When I head into the great outdoors and places like Zion National Park, I go with some very specific goals in mind. First, I am trying to reconnect with nature and quiet the noise that accompanies my daily life. Secondly, I go to experience something new and challenge myself. Finally, I go trying to capture the perfect photo. Now, I don’t have the best camera in the world. It doesn’t have all the bells and whistles, but it has the supreme ability to capture a moment I never want to forget.
Last week, I announced to the world my intention to hike the entirety of the Pacific Crest Trail in a couple of years. This trip to Zion was an attempt to begin working on my endurance, water management, and comfort level with long distance hikes. On Saturday, I hiked about 15 miles. To conquer the PCT, I will need to average 20-25 miles per day for 4-5 months. Needless to say, my body has a long way to go to get into shape before the big journey. Hopefully, increasing my distance and comfort level with multi-day trips will properly prepare me but only time will tell.
One of the things I adore about hiking is the simple fact that from every perspective, you see something new. No two points from point A to B and B back to A is the same. I find this to be a wonderful metaphor for our lives. If we can approach our problems from new angles, we might be surprised by what we discover. As I hiked 15 miles, much of it alone, I was forced to think about all the issues I am grappling. Seeing a rock formation from a different angle, really inspired me to pause and take a second look.
The second thing I adore about hiking is that fact that it forces you to look forward. Before you are any number of trials to be conquered. It can be a creek, unsteady path, or rocks to scramble. Looking backward will prepare you for what comes next. Standing in the present grounds you. Focusing on what comes next, is when all the things you learned come to fruition. Again, I find this to be a really wonderful metaphor for life.
Three hours from Zion National Park is Las Vegas, which is 5 hours from Los Angeles. Logically, this seemed like a decent halfway point for a night before heading back home. The juxtaposition between these two places cannot be overemphasized. In Zion, I see a place built by the hands of time. Mountains, crevices, and canyons shaped by the unforgiving forces of water, wind, and receding glaciers. In Las Vegas, I see a place built by the hands of man in one of the most unforgiving environments standing where no city should stand. Each provides a sense of joy, but one is more primal and the other entices the ego. Both inspire and confound me, but in completely different ways.
Hidden in the Las Vegas Container District is a little cocktail bar called Oak & Ivory. Without a doubt, this is one of the best cocktail bars in Vegas. For me, it even rivals Cannon in Seattle. The bartenders are friendly, approachable, and knowledgeable. They are masters of their craft. Sit down, tell them what you like, and watch the magic happen. When people ask me about things they should do in Vegas, I always mention this bar as number one on my list.
Growing up and living in Las Vegas, I assume you get tired of being asked what it is like to live there. I assume this conversation gets a little tiring because it is built on a false premise that what happens on the strip happens all over Vegas. I have been told by locals repeatedly, they rarely venture to the strip. Instead, they head to work, home, out for date nights, and the kids’ baseball games. You know all the stuff we do in our boring lives.
I have been to Las Vegas somewhere in the ballpark of 15 times. I cannot think of another city I have visited more often. Something about the place fascinates me. I would never live there. I don’t participate in a quarter of what the city has to offer. I don’t gamble. I haven’t been to any shows. Yet, I keep returning. On this trip, it dawned on me why. I am fascinated by what locals do in Vegas. I find myself looking for their bars, restaurants, and shops. Perhaps I am trying to prove myself that normal life can exist in a tourist destination.
I also find myself fascinated by the future of Las Vegas. On the strip, sits vacant lots waiting for the massive footprints of future resorts and casinos. A quick internet search tells me new resorts are on their way. I can’t help but think about how that will change and shape the city. I also wonder what the future looks like for residents as they attempt to carve out a living in the unforgiving world of growth and gentrification.
As Las Vegas got smaller in the rearview mirror, I thought back on Zion and all the time I spent in Sin City. With the open road before us, my mind drifted to thoughts of what is before me. I thought of the work still to do in Los Angeles. I thought of my relationship with Brandon and the celebrations and challenges before us. I thought of walking away from important work to fulfill a dream on the Pacific Crest Trail. I thought of heading back to Seattle and making it my forever home. Thanks to experiences such as these, I feel prepared for whatever comes next.
Be good to each other,
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