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Kayaking in a Lightning Storm

Hey Friends,

Well, it’s been a year since our last FollowThisTrip post and we thought it was time to give a little Landers life update. Since getting back from the trip last summer Lauren landed a great job as a Marketing Director of a software company in Columbia called SoftDocs. Since Lauren is working this summer I’ve been doing house projects and also working part-time for our church doing some videography and also growing an awesome summer mustache. The only downside to Lauren having the full-time job is our vacation/adventure possibilities are limited. We’ve definitely done a lot of reminiscing this summer about how we wish we were camping in the old van out west somewhere, but just because we’re not on the road doesn’t mean we can’t have a little adventure in our hometown of Columbia, SC right?

The temperature lately has been in the 100′s so anything that doesn’t involve water was pretty much out of the question. So for our 5th Year Anniversary we decided to take a kayaking trip down the Saluda River. Our small adventure turned into a pretty crazy memory that we will not soon forget, when a lightning storm hit about halfway through the trip. You can watch the whole adventure in the video below.

Hope you guys enjoyed that as much as we did (well I did at least). This little expedition was a great reminder for us that even though we’re not traveling cross country, there are still great ways to get out and experience nature, the unexpected and have a great time. Expeditions take time, planning and a little money, but they are always worth it for the experience and the memories.

We’ll try to post another adventure before another year has passed. Hope you are all doing well and going on your own summer adventures.

Have a great summer everyone!

Ben

A Look Back…

Wow, it feels good to be home and finally get back into the swing of things.

We came home to a clean house thanks to our rad summer roommates, we unpacked, caught up on laundry and thought about this upcoming year. Ben started work yesterday and I’m currently looking for a job while running Utopia Invitations and doing some freelance work.

We’ve made some incredible memories this summer and we’re so glad that all of you have taken the time to follow our trip. Thank you for all the encouragement, support and prayer.

Since it’s been a lot of fun connecting with new people through the blog, we’re still trying to figure out what to do with it. To keep the blog or not? We do have an upcoming camping trip planned with the in-laws. Hmmm…I wonder if “Follow This Trip” could imply following our lives…that might be a stretch.

Until we figure out what to do next, here’s a look back at our summer in 10 minutes. Thanks again for following along.

Our journey home…

After we put the van up for sale we decided to give it 6 days to sell and if we didn’t have any interest we were going to try and drive it home and hope and pray for the best. We had a few calls and emails but nobody too serious until the 6th day when a local artist test drove the van and bought it the same day. He has some ideas for painting some murals on it and we think Buddy will be enjoying some more adventures on the West Coast. We thought about flying back, but after unloading the van we realized we had way too much stuff and decided to rent a car. Our new trip mobile is below… definitely a little cramped, but we made it work.

As you can see, we tried the magnet out on the car, but it wasn’t a very good fit, so we just packed it in the back. It was similar to a game of Tetris (or Blokus) fitting all of our gear from the van into a Nissan Sentra, but somehow we did it.

We were eager to see some family so we decided to drive straight to Nashville, TN (32 hours) to stay with some of our best friends, Rich and Tiff Zuch, and then on to Greenville, SC to be with family.

The trip has been incredible with plenty of highs and lows and tons of memories that we will never forget. We are happy to be home and to have been lucky enough to experience all that we did. Here’s a few shots of our trip home and the last video taken of Buddy.

We made it to the West Coast!

We are very happy to report that Buddy made it to San Diego. We were lucky enough to know some incredible friends that let us crash with them while we were figuring out the van situation. The picture below is when we watched the Women’s World Cup and decided to dress in matching patriotic outfits… unfortunately the USA lost in penalty kicks to Japan, but it was still a good game…

After arriving in San Diego, we took the van to a transmission shop and had a few minor repairs done and it seemed to be running smoothly. A few days later we had to make another repair and decided to try and sell the van by Tuesday and if we couldn’t find a buyer, we would just try to drive it back. Our rationale was that we could probably find a buyer quicker in California than in South Carolina and honestly, we were sick of dealing with the stress of the van breaking down and wanted to have reliable transport back home.

During the time the van was at the shop, and while it was up for sale, we had some great adventures in San Diego and our friends, the Salmons, were awesome hosts. We got to spend time snorkeling at La Jolla Shores, watching seals at Seal Beach, going to a reggae concert, experiencing the Del Mar horse races, eating some great fish tacos and of course beaching it up as much as possible.

Lauren and the girls at the Del Mar Horse Race

Seals at Seal Beach

Here’s a few of the highlights from our time in Southern Cali

Joshua Tree National Park

Wow, such a stark contrast from Vegas, the drive through the Mojave Desert was desolate and somehow still scenic, with lots of Joshua Trees all over the place. After camping at another primitive site right outside Joshua Tree National Park, we headed off to hike to one of the few oasis’ located in the park, 49 Palms Oasis.

Along the way we saw lots of different sized and colored cacti.

It was only a 3 miles hike, but extremely hot and dry the entire way. After hiking for almost an hour through the dry and hot desert we reached the oasis which is a spring the the desert where palm trees offer shade and the local wildlife can go to rest and drink water. It was a relief to sit in the shade of the palms for a while before returning back to the van.

After the hike, we visited the visitor center, which is also located near an oasis, ate a quick lunch and drove through the park. We stopped for an hour or so for Ben to do some climbing on a few of the HUGE boulders they have throughout the park. Look close and you’ll see him on the rock in the pictures below.

The Joshua Trees are funny looking things, like they came from a Dr. Seuss book, each of them has their own personality.

After taking a few hours to drive through the park, we headed to San Diego. When we were about halfway there the transmission started jolting in and out of Overdrive a few times, we weren’t sure if we would make it, but we were determined to get to the West Coast or break down trying… more on that in the next post

Vegas Baby!

We made it to Vegas where all our dreams came true. Haha…just kidding. Maybe I should say where all the stereotypes came true.

Since we’ve had to spend our fun money on the van and all its health problems, we had to stay at Hostel Cat, a hostel that was featured in The Hangover and located beside a strip club and across the street from a wedding chapel. Of course.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the hostel experience, but in Vegas I just wasn’t feeling it. The Bellagio would’ve been my hotel of choice.

We had a good time playing penny slots, seeing the lights and the sights (including a Dale Chihuly installation), but definitely wished our friends could have flown in for this.

Ben finally found a poker tournament at 2 a.m. that wasn’t a $1000 buy-in, but I couldn’t stay awake anymore since poker tournaments can last hours. I hate to say it, but I made him call it a night. If only his poker buddies could have been there.

If we ever have a chance to go back, we’d love to see a Vegas show and Ben would like to actually play some poker. I doubt we’ll ever go back though. We don’t feel in our element there. This feeling was especially true at the end of the night when we got back to the hostel and saw creepy half-dressed mannequins moving on an electronic bull in front of the strip club. Kind of wish we had a picture of this. Kind of glad we don’t.

Our next destination took us through the Mojave Desert and we loved this part of the road trip…back to nature and a slower pace.

Angels Landing & Our New Friend

Angels Landing is not recommended for anyone afraid of heights. Six people have died on this hike. For the first 2 miles, you wonder why. The trail is wide and well maintained – even paved in a lot of parts – with a slow incline. And there are fun little slots and caves to explore. But Angels Landing is actually only the last 1/2 mile of the hike. And that’s when you get it.

We thought this was it, but see the narrow ridge off to the left? Yeaaahh.

After a series of 21 tight and steep switchbacks, you start to see it. And right before the actual Angels Landing started is where we bumped into our friend Brooks that we had met at our campsite the day before.

We stopped and took pictures of the monolith ahead and the valley below and found out a little more about Brooks.

He’s a great guy with a big heart and a very cool job. He’s a fundraiser for National Camps for the Blind. He gets to be apart of camps that take blind children down zip-lines, tubing behind boats and other adventures they might normally never experience. He has to do some traveling and is sure to drop in a hike or two here and there.

As we continue on, the ridge narrows into a sort of rock fin with drop-offs on both sides. There are parts that are only 12-18 inches wide.

It gets so steep that chains are bolted in to help you climb to the top. Eek!

We saw a woman come down from the landing who must have not known she was afraid of heights. Her body almost shut down not able to move on her own. She went down really slowly with people assisting her. This is not what you want to see at this point. You just keep telling yourself that your fine so you’ll remain calm.

But then you get to the top with a great feeling of accomplishment and see spectacular views.

After a long day, we settled in for a deep night’s sleep.

The Narrows!

After hiking Hidden Canyon, the next day we hiked The Narrows – “one of the best, if not the best, hike in the National Park System,” according to Zion National Park and we completely agree. Seriously a magical experience.

This 16-mile river hike (I thought it was 9 miles) takes you through ankle to chest high waters as you weave under towering canyon walls and over and around boulders. It’s strenuous due to the length, swift waters and slippery rocks but to be honest, because of the popularity of this hike from mid-June through mid-September, the rocks weren’t slippery at all.

We couldn’t get enough of the views. Hanging gardens everywhere, moss-covered rock, waterfalls trickling down into the Virgin River (not the Virginia River like we mistakeningly called it before) and the feeling of being a tiny little creature in this great big world.

We didn’t realize how freezing cold we’d be on this hike in July, but we were. The hike up to the riverbed is a mile long, so we suggest starting it at 10 or 10:30 in the morning (we got a later start) so that the sun will be directly overhead by the time you get to the cold waters. Hope you guys get to do this hike in your lifetime!

Tunes by Jenny & Tyler.

Zion National Park

Since our first big stop at The Petrified Forest, our trip was starting to get better and better. Either that or our adventure adrenaline was pumping more, because every new stop seemed to top the one before.

The Grand Canyon was amazing for its grandeur, Lake Powell for being able to swim inside canyon walls, Bryce Canyon for its crazy hoodoo formations, etc.,etc.

But, Zion National Park may be our favorite park so far. This is the place where we talked about taking our kids one day and imagined taking them on hikes guided by treasure maps, which is the way Ben proposed to me by the way.

We especially loved hiking Hidden Canyon our first day there.

The things we liked most about Zion was the mile-long, pitch-black tunnel you get to travel through to get inside the park, all the hanging gardens (plants that grow upside down out of rock walls), the fact that a town is in the middle of the park (complete with a movie theater, grocery store and buses that run to local coffee bars and restaurants), the size of the park…big enough to feel amazing, but still conquerable, the Virgin River and our campsite, which had great views and was located by the river.

Our first impression of Zion (or “Mount Zion” as Ben kept accidentally calling it) was “We don’t wanna leave.”

Figure 8

On our last full day at Bryce Canyon, we decided to try a hike with the best views.

We discovered the “Figure 8,” which puts 3 different trails together.

There are no signs that say “Figure 8″. We’re thinking this route has become popular among hikers and to find it, go online or ask a ranger.

Bryce’s unique hoodoo formations are a MILLION times better seen from inside the canyon. They tower over you like huge sand creatures like this praying lady (her praying hands just recently fell off from erosion) and lion (or dog) in front of her.

The perspective is amazing.

The “Figure 8″ is also cool for the little tunnels you get to walk through.

And as Napoleon Dynamite’s brother would say about our hiking experience, “I guess you could say that we’re getting pretty serious.” :)