Iyanla Vanzant famously said that if you want to hear God laugh, then you only need to tell Him your plans.
Within hours of announcing that we would be leaving Minnesota for Mexico at the end of the week, foreboding weather forecasts inundated the local tv stations, heralding a winter apocalypse that would be sweeping across the U.S. and directly into our projected path.
Just as we had decided it was time to leave, it seemed the universe was telling us otherwise.
Deciding that after so much dawdling on our parts (we had only intended to be in Minnesota for a month!) that another few days wouldn’t kill us, we agreed that it was better to be safe than sorry and postponed our departure by a few days in order to avoid getting stranded out on the road. We were eager to start our travels and, having created a plan that we were legitimately excited for, it was frustrating to see our adventure delayed. The fact that not a single flurry fell upon Minnesota and when we finally did set out it was on smooth, clear roads only added insult to injury.
Driving through Nebraska, Colorado, and northern Utah, the only snow we spotted was on the hills and mountains out in the distance and we began to wonder if we had been foolish for being so cautious. The weather was beautiful and balmy in mindblowing Moab, and winter seemed nothing but a distant memory. As we plotted our route south, we anticipated the weather would only improve.
Leaving Moab, we decided to include Scenic Byway 12, purportedly one of the country’s most spectacular stretches of road, in our route down to Bryce Canyon situated in southern Utah. Not long after turning onto the road, the arid, sandy desertscapes that we had come to associate with Utah thus far faded into thick pine forests and deep drifts of snow. When we hopped out at a scenic overlook named Larb Hollow, the icy accumulations came up to our shins as we crunched through the parking lot in search of a favorable vantage point. During inclement weather, parts of the Byway are closed; we both agreed this snow was only a few days old and that if we had left Minnesota when we had originally planned, we likely wouldn’t have been able to drive the Byway.
What a shame that would have been, as Route 12 really is a roadtripper’s delight. Taking you through national forests, along narrow mountain ridges and through desert plains, the drive showcases the stunning diversity of Utah’s gorgeous and incredibly varied landscape, uniform only with regards to how stunning it all is. At one point, we crossed a stretch of two-lane road carved high up in the mountains that was so slender we felt like we were balancing our car on a tightrope; exhilarated by the death-defying views and the extra surge of adrenaline, we cranked the radio up and followed the serpentine curve of the road through the most incredible vistas.
With the goal of reaching Bryce Canyon a few hours before sunset and as many of the scenic offshoots from Route 12 were closed for the winter, we didn’t meander or stray quite as much as we otherwise might have, but the few hours we spent wending our way south were ones we savored nevertheless.
Despite many stops for photos, we managed to make it to Bryce Canyon National Park just as the day was sliding into late afternoon giving us a couple of hours to explore the park before sunset and still make it to our hotel at a respectable hour.
Lo and behold, as we passed into the park, towering pillars of snow along the road rivaled the stone structures in the canyons, and the road to Fairyland point was gated and locked shut. It was evident that Bryce had recently been hit by a fairly monumental snow storm and several parts of the park were impassable as a result. Not wanting to squander the opportunity to walk our dogs in the notoriously pet-unfriendly national parks, we set off from Sunset point on the only dog-approved trail leading to Sunrise point. The first five-minutes of the walk, the path was shoveled and clear, but we soon found ourselves trudging through foot-high drifts of snow glazed with slippery ice, attempting to stumble through and stick to the tracks of other would-be hikers. By the time we reached Sunrise point, we were exhausted and decided to walk back along the plowed main road to reach our car again. It was clear the park had not been prepared for this massive snow dump and was still struggling to respond… once again, we remarked that if we had arrived any earlier, who knows how much of the park would have actually been available to us? How would it have felt if impatience and a refusal to be flexible had caused us to miss out on this?
Making our way along the 19 miles of road through Bryce Canyon, stopping at every view point to gaze out on the beautiful burnt orange crags and crevices forming teetering towers and majestic arches, the likes of which easily rival the whimsical fairytale hoodoos of Capadoccia, Turkey, I thought about all the things that had gone “wrong” or that we had had to compromise on that had ultimately led us to this point. Traveling with the dogs wasn’t always easy and meant making certain sacrifices, but if not for them, we likely would have hopped a plane to our next destination, meaning we would have skipped over—and missed out on—this incredible destination entirely. We had originally hoped to be in Mexico before winter set in, but if that had happened, even if we had made it Bryce, we wouldn’t be seeing its stone formations the way we were now (and the way that so few pictures ever show it), dusted with snow like pastries sprinkled with icing sugar. The snow somehow managed to make our surroundings more beautiful, more magnificent, as it provided a nice contrast to the copper-hued rock and gave the grooves an added sense of depth. I always feel like the world feels so much quieter when there’s snow on the ground as it muffles ambient sounds, and the thick hush that pervaded Bryce only augmented the surreal, dreamlike atmosphere of the park that day.
Contrary to our plans we had somehow managed to visit Bryce Canyon right in its wintery sweet spot: enough snow to make it magical, but not so much to make it unmanageable. And all in spite of our best efforts! It just goes to show that things ALWAYS work out, exactly as they should, even if it’s in unexpected or unanticipated ways.
After 2.5 years of traveling and a lot of personal growth, I know that on some level I’ll always be a planner. I take joy in researching and fantasizing about future adventures, but I’ve also learned not to cleave to those plans too tightly, and have discovered the freedom of trusting that when life goes off script, it’s because something even better is in store, something I couldn’t have had the foresight to dream up.
Maybe making plans means I’ll continue to hear the sound of God’s laughter, but as we stood in Bryce Canyon and heard our own gleeful giggles echo out over the countryside and deep in my bones, another quote sprung to mind.
“He who laughs last laughs longest.”
To the many laughs to come!
Tell Us: Have you ever had travel plans derailed only to have the alternative work out way better? Or do you eschew travel plans altogether? Also, what do you think of Bryce Canyon? Would you brave the cold and the snow to see it in the winter?