Kim, the park host, eagerly greets me offering the last campsite! "Wow, you're full this late in the year?", I inquire.
"We've been busy all season", she responds with a slight pride that she's the superintendent of one of Arizona's most desirable parks. Soon I fully understand the reason why.
After camp setup and exchanging a few pleasantries with my fellow outside dwellers, my hike begins up into the overlooking mountain formation that stands over the park like a protective parent.
My wandering leads me down to the banks of the neighboring lake where a sudden rustle in the trees stops me immediately to find a family of deer intently peering just as curious as me as I am of them. I'm astounded at the vertical height between leaps these creatures can reach as they bound through the woods to gather some distance from any would be threat.
The bank of the still lake is covered with white, pillow-looking mounds of something out of a science fiction movie. Naturally assuming it's the bottom of the receded water, lined in petrified salt, I am in Utah after all, known for it's high salt content.
I quickly discover the white ground is porous, like bubble rap that has a shell, collapsing beneath my feet. It's a soft straw, resembling how semi-dried rice noodles would look and feel. I place my foot inside the mound, only to quickly retract it, feeling guilty that I just destroyed what was made before me.
I want to leave my mark in this world, but not like this, so I gently back away and marvel at the beauty, content that it made it's mark on me.
As this part of the earth prepares itself for bed, the moon rises from behind, sun lowering on the opposite side like a king that only bows when his queen enters. The campers are quieting, busily scurrying to prepare their grilling experience on the fires that flicker around the park like beacons. The flocks of geese are restless, cackling like little old ladies at a bridge game gone way too competitive.
I don't smile in many of these pictures, it almost seems inappropriate. Rather, there is a soul contentment causing an expression of pure awe. Awe, for just everything as my spirit resets to a new tempo, a reorientation into a new normal. I will never be the same.