Thursday, October 23, 2008

Traveling Alone through the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument

The Solace of Solitude
As an artist, I've developed my own distinct style in my photography and my writing. As a nature photographer I've found myself slowly gravitating toward expansive open spaces, majestic landscapes, and gigantic panoramas in an attempt to convey the sense of wonder I feel in nature. However, I've hardly touched on my own distinct style of travel--developed, like my art, over many years. I travel alone the overwhelming majority of the time. I fell into this habit early on out of necessity. Seizing every opportunity to travel often meant that I would leave with little or no notice and drift through my travels as time and money allowed. However, traveling alone has many benefits.
Advantages of Traveling Alone
  1. Flexibility. This is a nice euphemism for selfishness. Going solo means you set your own pace, your own agenda, meal plan, lodging arrangements etc. In day to day life I find I constantly interact with people who I must accommodate. I need a vacation from this as much as anything.
  2. Nature. With nature as my sole companion I am free from the distractions of society. I find I experience the beauty and purity of nature not as a spectator but as a participant.
  3. Solitude. It is often only through solitude that I truly know myself. I find these times of solitude necessary for deep introspection.
  4. Independence. I have been blessed with a few great friends who have always been there for me, but I believe it is important for me to survive on my own from time to time. As a man, I use this independence to take risks, test my strength, and assert my silly inner boy. However, regardless of your sex or what independence means to you, I believe the confidence gained from this independence is vital in shaping us and who we will be around others.
  5. Spiritual Growth. Perhaps it is partly because I am religious, but I often feel the presence of god more keenly when I am alone in the wilderness. God speaks to me through the mountains and the trees, and sometimes I only hear it when I am alone and free from distractions.
A Few Words on Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
As you no doubt have guess, the pictures in this post are from Vermilion Cliffs, more specifically from Paria Canyon. They are part of the same trip where I visited Flagstaff, Antelope Canyon, Wupatki, and Horseshoe Bend. I'm only just now posting them.
The hike through Paria Canyon starts in Utah at the White House trailhead. (In the resources below, I've included a link to a map of the area and a detailed guide.)
I stumbled upon Paria Canyon almost by accident. I was looking for a place to camp, settled on White House, and the next day (having no set agenda I decided to hike down the trail at the campground.)

Now that I've had a little taste of the canyon, I would love to go back. I hiked in only as a day hike; however, from the sounds of it, Paria Canyon is best enjoyed by backpacking down the whole length--a three day trip. Most of these photos are from a section called the narrows, about four miles from the trailhead. It is a beautiful and remote canyon definitely worth a day if you find yourself in the area.
  • A detailed discription of the backpacking trip down Paria Canyon can be found at Arizona Hiking Trails.
  • The Bureau of Land Managment has a useful map of the Vermilion Cliffs area. (The White House Trailhead is in the upper middle off highway 89.)
  • For information on permits for the area go to this BLM page.
  • To find out more about conservation at Vermilion Cliffs, visit the Arizona Wildlife Coalition.


  1. Benjamin...I enjoy reading of your personal experiences as you bond with nature. I personally have no one in my life that feels as strongly of nature as I do. My time spent living in these woods have brought me to really know a higher spirit. Time spent as a companion not just a spectator of nature truly brings calm, self observance and much clarity to my life. At best, I feel as one with all around me. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, your blog is a pleasure and refreshing!

  2. One aspect I really enjoy about blogging is the chance to interact with other bloggers who share my interests. I feel like part of an online community of sorts. Though I've never met any of the bloggers I interact with, I feel a certain affinity with them.

  3. My son was at this place a while ago...he is very similar to you Ben and loves to go to wild places. I think that is why I enjoy reading your adventures so much. Photos are always superb.

  4. Thanks Island Rambles. That may be the best complement anyone has ever given me on this blog.

  5. Hi Ben,
    I really agree to your list of the advantages of traveling alone. What I find most important are solitude and spiritual growth... With me alone on an adventure I think that I get to know myself and my Lord better... :)

  6. Great images and musings also...
    That canyon is on my list of special wild places to visit now.