During our desert southwest road trip, on the day we took a break from golf, my husband decided we should take a 14 mile hike to the Kolob Arch. Yes, you read that right, Fourteen Miles!
Zion National Park is huge and the main event, so to speak, is the famous part of the park where the Virgin River flows through, it is called the Narrows. There are shuttle services and many hikes to take from Springdale at the entrance to the park. Angels Landing and Observation Point are classic hikes but we did those 20 years ago when we were younger and in much better shape.
With COVID protocols in place, the shuttles in Zion were limited to half the passengers, and tickets needed to be purchased in advance. We met many travelers who were disappointed they were not able to gain access to the park.
We opted to take the “road less traveled” to the northwest corner of Zion and go to Kolob Canyon. We stopped there to go to the observation area and took in sweeping views of the canyon as well as the north rim of the Grand Canyon from our car on our way to Saint George and were hooked. Just driving in the gate is breathtaking.
The Kolob Arch is one of the largest natural arches in the world but it is seven miles in and seven miles out to see it. We got up at 5:30 a.m. and arrived at the trailhead at 7 a.m. There was no one else around until we came to several small campsites (advance reservations required) for people who hiked in the day before and spent the night.
The morning was cool and the wind was coming up so initially, hiking was comfortable. It is hard to describe the beauty of this canyon as the sun came up over the rim. Words like, “breathtaking, awe-inspiring, gorgeous” don’t really do it justice.
The hike starts up high and the first half-mile drops down to a valley floor along a river with a few ups and downs. Around every turn, I was snapping pictures each more beautiful than the last.
Finally, we made it to the arch, and still, we didn’t see any day hikers. We shared our packed lunch, took a few pictures, and turned to make our way back to the car. This is when we started seeing day hikers along with those staying in the canyon for the night. The temperature was rising and the wind was whipping up. There was even a “red flag” warning in case of wildfires.
I’m much older than I was the first time we came to Zion and not used to hiking this far. I can still do a 5-7 mile hike fairly easily but this was double that. We made good time until we started the steep ascent out of the canyon.
I used up all my water and had to share with my husband the last mile. The last half-mile of the hike was a test of my fortitude because after 13 1/2 miles I was tired. We had been hiking for nearly 8 hours. I was dehydrated, my heart was racing and I felt nauseous. My husband said don’t stop, just keep going, put on your “big girl pants” and quit whining. Really??
I finally made it to the top with quite a few broken blood vessels on the back of my calves. There was cold water and ice-cold watermelon in the car and I felt better once my hiking boots were off and my flip flops were on.
I’m realizing that I’m not as young as I used to be and not in the greatest shape, especially post-pandemic. We hiked over 39,000 steps that day and I’m glad we made it out. In the car on the way home, we talked about the hike and how awesome it was.
Then we had a really candid conversation about our “bucket” list. Where are the places we’ve always wanted to see? How difficult are these places to get to? Will we be physically able to get to them in the future? When will our “last” hike be?
This hike and the conversations later are causing us to rethink some of our retirement plans. The idea of “we aren’t getting any younger” is making us prioritize the activities and places we want to go to first before we can’t anymore.
Prior to the hike, I was really reluctant to hike that far in the hot sun. Happily, the experience and the views were so amazing that I don’t regret it at all. Now I’m motivated to make plans for those places we’ve only dreamed about. The sand in the hourglass is dropping and I don’t want to miss these incredible experiences.
I just need to keep moving and put one foot in front of the other. Oh and put on my big girl pants and stop whining! Thanks for the encouragement sweetheart!
One morning on our road trip we took a break from golf and went to Snow Canyon State Park in Utah. Just about 20 minutes from the town of Saint George, Snow Canyon is an overlooked gem of a park. https://stateparks.utah.gov/parks/snow-canyon/
They're many different kinds of trails with funny names. “Red Sand” lived up to its name for sure and so did “Petrified Sand Dunes.” There is one trail called “Pioneer Names.” This short less than half-mile hike takes you to an arch where you can still see where pioneers from the 1850s wrote their names in axle grease. There are also hikes called “Lava Flow” and “Butterfly.” We found the lava flow and a lava tube but I never did see anything that resembled a butterfly.
Our very first hike was in the early morning. It was to a small slot canyon and was called Jenny Canyon. We thought we were the only ones there but as we entered the entrance to the canyon we saw a woman all in black crouched in front of a video camera. As we carefully approached, she silently signaled, “Shhhh”.
Fascinated we thought maybe she was filming an animal or something. Within a few seconds, a lovely woman came from behind the rocks dressed all in white in a long flowing dress with a set of feathered wings. She arched her back and moved the wings as if she was a bird or an angel. Swirling and twirling she slowed moved her body and her wings. She was in bare feet dancing toward us from the back of the canyon.
I was transfixed because I’ve honestly never seen anything quite like this. It was such an odd time of day in a very remote place. She danced for about two minutes and then stopped. Still processing what had just happened, I quietly asked, “What is your story?”
She shared that she was a street performer and healer and that she has performed as “Angel Bird” all over the world, including Florence, Berlin, and Paris. She described her dance as a celebration of life and freedom. I asked her name and then she asked about our story.
I told her that I had retired about six weeks ago, that we were enjoying a two-week trip together, and that we had just celebrated our 41st wedding anniversary. She looked at me intently and then said, “Then we will celebrate your new freedom. You now have the freedom to live, to love, to create, and enjoy your third act.”
Overcome with unexpected emotions, tears came to my eyes. My husband said, “Are you crying?” and I said, “Yes.” Then the angel bird and her photographer started crying. This was a bit much for my husband, he said, “There is too much estrogen here” and started walking to the end of the canyon.
I’m really not exactly sure what happened to me in the canyon with the Angel Bird and her friend, but afterward, I did feel a lightness. I enjoyed the rest of our day as we sat on top of one of the petrified dunes and enjoyed our lunch and looked down at the rugged beauty of Snow Canyon. There is a spiritual aspect to retirement. I’m coming more and more to understand that it is really an opportunity for reinvention. It is a third chance to pursue your dreams, to see new places, to experience new people, and to live freely without any regrets.
Thank you Angel Bird!
Just so that you don’t think I imagined this – here is a link to Elizabeth’s website. https://www.elizabethyochim.com/home-1
A good friend of my husband generously invited us to share his condo in Saint George, Utah for a week in May. Now that I’m retired and not tied to a work or vacation schedule we decided to do something that we haven’t done in years, a “Road Trip”. In addition to planning for hiking and golf during our week in the Canyon Lands we decided to take four days to drive down and three to come home.
My husband did an amazing job of finding golf courses and hotels that only required us to drive four to seven hours each day. He found great places to sleep and either booked a tee time for us to golf together or found a few walks and hikes along the way. We slept in Pendleton, Oregon, Boise, Idaho, and Orem, Utah on the way south. Then we slept in Twin Falls, Idaho, and Kennewick, Washington on our way north.
We haven’t traveled like this very often in the past but we both found it really enjoyable. Every day was a new adventure. We met wonderful people, the hotels we stayed at were clean and were fully implementing COVID protocols, and we found some out of the way restaurants that were interesting with delicious food.
What struck me was how nice it was to have time to talk for hours as the beautiful scenery flew by. The speed limit in Utah is 80 miles an hour so the landscape went by really fast! We balanced our trip with some easier, less expensive courses that were good for me and the natural beauty of the desert southwest.
With the red rock hills, snow-capped mountains, frothy waterfalls, green trees, sagebrush all under clear blue skies and a bright yellow sun, it was hard to keep our eyes on the road. Each day I was able to be present in the moment and truly appreciate that I was in these places instead of working in a home office.
Once we joined our friends we were treated to a beautiful two-bedroom condo with a lovely pool. We golfed together at four different courses and on the other days, we went on some amazing hikes. Sometimes we got a big lunch after our round and then snacked and told stories in the evening. Other nights we went to some interesting places for dinner and on three nights we cooked for ourselves and ate in. There were barbecues on our deck so we grilled some meat, added a salad and some sides, and enjoyed our meal together.
Our two-week Road Trip just flew by to the point where we weren’t really ready to come home. Some of the highlights were: We were able to see parts of the country we’ve never seen before. We didn’t travel the same road twice. We met other retired folks from all over the country. We renewed old friendships. We grew closer together as a couple. My golf game is slowly improving and I walked more steps in two weeks than I did during months of the pandemic.
We can’t wait for our next Road Trip.
I’m finding that one of the challenges of retirement, especially if you are the first of your friend group to retire, is that everyone else is working. At this age, it can be hard to make new friends who share the same interests.
My most pleasant surprise is how much I’ve enjoyed meeting women of all ages in two local golf leagues. I’m learning that if you are willing to take a risk and try something new, you will automatically broaden your circle of friends. If this is you, I encourage you to join a group of women. It doesn’t need to be golf, of course. There are so many options to consider. Thinking about and planning what “new” thing you will do will help with the transition from fully employed to fully retired.
There are groups that do sewing, knitting, and quilting. Local guilds, churches, and some community colleges are great places to contact if you love arts and craft projects. I’ve found groups that go on bike rides and hikes, you can just show up and join in. There are book clubs, gardening groups, and as more people are vaccinated, volunteering at libraries, non-profits and schools are becoming options. You can join a gym, a dance class, or even take up karate!
What I have enjoyed about the ladies' golf leagues is that we rotate who we play with each week. This way there is no chance for a “clique” to form. Everyone I’ve met has been encouraging and welcoming. They are glad for new members, even if you are a beginning golfer like me.
A few weeks after I joined at Snohomish, two of the ladies sent me a text and asked if I wanted to join them for an early dinner in town. I checked in with my husband and asked, “Do you mind if I go tonight and dinner for you is on your own?” He said, “Go! This is what you’ve been hoping for, to make connections and make new friends. Have fun!”
It was so good to get out of the house and enjoy a really delicious dinner cooked by an amazing chef. We laughed and shared our stories over a glass of wine. We got to know each other better and I’m so looking forward to connecting with them when we are paired up again.
It might feel a little strange to join a group you aren’t familiar with but the benefits are such a blessing. Making new friends, adding a structure and schedule to your life, sharing a meal, and doing things you love to do are just a few of the joys of being retired. I’m loving this!
Because Canada was closed last summer (and still is as of April of 2021) due to the pandemic, we weren’t able to use our timeshare week in Whistler, British Columbia for 2020. We were fortunate enough to trade our unused vacation to Orange Tree Resort in Scottsdale, Arizona where my dad lives with a plan to celebrate my milestone.
My husband called this my “graduation trip” to celebrate my retirement after 44 years of public service. It was a fantastic experience and I highly recommend going somewhere a few days after your retirement, primarily so that there is a break in your routine. No looking back!
I had a week to make the transition and to pack a suitcase and my golf bag. This amount of time seemed just about right. We flew to Phoenix, rented a car, and drove to Tubac Golf Resort. My husband wanted to do something special before our timeshare week, so he took me there because it was the location for shooting one of his favorite golf movies, starring Kevin Costner and Rene Russo, Tin Cup.
He signed us up for the “Indulgent Golf Package” which is two nights in a historic Casita, two rounds of golf, and two breakfast burritos at the Cantina on the first hole. It was a magical place in the desert south of Green Valley, just north of the Mexican border. I learned that the ranch was originally a land grant from the King of Spain to the Ortero family in 1685. From this ranch, the family rose to prominence and became the “Cattle Kings of Arizona.” In the 1950s, lead by Bing Crosby and other investors, the ranch was purchased and three 9-hole courses were constructed. The longhorn cattle are still there and integrated into the course design.
I loved the historic feel of the place and as a beginning golfer, I appreciated the spacing of the women’s and men’s tees. Even though I’m still learning, we were able to enjoy some rounds of golf with a different couple each day. The husbands were pretty good golfers and both of the wives were beginners, so we could encourage each other.
At Orange Tree Resort we were in a wonderful central location north of Scottsdale. We golfed three days and enjoyed meeting other couples and even had lunch together after one of our rounds. I truly appreciated that I was in a beautiful warm place, meeting interesting people, trying something new, and walking five or more miles in a park setting with water fountains. I had to remind myself that if I hadn’t retired, I would have been on a Zoom Call in my home office that day.
I also really enjoyed taking two hikes in the desert. By starting out early enough we were able to hike mostly in the 70-degree weather, but by noon temperatures were in the mid-90’s so having a pool to dip in during the lazy afternoons was wonderful. At the McDowell Mountain Regional Park, we saw hikers and many mountain bikers. It has a rugged beauty and is a classic desert hike. https://www.maricopacountyparks.net/mcdowell-mountain-regional-park-mm/ When we went to the visitor center we were asked whether we saw any rattlesnakes. We said no! The ranger shared that it is mating season and the rattlesnakes are all out and a little crazy. Yikes! It was probably good we didn’t realize that before we started hiking.
On our last evening before returning home, we went to Butterfly Wonderland. It was an inspiring way to end our trip. https://butterflywonderland.com We learned about the plight of Monarch Butterflies and experienced a tropical rainforest environment full of all kinds of butterflies, birds, and koi. I was in awe of what we learned and what we saw.
While it was good to return home to the spring-like weather of the Pacific Northwest after a ten-day trip to the desert, I’m so grateful for this time we had together to experience a different place, reconnect with family, make new friends, stretch my legs, swing my clubs and start the next chapter of my life. I’ve now graduated to feeling really retired!