The event of the year, Natural Products Expo West. The 3-day event so many companies, small and large alike, invest in through time and money and creative effort, was canceled. Our plan prior to this fateful news was simple, drive the Wildway van (properly named Van Wilder) from our home base in San Antonio, TX to the convention center in Anaheim, CA. Seemingly out of nowhere, news of the Coronavirus outbreak began to flood the news and every social media platform. At this time there were only a handful of cases in the U.S. and slowly but surely, one by one, events began to shut down. Despite many companies pulling out of Expo, we decided we would try to make the most of the circumstances given and make our way to Anaheim. We departed from San Antonio three days before the show with high hopes, but even still, we were not immune to the outcomes of COVID-19.
After two days of driving, over 1,300 miles of ground covered, the event was postponed the same day as our arrival. Despite this upsetting and frustrating news, we knew all we could do was make the most of the experience back home. Things didn’t turn out as we had hoped or planned, but then again, most things never do. Wildway team member, Amanda, flew out to Anaheim to set off on a week-long adventure that she would never forget. This is her (and very much our own) story of living with open palms and accepting the curve balls life throws. A story of how showing up with no expectations leads to unexpected adventures and is quite possibly the ultimate way to #livewild.
Here's Amanda’s trip itinerary and retelling of her adventures in her own words.
Day 1 – Exploring Santa Monica and Malibu - California
I’ve always preferred mountains to the ocean, but as someone who enjoys being outdoors in any setting, I couldn’t leave California without heading to the beach to catch views of the great Pacific. I spent the day driving along California’s star highway, pacific coast highway 1. Miles upon miles of beach views begged for me to pull off the highway and run to the water, and multiple times I gave in. After having my fill of the ocean, I gave in to a much deeper and persistent calling, off to the San Bernardino mountains I went that evening. The night was spent soaking in the sunset on Big Bear Lake and sleeping among the forest trees.
Day 2 – Hiking Bertha Peak in San Bernardino – Big Bear, California
Not two days into my trip did the feeling to seize an importunity for a hike sneak into my head. I knew I had to see some mountains before heading south into the desert, and San Bernardino did not disappoint. Sleeping at the trailhead the night prior allowed for a relaxing morning and approach. Though the beginning trail was extremely muddy, I could not have been more excited to experience a whole different scenery, a fresh new perspective. I hiked up and along the cougar crest trail that eventually fed into the famous PCT. I spent some time at the top of Bertha peak soaking in the surrounding scenery; snow-covered mountain tops, a still and calm Big Bear lake, the gentle breeze that staved off the warmth of the sun. Eventually, the sun began to set as it does, and I made my way down the mountain. With a full heart and ambitious spirit, I set off for my next destination, Joshua Tree National Park.
To read a full trail review of Cougar Crest trail to Bertha Peak, click here!
Day 3 – Joshua Tree National Park – Southern California
I awoke just before the sunrise outside the boundaries of Joshua Tree National Park. Not wanting to miss the sunrise on the desert, I hurriedly got on the road and began the drive through the park to the trailhead for the day’s hike. I’ve learned that beginning any hike with the rise of the sun, or just after, is the way to go: fewer people, quieter. To be the only one walking along a trail is quite possibly my favorite feeling. I trekked the Lost Horse Mine loop at my own pace, paused at every plant that caught my attention, and wandered off the path to spots more intriguing. Along the trail I saw the desert from heights up above, then descended low to walk beneath the Joshua Trees. Returning to the van feeling overwhelmingly satisfied with my small Joshua tree experience, I ventured off on my longest leg of driving yet, to Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada.
To read a full trail review of the Lost Horse Mine loop, click here!
Day 4 – Valley of Fire State Park – Clark County, Nevada
Possibly one of my favorite experiences along the road trip, Valley of Fire is an unspeakable gem in the Nevada desert land. I slept just a ways outside the park entrance the night prior which made the early morning commute the next morning short and sweet. The drive had me curious as to where all the crimson red rocks I had seen in photos were when suddenly, out of nowhere, towering red rocks arose from the ground. I stumbled upon one rock in particular that, from its base, appeared to lead straight into the sky. I ran to the very top, stood mesmerized by the sweeping rocks towering above a winding road below and thought to myself, this is a good resting rock, so that’s exactly what I did for the next two hours. By the time I was ready to hit the road, the park had become a madhouse and it was clearly time for me to escape. It was time to make my way to what I was most excited to experience along the journey, Zion National Park.
Day 5 – Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park – Springdale, Utah
I began my trek to Angel’s Landing around 8:00 a.m. with a swarm of others. If you would like more detail on this experience, click the link below for a full trail review. Only upon reaching the very top of Angel’s Landing and excitedly reaching for my camera to capture a moment did I realize that I had forgotten my SD card in my laptop…in the van. In the past, I would’ve let such a mistake get to me, but now I can only laugh from another lesson learned. Perhaps I was more in the moment now without a camera to distract me. I sat down and felt grateful to be in such a beautiful place, snapped a couple of pictures with my phone for memory’s sake, and made my descent. A couple of hours later, I decided to hike the Watchman trail as the sun was setting. It was on this trail where I met new friends with whom I would explore the narrows early the next morning.
To read a full trail review of Angel’s Landing, click here!
Day 6 – The Narrows in Zion National Park
With hopes of catching the first shuttle to the narrows, I headed to the park before the sun had even begun to rise. I met my friends at the visitors' center, hopped on the shuttle, and off we went to adventures unknown. If you would like more detail on this experience, click the link below for a full trail review (genuinely one I will never forget). After a full day of exploring the Virgin river tucked between canyon walls, I said a sweet goodbye to Zion and made my way to Glen Canyon just in time to catch the sunset. From atop a scenic overlook just off the road, I watched the light descend over the canyon and fade from the deep pink and blue sky.
To read a full trail review of the Narrows, click here!
Day 7 – Devil’s Bridge in San Coconino – Sedona, AZ
The infamous Devil’s Bridge is one many will recognize, likely from a picture their favorite travel influencer shared on their social media. I had seen this bridge many times before and always thought it made for a sweet overlook and potentially cool experience. Heading south through Arizona regardless, I decided to take a break from driving and make a pitstop for a quick hike. Despite the rain that had been coming down all morning, I decided to continue to on to the bridge despite the swamp-like state of the trail. I made it up top to the bridge to realize, once again, I had left my SD card back in my other camera in the van. You would think I had learned my lesson the first time, but apparently not. This would just be another opportunity to be present and content with the fact that I was even there! After soaking in the view, I began my return to the van. Just when I had arrived at the worst area of the trail, where the wet sand transformed into a red sludge, it began to rain again. This made for an exciting game of jumping from one stamp-size dry spot to the next, all the while trying to avoid slipping and falling. I drove off in high spirits and mud-covered shoes, so an all-around successful trip.
Day 8 – White Sands National Park – New Mexico
I had one last stop to make before embarking on before heading all the way back home, White Sands National Park. The forecast called for dreary skies and drizzles, but that wasn’t going to keep me from the blindingly bright gypsum dunes. What many don’t know about White Sands, is that is home to the world’s largest gypsum dune field. All throughout the dunes people raced up to the top and slid down on sleds; walked up and over the small hills; and relaxed, stretching across the cool, soft sand. Contrary to popular opinion, I quite enjoy gloomy weather. The setting of it all was so perfect because had it been much brighter I would have truly been blinded by the light reflecting off the sand. Under the clouds, mountains stood in the distance, seemingly bluer.
White Sands was a sweet ending to one journey of a lifetime.
In eight days I covered over 2,000 miles, visited three national parks, wandered along trails spanning 5 different states, drove backcountry roads not shared with a single soul for hundreds of miles, experienced the kindness of strangers, found a sense of home in small-town coffee shops, and other wildly meaningful micro-experiences that can only come from the simple act of showing up. It is in moments such as these that I begin to wonder what opportunities I possibly missed out on when, in the past, I had tried so hard to plan and predict every detail of my travels. I don’t dwell on “what could’ve been” but feel very grateful to be in the mind space I am now. This was one wild week I will not soon forget, and I am beyond grateful to have represented my Wildway of life throughout each and every day. #livewild