Growing up in my small town just outside of New York City, located on the Appalachian Trail, fostered a love for the outdoors within me. As a result, for a long time I felt that nothing could compare to the beauty of nature. I felt that there was nothing more gorgeous than a hike up a lush green path with views of pine-decorated lakes and rolling mountain peaks.
That is, until I found myself in the Moab Desert this past summer.
My family and I landed in Grand Junction, Colorado this past June with starry eyes. As we walked out onto a runway surrounded by the colossal Colorado National Monument, an area of desert land high on the Colorado Plateau, we realized that this family visit was going to be absolutely spectacular.
From Grand Junction, we hopped into our Hertz rental car and traveled about 114 miles (in just one hour!) through the empty, flat, expansive and unexpectedly beautiful Grand Utah County. Finally, we arrived in the city of Moab.
Moab, Utah has a population of a little over 5,000, making it the largest city in Grand Utah County. When I learned this, I couldn’t help but scoff a little as I thought of the over eight million people residing in the city I came from.
Moab is well known for its two local national parks: Arches and Canyonlands. In addition, the town is a popular base for hikers, mountain bikers, cliff jumpers, slack-liners, belay climbers, sky-divers, off-roaders and even off-trail skiers and other extreme sport enthusiasts. During the trip I had the pleasure of meeting several individuals who fell into many of these categories.
I could never really understand the lure of the extreme sport scene.
That is, until I tried it.
In addition to hiking to the beautiful “Delicate Arch,” I tried my hand at slacklining. I jumped off a cliff into a seven-foot deep watering hole, much to the dismay of my father and several others. I rafted down the Colorado River. I even took a massive dive off of a boulder on a mountain bike due to a flat tire.
The rush from these adventures was incredible. I now understand why these sports can be so addicting. These experiences were exciting and unforgettable. What I found most amazing was that these outdoors activities were somehow able to enhance the natural beauty of Moab that encompassed me.
I never thought of a desert as beautiful until I found myself in one. Although I was surrounded by the same desert throughout the week, its aesthetic amazed me every second of my visit. In Arches National Park, I was able to look through the “Delicate Arch” at an immense landscape. The landscape framed by the arch almost looked mosaic due to the complex colors that decorated every cliff and mountain side. On the Colorado River, I was able to appreciate the immense height of the mountains surrounding us as well as the power of the river’s water. One morning, I woke up early and walked outside to admire the red rocks. The rising sun was hitting the rocks at the perfect angle and I saw every shade of orange, yellow, brown and red dance across the Colorado Plateau that morning. Moab is incredibly breathtaking.
However, the most breathtaking view of the entire week was hands down my beautiful cousin, Kari, as she walked through Canonland to marry her husband, Steve. This outdoor desert wedding scene was not beautiful just because of the incredible landscape. Rather, it was beautiful because, in that moment, I knew that my cousin was unequivocally happy.
Our trip to Moab for Kari’s wedding made me rethink beauty in so many ways. That week, I learned that beauty can be found in the pine forests of the Appalachian Mountains as well as in the red rock of the desert, the natural power of the Colorado River and even in the thrill of an adventure. However, despite all the incredible landscapes of Moab, the most beautiful view I had that week was actually not of nature. Seeing my cousin, glowing in her gown, happy beyond all measure was more emotional and beautiful than any scenery on earth.