Gone was the sea breeze and moist air of our salty South Carolina coast. Here in Kanab, Utah our lips cracked like the sand tresses of the red canyons we gazed upon. This place made us dig deep into our souls and deep into our boots for that piece of us that remembered what it was to be feral. It was in that moment of letting go the suspense of life and actually enjoying the grit in my teeth and feel of my muscles lifting the pitchfork, sifting the pitchfork, and lizard-walking through the sand to dump the manure into the ATV bed, that I felt free. For two weeks I experienced the ardor of Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. It lives up to its name in every aspect; the longer you stay, the more you feel like family. Volunteering in Horse Haven allowed us to see the vast 20,700 acres of the Sanctuary. We visited each animal sanctuary of Best Friends and were impressed with the effort put into each habitat’s cleanliness and the caring attitude of the staff and volunteers.
After Best Friends we originally planned on going to see The Wave, a beautiful rock formation just below the Utah-Arizona border, but our name was drowned in those of foreigners and wasn’t selected from the lottery. No hard feelings though, a glance at a poster in the BLM Kanab Field Office showed a free, half-day ranger-guided tour of the Escalante Grand Staircase. We met Ranger Ron and when he asked if we had four wheel drive, we knew awesomeness was quite literally around the mountain. Ranger Ron turned out to be the science teacher I wished I’d had going into highschool. He made the process of rock formation cool, showing us from a mountain overlook the natural steps of the Grand Staircase which encompass Southern Utah. To top it all off he showed us his self-made brain-tanned skins of a quality that is extremely rare. He brought us constant entertainment with his genuine, “what can only happen in the middle of nowhere” stories, and tales of the friendly football-watching wild skunks living under his porch. I remember this thought striking me as I stood next to him, ‘Here is a man born of positive intrapersonal ambition in the middle of nowhere, making this formidable place full of life in a spiritual richness that sits punctured upon a cactus like a ripened heart.’ I have resolved to never forget this man and the land and its wildlife I learned to cherish.
We booked a tour of White Pockets that Ranger Ron recommended and headed out to meet our guide, Ben. I was excited to get off paved roads on the way to the rock formation. Ben let me drive the ATV all the way to White Pockets for the couple hours of deep sand and rocky terrain. It was extremely fun for me and slightly harrowing for my parents, but we survived.
After a short hike we were standing on White Pockets, although to me it looked more like humongous white brains and red sinew swirling across the landscape. I lept from brain to brain and had a blast leaping up and down the mountain. The view was spectacular blue skies and gave us a real sense of the expanse of our surroundings. There is so much land in America! I am glad I was able to add this experience of the West to my adventures and hope that in the future others can appreciate and help conserve its wonders.
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