One of the best things about road trips is DISCOVERY! There is so much new and unknown to explore. If I was ever afraid of going where I know so little, I’m not anymore, because I’ve experienced time and again that sweet sense of achievement and satisfaction after racing headfirst toward my fears and finding them not so big and bad after all.
So after I’d spent a week on a kayak and then another week wandering solo, car camping around Utah, I was especially excited to head to the women’s event I’d found was taking place exactly where I was already planning to be. Moab has long been one of my favorite places on the planet. It’s chock full of people who love to get outside and enjoy nature and oh my goodness the canyons!
And She’s Dope Too (ASDT) is an organization created by a wonderful young woman, Jenn Killian, and her awesome husband Taylor. Jenn kept seeing Instagram photos of model-perfect women posing in adventure environments and thought, “What about me and all the women who love the outdoors, but aren’t (in the eyes of the world) physically perfect? We’re dope, too!” So she formed outings, events and retreats in which every woman can enjoy nature together without judgment or fear of body shaming.
I stumbled across the retreat (they call them Rendezvous or “roos”) on Instagram and even after begging my way into the weekend, which had long been sold out, I was unsure I’d fit in. The majority of the girls signed up are muchhh younger than I am and honestly the older I’ve gotten, the more of a happy loner I’ve become. Still I was intrigued and simply yearned to sit around the campfire with all these women who love nature and the west as I do.
After I arrived and checked in, I eyed an encampment of tents amidst the canyon walls with women milling around in one area, a stretch of van dwellers parked in another—and I pitched my tent alone by my car instead. If I didn’t decide to stay, I made it easy to bail… ha!
I’m embarrassed now to admit it, but I didn’t participate in a single hike (or mountain biking or rock climbing outing) all weekend. Content after kayaking and hiking Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park the day before, I opted instead to drive into town alone for breakfast both mornings while everyone else took to the canyon trails.
Truth? It was wonderful. I sat in air conditioning, sipped my coffee and smiled. THIS is the benefit of being over 50! You decide how you want to live and you live it.
I did sign up for stand-up paddleboarding, since that sounded peaceful and I envisioned something incredibly serene, drifting along with the new friends I’d make.
Aw hail naw.
In the van on the way to the Colorado River, a young woman sat beside me and said she was delighted to meet me. “Everyone is talking about you by our tents,” she said, beaming. Huh? A bit alarmed, I asked her why. “You are inspiring,” she said. That made no sense to me until I realized ohhh my age! They were delighted to see someone a generation older (a white-haired lady, no less) traversing the country alone and doing the things they love. That was an aha! moment for me that it’s important to honor your inner voice, even if it’s sometimes unconventional!
That was all warm and fuzzy until we got to the shore. To my shock and utter horror, I discovered when we unloaded that we were expected to paddleboard our way through a set of three rapids on the rushing Colorado River! I had basically signed up for paddleboard surfing! (If you’ve never seen it, check it out on YouTube… OMG!)
I knewwww I didn’t belong… but I also refused to back out after just having been told that I was inspirational! Ha! I was stuck. After brief instruction by two rockstar women, I decided what the heck, let’s get this over with and plunged in with the others. It was unnerving… and awesome! Sure I came right off my board in the first set of rapids, but just climbed right back on. That’s how Life works, right? There were stretches of serenity as we drifted with the current through the soaring canyon walls—and then we’d tackle a new set of rapids. I loved the camaraderie that quickly formed and the day set the tone for the rest of my weekend. How different would it surely have been if I’d crawled back into the paddleboard van without trying—or bailed on the weekend altogether?!
Gradually I did meet lots of girls, all of whom I now completely adore, and had a fantastic time. I was super lucky that Jenn’s mom and aunt had come along for adventure (and to babysit—ASDT is a family affair for the founders); we’re the same age and had a ton of fun together. By Saturday night, I’d somehow joined the lineup of speakers addressing everyone gathered around the campfire and I even got to show off my favorite party trick spewing fire! I’m so proud of the ASDT organization and all they’re growing together. It’s a community that embodies so much that matters deeply to me: nature, an active, adventurous lifestyle, genuine connection and acceptance!
I could write an entire new post just on the remarkable women that I met… and perhaps I will. Rather than singling anyone out here (and potentially leaving someone out because of my slack brain), I’ll just say WOW! All of these girls have got it going on!!
Too soon it was time to leave, but I was psyched to learn there are many chances throughout each year to join in their fun, including backpacking treks to help women become more comfortable in rugged terrain and away from the comforts of home. From afar Jim treated me to a hotel (and shower) in Moab, plus an opportunity to do laundry after the weekend retreat. One of the girls I’d just met took the spare bed and we had a blast. I love how quickly trusting, new friendships can form!
That night, I was excited to head out for something ridiculously fun that should have been on my bucket list—if only I’d known it existed! I met Emily Klarer, a local adventure photographer, at one of Moab’s most spectacular BLM spots. It. was. STUNNING! I’m normally behind the camera lens, but this time I got to prance around the rocks, beaming for the camera and knowing she’d capture something special.
So how did the shoot even happen? Simple… I saw some images she’d taken of new friends in spectacular locations and decided I’d love some, too! I won’t always be so young (ha) and am so glad I’ll have these photos to reminisce about the days I had absolutely no fear of heights. Plus she was so awesome to be around and I’m lucky to know her! Who knew there are photographers eager to take you out of your comfort zone and into theirs so you can freeze forever a few blissful moments of bold and daring?!
The next morning, before heading out of town, I had one last task to accomplish: I wanted a tattoo to commemorate this awesome time of my Life. Seriously! I had designed my own awhile back and this seemed to be the perfect getaway to commemorate my nature connection. So did it hurt? A tad, but by the time it occurred to me to flinch, it was done! I absolutely love it, by the way… another good thing about my age is there’s no room for regrets!
From Moab I was lucky enough to visit a dear friend and her husband in Montrose, Colorado. Their home practically teeters over the roaring Uncompaghre River in a pastoral setting and I loved watching the marmots play nearby. Karen and Bill were so generous in pampering and driving me to the area’s many beautiful towns… such mesmerizing vistas! Telluride was my favorite and I know I’ll be back someday.
When I left, my drive meandered through the college town of Durango and then over the notoriously frightening (and staggeringly beautiful) Wolf Creek Pass, with relentless switchbacks and 200-foot dropoffs, on Highway 160. Rather than waiting until morning, I got impatient and foolishly decided to cross at night, in total darkness—and SNOW! It was beautiful… and I confess a bit terrifying on the turns, even for me. It was a white out and I practically hugged the tail lights of the car in front of me. The beauty, though, is what sticks with me. Crazy pretty!
After crossing the mountains, I meandered my way to Denver, stopping along the way to car camp and chase interesting sights (and sites). Part of what I love most about traveling solo is the ability to divert when road signs point to something unexpected and interesting
Finally it was time to reconnect with my husband, daughter and son, who flew in to join me at the home of close friends in Boulder, Colorado. We spent Mother’s Day together, wandering around Rocky Mountain National Park and Estes Park. It was a perfect day/weekend and I couldn’t imagine a better finale to an epic series of adventures!