by Kailey Whitehead | IG: @_kailedit
The hum of airplane engines can almost be therapeutic. My mind had been racing, but the hours in-flight relaxed me to a place of recall. I remembered why I was even on this plane. What seemed like days ago had actually been months, and I could not help but close my eyes and relive the rush of excitement on that dreary Sunday afternoon at the John C. Hodges Library on campus at the University of Tennessee Knoxville. The other 5th floor occupants who, like me, had seemingly taken up residency studying in this secluded, quiet haven were probably annoyed when my phone rang so loudly. I could feel the irritated vibes being sent my way when I broke a cardinal rule by answering it. I excused myself from my nest of study paraphernalia, and, with as much grace as I could muster while whispering to my dad to please hold on the other line, I made my way to the stairwell so our conversation could take place at a normal volume. My dad really knows how to carry a conversation, so I was a bit surprised that he stumbled around his words; either something was wrong or he was attempting to surprise me. Finally, he just came out and said what was on his mind—“This summer we are going to the Grand Canyon.”
Recalling this moment in my airplane seat brought a smile to my face as I envisioned what I must have looked like to my classmates through the window of the stair door, jumping up and down like a child who just received their first bike on Christmas morning. My daydream came to an end as I heard the pilot come over the speakers asking us to prepare for landing. The trip I had been looking forward to for months was about to start. As I fought back the butterflies in my stomach all I could think about was how exciting these next days would be.
My Soul Drank
Our Utah vacation took us to Zion National Park. We entered the park by shuttle—a ride filled with excitement and anticipation. We’d made the decision to hike to the Emerald Pools, but no amount of planning could have prepared me for the sights I was about to see.
Being a girl from West Tennessee, I have grown up around rich green forest. While we hiked, my mind was blown by how beautiful rocky terrain can be. At one point the trail crested and the canyon view it revealed made we realize just how small I am. I was captivated. The canyon walls were like nature’s skyscrapers towering over me.
My awe and amazement peaked when we reached the Emerald Pools. The small pools were barricaded in by canyon walls and the waters, all shades of blue, green, and teal, danced with the light. To gain a different perspective I lay on my back next to the water and looked straight up. The various reds, pinks, and whites painting the canyon made it feel like a dream—a dream that made me wonder what forces had caused such beauty. In that dream-like state there were no papers due, no phone notifications, no distractions to interfere with the uncanny peace that filled our hearts from the thrill of nature. In those moments it felt like the world had just stopped turning and nothing mattered other than all of us being together.
When we left the Emerald Pools, by strange chance I dropped my water bottle. When I bent to pick it up I noticed a trail sign that read, “The Grotto.” My simple accident was an omen of sorts that told me our day wasn’t over yet—we were meant to hike down that trail. As we walked we were met with more inspiring views with the sight of a small river slicing its way through a canyon. It was breathtaking.
My first day in Zion National Park exceeded expectations. The shuttle ride back to our hotel brought the same butterflies I felt on the plane ride from Tennessee. I was craving to go into the wild again—as if I had just finished my first glass of water following sprints and my body was telling me I needed more.
Antelope Slot Canyons
The following morning I laid awake reflecting on my family’s experiences from the day before in Zion National Park. I wanted more time to explore that amazing place, but I would have to satisfy myself with memories for the time being. My alarm rang, calling me from bed to get ready for the day’s event.
Our destination was Lower Antelope Canyon in Page, Arizona. Even for a Tennessee girl, the 109 degree temperature was a shock when we hopped out of our rental vehicle into the Arizona desert.
We met up with our tour guide (a requirement in Antelope Canyon) and set out to roam the ancient slot canyon. The dry heat made for one heck of a hike, yet our guide was able to distract us with a history lesson of the canyon. The Navajo Indians have had an unbreakable bond with Antelope Canyon for generations. We shuffled down a steep ladder to the bottom of the canyon and were taken aback by the realm we had just entered. The canyon walls seemed to lurk over us. The sunlight highlighted the various curves and peaks and shone in reds, pinks, purples, and oranges. I noticed birds soaring high above the canyon as if they were its protectors.
A breeze blew through the canyon and it gave us some relief in the stifling heat. My mind was flooded with memories of growing up in the south, riding around curvy back roads with the windows down on hot summer days. Strange how I could be reminded of the place I come from in a landscape I'd never experienced before.
I scanned the walls of the canyon and noticed various paw prints imprinted in rock. No telling what life has travelled throughout these slot canyons. Paw prints next to the trail belonged to some resident of this gorgeous terrain and before those marks were left a generation prior had made prints just like those. This generational concept affirmed that I was merely a visitor in this canyon, and I have the hope that my descendants will have this place to revisit time and time again. As we drove away from the park, I thanked the canyon for capturing my attention and am reminded of the power exploration and adventure can give.
Shirt Sizing Guide
|Length (inches)||28||29 ¼||30 ¼||31 ¼||32 ½||33 ½|
|Waist (inches)||25 ¼||26 ¾||28 ⅜||31 ½||34 ⅝|
|Hips (inches)||35 ⅜||37||38 ⅝||41 ¾||44 ⅞|