Eight times the lighting struck. It hit the same spot over and over before streaking east over the highway towards Zion National Park. The wind whipped my car back and forth; a southbound I-15 sign dangled headfirst towards the ground.
I was finally getting close.
A few hours ago, there was no way through the water. The dusty road out of Bullfrog was blocked by a fast-moving torrent of flood water racing through the desert. But Bullfrog is a crashed couch and a few hundreds miles east towards Colorado. Now, finally, after nearly 10,000 miles of pavement, the gates of Zion are near.
The greatest national park of the west is the final bookend of this journey: everything before lead up to this, everything after is part of the long road home.
DURANGO, Colorado— The knocks came just after midnight, steady banging on the bedroom door at my cousin’s Colorado mountain hideaway. My first reaction was to grab a bat, but in the absence of one I didn’t dare reach for the only substitute the bedroom/studio had to offer—a Gibson Les Paul.
My second instinct was to search for clothes. Once I realized that my cousin was knocking on the door—not a bear or a wolverine or a skinwalker or whatever kind of menace lurks in the mountains after dark—I got up to answer the rapping at the chamber door. When I opened it, logic flew out the window—I saw my brother’s face, a few thousand miles from where it belonged back in Memphis.
“You didn’t really think you could do this Souled Outside crap without me,” Chris laughed.
Yeah. I did.
But I can’t really describe the feeling of opening that door. I don’t think I believed it until he was on the road back to the Denver airport two days later.
“I just wanted a little piece of Souled Outside,” he said. Somewhere between hiking canyons in the San Juan Mountains, crawling around the Great Sand Dunes in a thunderstorm and earning himself a new tattoo, he earned the piece.
Welcome to the Souled Out world big bro. Oh, and happy birthday.
Chris isn’t the only one I’m welcoming to Souled Outside this week. Returning for the trip to Zion are Jeremy and Ashley. We’ll tackle this park like we took on the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone over a month ago. They’ll bring with them two more Mtown homies—Shah and Clayton.
So we’re finally here. One adventurer turned into five, and several dozen more in spirit.
This is it.
Zion is the last great challenge.
This weekend, our fellowship takes on the dizzying heights Angel’s Landing and the perilous water-logged trails of the Narrows. If we make it, we’ll celebrate with a suite at Caesar’s Palace in nearby Las Vegas. So here’s to good fortune, here’s to treacherous trails.
Hail the outside.
Editor’s notes: The road to Zion took me back through Durango, which I visited earlier this month, and ultimately back to Lake Powell, which is an indescribably special place for me. Powell, a giant reservoir that’s more like a flooded Grand Canyon, was the first place I came out west. That trip was a weeklong journey for work, over a year ago, and it put the bug in me for more.
To the folk’s who were there last year—Jarrett, Russ, Dave (s), Paul, Dena, Noel, Rich, and all the Jeff’s—thank you.
Up next: if we survive Zion intact, I’ll make my way home over a weeklong span, hitting Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and Louisiana. If you’re out there, I’ll see you soon.