I settled in with some matte, an apple, and a piece of paper. After five-hundred miles on the road, through mostly desert and a whole lot of nothing, I couldn’t think of a better way to recharge the batteries. Arizona is a beautiful state, but driving gets quite monotonous and one can only handle so many hours of cacti and gently sloping desert mountains. It had been an anxious departure, complicated by a later start than anticipated, some unforeseen roadblocks, and a haphazard decision to stop before reaching my destination that wound up turning into a chaotic mess and a cold night spent on the side of the road. The lingering anxiety gave way to doubt; doubt to self-depreciation; self-depreciation to a rekindling of my depressive tendencies and a long meditation on the overarching question of “What am I doing?". Some ideas always seem better on paper but, as I tried to remind myself that, after all, this was fully intended to be a bit of a dive into the unknown. A week ago, I had quit a comfortable job and hit the road, driving down to Phoenix to see family and finish up getting my car ready for the months ahead. While I had a general idea of what it was that I wanted to do, I still didn’t believe I’d wind up doing it. I had dreamed, since high school, of hitting the road and tramping around. I’d dreamed about doing it as a climber once I got comfortable on the sharp end. But to actually have no future work, a lump of savings for gas, and a car to sleep in felt a bit surreal-- enough so, that, even as I set up my campsite, I doubted this was something real tangible, almost expecting to suddenly wake up in my Boulder apartment having overslept for work.
The Creek greets you like a soft, handshake followed by a firm slap on the back. There’s one sign indicating the turn off from the highway which leads you through ten miles of flat, sagebrush and red dirt pasture; the monotony of the asphalt broken up by the high pitch and slight shake of tires over cattle grates. After ten miles on an underwhelming and straight highway, there’s a couple of deep, twisting switchbacks that drop and wind you down to the valley floor. These deep bends and downturning curves, weave you down to the valley floor, into a grove of trees sandwiched by crumbling cliffs of muted white and crimson, a small and narrow creekbend follows the road for several miles. Here, you begin to feel the uniqueness, beauty, and imposing solitude of the environment you’re entering. The road winds it’s way further, the claustrophobia of the forested ravine gradually easing as trees and brush become more sparse. Cliffs begin to rise, each taller than the previous and what was a calcified, off-white begins to transform into a stark, brick red with an orange tinge, brown and black streaks of desert varnish adding a touch of flair to the color scheme. Shortly thereafter, the road snakes out of the ravine into a wide open canyon miles across; cliffs, rising hundreds of feet from red dirt and talus mounds shoot skyward, split from top to bottom by cracks of myriad widths, complexities, and personalities each competing for your attention. Several times, I forgot that my primary responsibility is to keep my vehicle on the road, nearly running my car off the road, and had to pull over and step out just to take in the sheer size and incredible beauty of the surrounding landscape.
From the road, there’s a definite lack of intimacy; but these cliffs are flirtatious and sultry, like the stranger at the bar that asks “Do you want me?” through a moment of eye contact and a half-smile. You want them, but don’t know how to ask and are lacking a way to initiate that conversation. For the next few weeks, I’d learn how to ask. This was why I decided to quit my job and, while it'd take some time to figure out whether or not it was the right decision, I knew that'd I been in for a learning experience on the grandest scale.