike that sold me for the REI trip. This being one of the most dangerous hikes in the world, I was terrified of this hike and knew I would never attempt this alone. In fact, I was comfortable never attempting this hike at all, though now that I’ve hiked it, I can say that the photos and videos online of the hike make this hike seem way scarier than it really is. You should most certainly keep up precautions, but the photos and videos I’ve seen online, at least the ones I’ve seen are not from the perspective of the hiker, but above the hiker. Though, there is this one section that’s “pizza box wide” or rather “golf cart wide” but that section is also chained so it’s really a non-concern as long as you are careful. If you have a fear of heights, I would work your way up to this one. If that is a non-negotiable fear, then hiking to Scout’s overlook before the spine of the trail is still a wonderful view that you don’t need a permit for.

Thankfully due to recent developments in a permit system to access the spine section of this trail, there were no crowds whatsoever on this hike, making this hike easier than I originally imagined, not only for photos, but for passing people on this stretch of narrow trail.

The lead guide pointed out one of the Condors in the area flying above us. I don’t have a photo (nor a telephoto lens to take that shot) but it basically looked like a very large turkey vulture with some white in its wings. For those who are not aware, Condors are the largest flying birds in North America and are endangered largely due to pollution. According to our guide, there are only 300 out in the wild.

I don’t know what it was about this log but it really stuck out to me

We completed this trail just in time. Almost immediately after completing the trail, as we were boarding the shuttle bus, it started to rain. Imagine a warm wet asphalt smell on a hot summer day. ๐Ÿ™‚

NameAngels Landing
LocationZion National Park
Trailhead/ParkingTrailhead: Angel’s Landing Trailhead
Parking: Zion Nation Park Visitor Parking
Trail NameAngels Landing Trail
Hike Length4.4 Miles (Out & Back)
AllTrails LinkAngels Landing Trail

After the hike, I made more of an effort to get to know the group. To my surprise, I was able to tame myself pretty well, without birding. ๐Ÿฆ

Day 3: Lower Calf Creek Falls

Scenic Drive – Most photos of the route did not do a justice

This was supposed to be the day we hiked through a slot canyon in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, however due to inclement weather in what the guides called monsoon season, we instead did a waterfall hike, which was pretty cool. More interesting than the peak flow waterfall, were the markings on the walls left from the Calf Creek Indians:

Lower Calf Creek Falls

Name Lower Calf Creek Falls
LocationBoulder, UT
Trailhead/ParkingLower Calf Creek Falls Trailhead
Trail NameLower Calf Creek Falls Trail
Hike Length6.7 Miles (Out & Back)
AllTrails LinkLower Calf Creek Falls

Due to I think the weather conditions that altered our plans, REI made it up to us with extra shower days and a night at their signature campsite in Utah which was certainly a treat.

Our tents for the night were super cute ๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿฅฐ

After an brief introduction of the itinerary for the night and rules, I think we mostly just drank, played corn hole, and talked.

The host of this signature campsite asked me and a fellow attendee if we knew each other prior to signing up for the trip. ๐Ÿ˜‚ I’m not too sure what she witnessed up to that point to give her that impression. Again, really chill dude.

Dinner was delish!

After dinner, were showers and talking around the camp fire.

Realizing there wasn’t full cloud cover, I grabbed my tripod and camera. It took me 30ish minutes to realize I was on the wrong F-stop. ๐Ÿ˜… For those of you who aren’t aware, F-stop is the measurement of the amount of light you let in. For night shots, you want the aperture as open large as possible. The smaller the F-stop, the wider the aperture. I often forget it because, it’s the only setting I have that is not preprogrammed on to my camera since this particular lens has a manual adjuster.

Then hours later still by around the fire, the milky way revealed itself right over the horizon. At that moment knew I was in the right place at the right time. ๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜ฎ๐Ÿ”ฅ


The next morning was probably the most peaceful morning I’ve experienced all year. I will certainly start to make a conscious effort to allocate time in the morning to ease into my day instead of how abrupt I wake up in my current routine. I’m thinking blog/code ๐Ÿ‘จ๐Ÿปโ€๐Ÿ’ป and coffee โ˜• at a local shop might be the way to go.

Managed to snag a shot before he noticed I was taking one. Candid/real is always the best, just like the following one at breakfast.

That French toast really stuck with me ๐Ÿคค

Heading Out for Bryce

Day 4: Bryce National Park

This was an intense hike. The variation of the colors and landscape was incredible! It felt like we were walking in another world. ๐Ÿ˜ƒ

Group lead always has a smile on her face

NameBryce Canyon
LocationBryce Canyon National Park
Trailhead/Parking37.623650, -112.167168
Trial NameSunset Outlook Trail – 0.11 Miles
Navajo Loop Trail – 0.75 Miles
Queen’s Garden Trail – 1.74 Milles
Rim Trail – 0.45 Miles
Hike Length3.05 Miles (Loop)
GaiaGPS Link2022 – REI Bryce Canyon Route

The rest of the day was brutal. I was crazy low energy and developed an intense headache. First, I felt the desert climate was disagreeing with me, but what was really happening was that I was coming down with Covid for the first time.

Shortly after dinner, I passed out and then woke up in the middle of the night to three peeps still up around a fire. I joined for maybe 30 minutes and then went back to bed.

Day 5: Grand Canyon National Park

I felt solid in the morning with coffee and got the rest I needed, but after breakfast, it became clear that I was actually sick, so I talked to the trip leader and I took a Covid Test. Immediately after testing positive, I was to keep my distance and pack while I waited for further instruction. At first I was okay and as the van left with everyone on it, then felt relieved. When I realized the trip was over for me, I spent my time editing photos. I even figured out how I could transfer the ones on my camera to my phone. I found that the photos I took with my camera only really needed to be rotated or cropped, which I really should know by now, but I guess never actualized it, so in the future, it’s going to make way more sense for me to just start carrying my camera by default with how much time it saves. When the co-guide returned, he put me up in a lodge nearby with some Wi-Fi. By the end of the day, I had every photo uploaded to our trip’s shared Google Photo album.

Later, the rest of the group added their photos, which added a perspective to the trip I must have been oblivious to. For example, there was this one attendee who was placing a stuffed chipmunk in her shots making it seem as if it was apart of the hike as another attendee. There was one where she created a mini fire pit with the stuffed chipmunk roasting a mini-marshmallow. I’m actually stunned I didn’t notice any of this at the time this was happening.

From those group photos, there are few photos of me and since my fam reads this blog they are likely going to want to see the me that was on this trip, so here are the few of the photos that the group managed to capture:

Day 6: Las Vegas

Being careful as possible, I was transported separately directly to Las Vegas. The separate REI representative (the lead guide’s boss) that was transporting me, during the entire drive played music as if he stalked me on Spotify. Some of those artists included Goth Babe, Juda Heart, Palace, BAYNK, Magic City Hippies, and Rainbow Kitten Surprise.

Right before the hotel, I was treated to In-N-Out Burger, which was pretty sweet. ๐Ÿ˜€ If you’ve never had desert potato fries before, this is the place. ๐Ÿ˜‹ Burger was great though!

After I was dropped off at my hotel, it really hit me. Not Covid, but what I had just lost. What I experienced on this trip felt like one of those slice of life animes. For those of you who don’t know what that is, it’s basically an anime about just normal life, though usually centered around a group of friends.

As a result of realizing the loss of just those two days, I became extremely emotional. So much so, I thought it was a Covid symptom.

On top of that I was going a bit stir crazy quarantined in my room of arguably the nicest hotel on the strip, Waldorf Astoria. Just look at these walls. When your stay has walls like this, you know you’ve made it in life. ๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿคฃ Despite the ridicule, it was pretty neat.

After or maybe during this flow of emotions for me, I had realized, that it would be extremely immoral to get on the plane tomorrow, so I weighed out my options, calling a few friends and family for advice on what they thought I should do.

Later, I made moves to try to make the most my stay. Though shortly into my room service, I realized I couldn’t really taste anything.  โšฐ๏ธ

Bath was nice though and the bath salt (or at least I think it was bath salt) was also a nice touch. ๐Ÿ‘Œ๐Ÿป

View From Hotel

Day 7-11: Driving from Las Vegas to Maryland

I was to fly back today, but instead I planned my escape, leaving the hotel a little before 4PM (guaranteed late checkout – Amex travel perk). Leveraging the American Express concierge, I was able to reserve a rental, but also arrange the car to be dropped off in front of my hotel after I explained the situation.

I thought about quarantining in hotels, but after the previous night I didn’t think I could live with myself for another day alone with my unresolved thoughts without distraction in a tempting city that never sleeps.

Despite Covid, the drive was actually pretty entertaining. Up until Missouri, the terrain was new and exciting. First it was desert ๐ŸŒต, then the Colorado mountains ๐ŸŒ„, the Great Plains๐ŸŒพ, and then for the most part trees ๐ŸŒณ and farm ๐Ÿ‘จ๐Ÿปโ€๐ŸŒพ land from Missouri to Maryland.

Cut it real close gas wise between Salina, UT and Green River, UT on I-70 East in the middle of the night. There is a 100 mile stretch without a gas station. I should have been paying more attention, but my naรฏve self didn’t think I would run into this situation on a major highway. With about 30 miles left of range, I made it to Green River.

For the most part I listened to music (Katie, thank you for the playlist! ๐ŸŽถ๐Ÿ™Œ๐Ÿป) and thought to myself to reflect on what I had learned (which is a practice, I picked up from Conor):

  1. Connection is a choice – For instance, I realize that I have said I enjoy the planning part of the trip more than the trip itself in response to my lack of presence, but that is an excuse. The real reason I commit to planning for the group is to allot time for us to reconnect. In addition, the true reason I avoid hanging present day outside of hiking is because I have almost nothing to offer in those environments. To elaborate on the depth of how silly this is, there is this great reminder in the form of a quote from a show that I am quite fond named “Rick and Morty” that has helped put life into perspective when facing those fears of incompetency: Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. I know that the meaning can be deep and maybe depressing for some, but the insignificance itself really puts me at ease. There are quite a few layers here, but to me, it means to just chill because there is no point nor expectation. The only pressure keeping you from enjoying yourself is the pressure you have assigned to yourself. Plus, if people can’t hang with the person you are, then you simply let them go, however if their disapproval for your behavior is heartfelt, you hear them out and adjust as necessary.

  2. Community is a choice – This sort of ties into the connection realization, but the trip made me realize that I could create what I felt on the trip back at home. It’s almost as if I lost the ability to see in color at some point and regained the ability on this trip. Life can literally be any color you want it to be.

  3. To be careful of the story you tell yourself and others – I found myself living inside of the story I was telling myself rather than in the who I am or wanted to be in the moment and I oddly didn’t realize it until I was in a group of strangers for a week for the first time in quite a while. Everyone has a story, but your story doesn’t need to define you or your future actions. For those of you who are confused, this is basically another layer to living in the present, though can be applied to other areas of life. There is a high chance this is as a result of living in an echo chamber for an extended period of time throughout Covid, though it could also be in combination a further iteration of becoming more self aware.

Action Items:

  1. While I do realize that connection is a choice, I am not going to now start putting myself out there. Well actually let me rephrase (while writing an editable blog). ๐Ÿ˜ I will keep myself open, but only while I am on my path by keeping my walls down and making a conscious effort to exist in the moment.

  2. On the other hand, community is something I am going to work towards, but at my own pace due to the amount of time I have available to me at the moment. I understand community can’t be forced, but you do have control of the when, choosing to be open or closed. Yes, I realize I am potentially doing myself a disservice and I will never know to what degree, but the goals I have decided to pursue are incredibly important to me. In fact, when ever I am not working on those goals, I feel a deep sense of procrastination. I really do believe when we pick our direction, we are in consequence also choosing our sacrifice.

In fact, next time you make a to-do list, write down the goal you wish to accomplish, the date you wish to accomplish it by, what will happen to you if you don’t accomplish that goal (learned this bit from Conor), and what you are sacrificing by accomplishing that goal. It’s a great way to get shit done.


Real Example:

Goal:

  • Financial Freedom

Date:

  • As early as possible.

What will happen to you if you don’t accomplish this goal:

  • Sacrifice at most 75,000 hours of my time working from now (29.5) until retirement age at 59.5 years old.
    • This math is using 50 hours a week instead of 40 hours (including two weeks of PTO). There are other work expenses to your time such as remaining marketable, deadlines, driving to work, etc.

Sacrifice:

  • Not being able to live to the fullest in most if not all of my 30s
  • I could die at any moment and through this delayed gratification, I’m partially putting off the things I want to do for a later date in time that may never come.

Notes:

  • I’ll still be able to do some cool shit during my weekends and two week vacations, but not to the extent I would like to enjoy them until I’ve accomplished this particular goal. There are still sabbaticals, but this only slows down momentum.
  • My career goals exist with or without financial independence.
  • I’m actually able to do this without being “cheap” through minimalism, which puts a focus on the things that you value versus the things that you don’t care about. For instance, I don’t care for eating out. In fact, it messes up with my routines and protein intake. So by saving money there, I’m able to use it for the things I do care about, such as travel with my friends.
  • There are ways to accelerate this goal such as a promotion at work, opting for a more demanding job, or even growing a money tree, but the sacrifice is still for the most part the same.


3. Being self aware of the meaning I have assigned to the story I have told myself and other people is something I’m going to commit to avoiding immediately. The story you tell yourself also ties into ego, potentially halting your ability to grow. If you for instance get to a point where you think change is beyond you, you risk living in a world that you have distorted, losing touch with reality. The negative consequences of this are usually in the form of loss.

Review – Zion, Bryce & Grand Canyon Hiking & Camping | Under 35

Logistics and the guides were stellar. The amount of effort and attention to detail the lead and co-guide put in to this trip was exceptional, which was very much appreciated. ๐Ÿ˜Š If you are reading this, thank you! โค Unexpected, the lead trip guide knew not only the history of the terrain, but every plant species in the area as well, which was frankly incredible!

Pricing:
Based on my experience, I thought the pricing for this trip is fair. For these hikes in particular, in this region of the world, it felt safe with guides that knew not only the lay of the land, but as well as its potential dangers. For instance, when it is okay and not okay to hike a slot canyon. If it for instance rains anywhere upstream, I have read that you have approximately 30-minutes to get out before your potential death, so keeping up on the weather is not something you need to worry about other than when to apply your sun screen. Another thing to consider is that amount of time you are saving, by not having to worry about logistics, permits, weather, outside communication (available service in area), current active alerts in the parks (problem animal in area or trail closure), alternative trail exits, what to pack, food preparation, gear, condition checks of gear, how to use that gear, the well being of the group, and transportation. Aside from time, another benefit of not having to plan is that you only have a base level idea of what to expect. In other words, since you don’t know what to fully expect, your mind is free to explore your feels whether that is in the form of mystery, curiosity, surprise, or all of your anxieties. ๐Ÿ˜‚ Or you can socialize.

So I actually already reviewed this trip, so instead of repeating myself, here is the rest of my review about the trip:

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