When I first landed in St. George, Utah to begin Partners in the Parks (Grand Canyon-Parashant), I was a little shocked by my surroundings. The air was dry and the earth was red, and all of the green grasses and trees I’m used to seeing in the Northeast were absent from the landscape. Though I’ve hiked all my life and spent a lot of time outdoors, I had never felt so out of my element in nature. It was beautiful, but so drastically different from anything I had ever experienced. I had no idea at that time the different landscape would be one of the highlights of the trip among so many others.
Matt and Todd (the leaders on the trip) picked us up on the first day of the program from St. George and we met with the other students who we would be spending the next week with. After brief introductions, we headed straight into the Arizona strip – a primitive, barely inhabited piece of land that lies between the Colorado River and the UT/AZ border. Our first morning was spent setting up camp for the first night, learning about the landscape and plants in the area, and getting to know each other. We then traveled to Pipe Spring National Monument, where we learned about the Paiute Indians, listened to a traditional Paiute blessing for Memorial Day, and spent the night participating in a bat species study. It as an amazing first day with incredible people. We were all very tired but excited for the week ahead.
The second day, we had a long drive ahead of us through the AZ strip to get to the Grand Canyon. The road to Tuweep (the primitive north rim of the Grand Canyon) was bumpy, dusty, and stretched for miles. By far, one of the most memorable parts of the trip was seeing the Grand Canyon for the first time. It’s hard to put into words the sheer size of the canyon, and pictures simply can’t capture the scale or beauty. Strips of red, orange, beige, and brown rock stretched down to the canyon floor, with the azure Colorado River twisting through rock below. It was breathtakingly beautiful.
The next day, we had a chance to explore the area and go hiking in groups. Hiking in the desert was so unlike anything I had ever hiked before. All of the vegetation is drastically different, and I found I could barely recognize what surrounded me. Matt and Todd taught us a lot about the area, and soon we could recognize prickly pear cactus, Spanish bayonet, yucca plants, ponderosa pines, junipers and pinions. We became used to dust and red rock under our feet, and adapted to the heat. It was amazing to see how diverse the landscape of the United States is.
Though seeing the Grand Canyon was incredible, our trip wasn’t over after our time at Tuweep. We traveled to yet another place in the AZ strip – Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument. After spending such a long time in the desert, the forests that we found in the Parashant were a welcome sight. It was cooler there and the dryness wasn’t quite so oppressive. At the research station on Mount Trumbull, we helped with a plant transect to locate an invasive species, performed trail maintenance, and hiked. Before climbing into our tents, the group all watched the sunset from Mount Logan over the canyons and buttes that lay below us.
The last day of Partners in the Parks was spent doing geology research for one of the Park Rangers at Mount Trumbull and preparing our final presentations, where we all presented our own unique experience of the trip. Everyone had such touching and heartfelt stories about their experience there and what it meant to them. We all realized how close we had become over the past week and how hard it would be to see everyone go. Partners in the Parks Grand Canyon-Parashant was such an amazing experience – it opened our eyes to an entirely different landscape, a different way of life, and people and experiences that would forever change the way we live our lives.
Eva Dixon, Biochemistry