No matter who you are, there is always going to be a part of you with an insecurity – but we have to learn to love the journey no matter what comes our way. I struggle with insecurities about my weight and always have from when I was a size 8 to now a size 22. Some call me fat, some call me lazy, but they don’t know my story. I know I eat as a coping mechanism. I know I eat socially, I know I eat when I’m bored and struggle with self-control. I used to do triathlons, I used to work out twice a day and eat the cleanest food I could. I went a year without eating any ice cream, cakes, cookies or any super sugary food and was the healthiest I had ever been. Then I had surgery on my right foot to help me run better and ended up not healing well and developing a hematoma, then my incident happened, and I became utterly and hopelessly lost in the black hole of loss and emotional pain. I didn’t care about myself, I didn’t care what happened to me, but I refused to give up. I refused to let him win. I am a survivor and a fighter when people say, ‘you can’t do it’ or ‘there is no way for you to….’ Today marks a turning point for me. I was taking a shower and playing music on my phone and started singing in the shower. I know that when I’m struggling in any capacity or area, I don’t sing. I stopped scrubbing the shampoo through my hair and started getting misty eyed. In that moment I realized that I was ‘getting better.’ After my incident, I spent an entire year in a fog and in darkness. Never did I think I would ever be the same again. I never thought I would be joyful, playful or fun-loving again. Here I was in the shower, singing, just like I used to do and I truly felt playful, happy, and most importantly, hopeful. For anyone who has been raped, assaulted, or been victim to domestic violence, you know what a huge win this is in the journey to recovery. I feel this is the point that I truly started to love the journey.
There was a small part of me that was worried that this moment of playful happiness would be fleeting; that it would come and then pass the next day– or even that night. I chided myself and said, “Janiel, you cannot live a full life dwelling in the ‘what if’s’ of life — you will drive yourself crazy.” I dismissed the thought and started getting ready for dinner with a friend.
Four days later, I woke up and felt energized and ready to take on the day. I picked up Zoey, held her close, and started dancing and singing again. I had my own little Jam session in my bedroom, alone, lol. It made me stop and laugh at myself for the silliness that was so spontaneous and SO EARLY IN THE MORNING! Please note that I am not a morning person, whatsoever. I realized about an hour later that this feeling I was having was a point I had reached on my ladder of recovery that my mind was healing itself.
What had I done to get to this point? I was patient with myself. I’m removing all unrealistic expectations and just focusing on putting one foot in front of the other. I try not to dwell on the future and focus on day to day small improvements. I am contradicting self-depreciating thoughts about my body with truths instead, and I just observe what and how I am feeling instead. The most important part is that I faced the incident head on when I was ready to (don’t force it). I was brave and courageous and let the emotions of that year in Texas wash over me and cried and screamed and acknowledged the loss and the pain that resulted.
In being gentle with myself and letting myself ‘feel’ again, I was able to finally forgive the person and people who caused all of the pain. I have not been able to totally remove what happened from my life, but I have been able to remove the intense emotion associated with those memories from my life. I am able to breathe again and realize that time truly does heal all wounds. One day, I hope that the PTSD triggers and flashback dreams will become something of a distant memory instead of a blaring and recurrent problem. I know this will happen and will continue to make it a reality. Despite my dysmorphic view of my body (take the BBD test), I am grateful I can walk. I’m grateful I can get up every day and hug my puppy, Zoey. I’m grateful I am able to help my patients and connect with my readers on a personal basis. I am beautiful in my own way, and I’m moved to tears at my own strength of fighting through the black hole of emotional pain and PTSD. I still have PTSD, but I am able to cope with it now. I am able to be gentle with myself and say, ‘today will pass and you are exactly where you are supposed to be.’ Despite the naysayers and comparisons to others around me, I know I have a good heart and will be healthy again. I know getting healthy again is going to take time, and that is OK. the greatest changes don’t happen overnight. Be your own kind of beautiful, be gentle with where you are at in your journey. Set realistic expectations and love the journey. Don’t compare, and fight the darkness by noticing one beautiful thing each day. Much love and thank you for being a part of the Culture Trekking Community.
On the way there the air conditioning inside the plane stopped working, we ended up sweating off about 10 lbs on our way there in 96 degree weather. Luckily the flight from Salt Lake City to Grand Junction was a direct 1 hr 30 min flight. We arrived at the airport, and the walk from the gate to the rental car desk literally took about 7 minutes; yes, it was a very small airport.
There were about 4 different rental car companies available & all were located inside the airport.
We then made our way to our hotel, Courtyard by Marriott in Grand Junction. This hotel was the best one in town (at least to me it was.) There are cheaper options like Motel 6 or Travel lodge, but you have to be careful in small towns – cleanliness isn’t always an international standard. If hotels aren’t your thing there are plenty of camping sites available as well.
The hotel was clean, and more importantly, air conditioned! I really appreciated that the hotel staff made the effort to keep the AC running in the room I was staying in, as many hotels in small towns tend to not do this to save on costs. There was a TV, shower, coffee, hairdryer, amazing bed and fluffy pillows, and all the other usual amenities at a higher end hotel you would expect. Breakfast was included in the cost of the hotel and it was actually VERY good. There were plenty of options in the morning for everyone, including vegetarian and healthy options. They also have a bar on the main floor that typically opens around 5pm and has a variety of choices.
Coming in that night, it was actually quite crowded, and seemed to be the meeting place for the business men coming into town (hubba hubba).
Take a walk downtown on Main Street
After we checked in at the Hotel,we decided to stroll down Main Street. There were so many locally owned shops, which was SO NICE! I’m a huge supporter of Mom & Pop shops. There was one store, Willowcreek, that was my favorite. It is a tea shop that has a plethora of homemade teas! They also host a Tea Bar of sorts, where you can walk up and mix up your own concoction of tea to take home with you! How cool is that?!?! The shop smelled so good I could have stayed in there all day smelling things & drinking tea like the Scottish woman I am.
After tickling the nostrils with the delightful smells, we continued wandering down the street with the most amazing art pieces greeting us every few yards.
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I think all of the street art and the subsequent artistically inspired shops were the most surprising thing about Grand Junction. I have been through a lot of small towns in my life, I expected to see sagebrush blowing across empty roads. But the roads were far from empty, especially after the sun went down. Locals come out in force with the most unique bikes and their pets to enjoy the cool evenings and grab a late night treat. With all the bike shops along main street and scattered throughout town, I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised by the off-road bike this particular lady had. I talked to her for awhile about how she just took this bike up a mountainside during a big rainstorm and was able to slide all the way down the mountain without a problem. She described how she was covered in mud from head to toe and by the end of the trip both her & her husband looked as if they had been mud wrestling. She rides her contraption to work everyday and says she has actually put more miles on this bike than she has her own car! I feel like she would fit in really well in Amsterdam, lol.
After any bike ride, there is nothing more perfect than GELATO! Make a stop at the classic ice cream shop, Gelato Junction. They pretty much make their own specialty ice cream right in the store. One of the most famous ice cream flavors in the whole town is right in this shop, called Palisade Peach. Why is this the most famous flavor? Because Palisade city is right around the corner, and in this ice cream you can actually see the small pieces of peach within the Gelato! I have one patient that told me he actually eats 3 boxes of Palisade peaches every 2 months during the summertime. Still not convinced it’s the best in town? Just ask the local wildlife, they go crazy for it 😉
Try out the Grand Junction Off-Road Racing! There are several different events to choose from all throughout the year. To see a full list of Racing and Biking tours check out Epic Rides.
Challenge your road biking abilities by biking the Colorado National Monument from one entrance to another.
There are also OHV, ATV or dirt bike trails readily available throughout the Grand Junction area. You have your choice of over 1.2 million acres to choose from surrounding Grand Junction, all of which are deemed Public Lands.
For some really great summertime mountain biking, head over to the Powderhorn Mountain Resort; you will find plenty to choose from in the way of trails.
Grand Junction has 250 days of sunshine a year! That much sunshine could rival Las Vegas, which means that golfing is an integral part of the town. There are several different golf courses to choose from, and you can literally play year round.
[gallery ids="6578,6589" type="rectangular"] Rockslide Restaurant & Brewery: This restaurant was opened by three friends in 1994 who wanted Grand Junction to experience the magic of a microbrewing company. This festive Restaurant has over 20 years of brewing experience, friendly staff, and is definitely the place to grab a drink after a stressful day at work or wind down after a great day of exploring nearby trails. Don’t forget to take a gander at their Happy Hour while your there. They host some of the best salads, burgers, pizza and of course brew in town 🙂 Check out their Menu to see if it can tickle your interest. MX Resturante on Main Street (located on the Upper floor of the building)
They have several options for all the picky palates out there. I ended up having 3 different tacos and chips and salsa with guacamole. My stomach is very finicky and I was nervous about eating here, but the Lime Shrimp taco & the Chicken tacos with pickled onions were to DIE for. MX Menu is varied and delicious with excellent service ta boot.
If I still haven’t convinced you of the options available for your dining pleasure, take a look at this classic diner, Main Street Cafe! It was closed when we went by. It is located in down town Grand Junction, and looks absolutely ADORABLE!
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Wine country and vineyards
Want to reward your taste buds with an excellent glass of local wine? Try these wineries out! In talking to several locals, it seems vineyards in the area are becoming ever more popular. If you cannot afford a tour of Napa Valley wines in California, this would be an excellent choice. St Kathryn Cellars:known for their lavender wine. Red Fox Winery: specializes in wines, ciders, and fruit wines — Bourbon Barrel Merlot Two Rivers Winery:Two Rivers Merlot Maison la Belle Vie Winery: Vin de Peche is the perfect Palisade dessert Hermosa Vineyards: Gewurztraminer, Reisling, and Cab Franc Rose.
Where to Watch & Listen:
If you have a chance, travel along the riverfront in Grand Junction where they have recently built an Amphitheater, Las Colonias Amphitheater. Here, you will find some excellent booty shaking concerts in this former wrecking yard turned jam session arena. Residents here are quite happy about this amphitheater; they feel it is breathing life back into the city, allowing the culture to change for the better. So make sure to check out Las Colinas Amphitheater concert schedule prior to going, and check out this little piece of Grand Junction history while listening to some great tunes.
Where to Hike!
Because of my work responsibilities while in Grand Junction I was not able to grace the trails of Grand Junction. When I go back, I will definitely be trying some of these trails out, especially this one, the Rattlesnake Arch Trail. Here are the other top 10 rated trails in the Grand Junction area.
Moab is actually only a 1 hr and 15 min drive away from Grand Junction, so for a fun side trip, make sure you rent a car and extend the trip to visit Moab.
In the end, I have to admit that I was completely wrong about this place and cannot wait to go back. I never knew that so many wonderful adventures could exist in such a (comparatively) small town.
So if you like being outdoors, finding unique adventures, meeting new people, appreciate street art, statues and all around fun, make sure to visit Grand Junction Colorado. Like me, you will be pleasantly surprised at how much this city has to offer! I personally cannot wait to go back and explore.
Zion National Park was with a friend from school. We were taking Organic Chemistry & just had to get away from the crazy studying that was required. We loaded up the car and headed down in June…..and it was a scorcher.
[caption id="attachment_6225" align="aligncenter" width="283"] A hot June day on Angel’s Landing[/caption]
My first attempt at Zion National Park
I was riddled with excitement to hike Angel’s Landing, felt like I would be part of the ‘in’ crowd & get to the top and take that one iconic picture that was all over Instagram. Well it was around noon, and it was so hot — I think it was around 102 degrees Fahrenheit (38.8 C) that day. We ended up meeting these guys on the trail that were from Switzerland, as I was huffing and puffing, trying to keep up with everyone. My friend was so patient with me, and all I could think about were these self-deprecating thoughts swimming around in my head. How I wasn’t good enough, how I was so fat that I couldn’t do what I loved and so on and so forth. Well I ended up getting really dizzy and my heart felt like it was going to pound out of my chest, I was not sweating very much, and I didn’t even want to drink any of the warm water that we had brought along with us.
I told my friend I wasn’t going to make it, she was so sweet and said she didn’t mind at all because she was getting really hot as well & glad I said something.
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We ended up going to the Narrows, a wonderful hike up a riverbed, complete with swimming holes, beautiful scenery & MUCH cooler environment for me to adapt to. I was glad my friend was able to go on one hike that we both enjoyed. We ended up having a lot more fun on this hike than the other, only because it wasn’t miserably hot.
[caption id="attachment_6237" align="alignright" width="402"] The Entrance to the Narrows[/caption]
Traveler Tip: If you plan on visiting Zion’s National Park in June, July or even August you need to start this hike very very early in the morning. Get a Bandana wet so that you have something to keep yourself cool. Bring Gatorade or an electrolyte drink with you. There are several tourists every year that don’t prepare well for the hiking & heat, and end up getting hospitalized for heat exhaustion or heat stroke. There is always one tourist, or someone in a youth group we hear about, that dies from heat every year, so don’t let that be you or someone you care about. Come PREPARED! Don’t be afraid to turn around, your pride is not worth as much as your life.
That is the great thing about Zion, if one hike doesn’t work then you have plenty of options around for every type of traveler, physical condition, hiker preference etc…
Travler tip: There are shuttles that can take you to each trail head and each trail head is clearly marked. Those who are in wheelchairs or have bad knees can wander around the trail head, there are plenty of little trails everywhere for each level of physical health. Be sure to check out the opening hours and times of the shuttles should you need to use them.
Traveler Tip: In some areas you have to actually swim with your pack overhead to not get your camera wet. Make sure that you have a Protective Water Proof Case. I would also recommend a walking stick because this is a river bed that is very rocky. Bring water shoes, wear your swimming suit. You can turn around at any point on the trail, you can hike for one hour, 10 hours, 16 hours, or 1-2 days depending on your physical capabilities. Make sure you are properly prepared to Hike the Narrows if you decide to go, do not think you know more than mother nature.
When we left, we had some great memories, but I was still pretty bummed and embarrassed about having to turn around on the Angel’s Landing trail. So I made up my mind to not let the trail beat me, and I was determined to go back and tackle it one more time. I started to do some conditioning and training for hiking Angels Landing, which meant A LOT of STAIRS and a bunch of lunges & calf raises.
It was about 2 years later when I got the chance to tackle the trail again. I went alone this time and just knew that I was going to make it to the top, come hell or high water……or in this case snow.
[caption id="attachment_6327" align="alignnone" width="720"] Storm clouds at Zions National Park[/caption]
It was October, and Utah weather is VERY unpredictable. There is actually a joke here, that if you don’t like the rainy weather, you just cross the street for sunshine.
[caption id="attachment_6309" align="alignnone" width="720"] at Zion’s Lodge watching for lightening[/caption]
The storm clouds were coming in, and I stopped at a little unique looking hotel called, Zion Lodge, on the way to Zions. This looks like a great place to stay (if you have the money). The weather didn’t look like it was going to dump any rain, maybe snow, but no lightning or thunder — so I ventured on. (Check out the Safety Tips on Hiking in a Storm)
It was the offseason, so I was able to drive right up to where the hike started pretty much and just took my keys, small backpack and some water and started up the trail.
I had my rucksack, my music, my two feet and a heart that knew I was going to conquer. I started on the trail, which was well marked and easy to follow (even for a directionally challenged person).
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I was so proud of myself I made it to these switch backs, there were plenty of them to make the hike super doable.
Hiking tip: switchbacks often scary for new hikers, but they are actually a really good way to conserve your energy, so you don’t wear out before you get to the top. Switch backs prevent you from having to climb straight up with a rope. For my climbing readers: If you want to climb up to Angel’s Landing, there are a few routes, but you have to have permits, are physically capable of doing it, and that the routes are open. There are about 8 different routes with various degrees of difficulty, but please note that these are typically Trad routes. If you don’t know what that means, then please don’t attempt it.
Once you get past the switchbacks, then you see your first ascent with the legendary chained path. Once you start up this path, especially during the high season, its basically the point of no return (you will see why later). Basically, they are there for you if you should slip, get dizzy from the altitude, or have a fear of heights.
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Hiking tip: When hiking on steep surfaces where chains are available, a good rule of thumb is to always keep one hand on the chain at all times. Be patient with those in front of you (and sometimes those behind you). If the people behind you are getting pushy, I usually just try and fart or pretend like I farted & they back off rather quickly, lol — I know, I know – I have no shame, medical professional…. come on.
The path is pretty well worn, but the great thing about sandstone is that it doesn’t typically get slippery from all the foot traffic until it gets wet. So make sure you have good shoes to take with you. I like my Merrell hiking shoes because they have these magical rubber soles that stick to any kind of rock and I have never had a problem with them. If you have weak ankles, then I suggest High top’s on your hiking shoes for support.
Once you get past the chains you come to this gut turning sight, a narrow path with sheer drop off’s on each side of the trail. This is why I told you, the prior chained area was a point of no return. At this point, I got a good song on, screamed along with the song inside my head, and just focused on putting one foot in front of the other while I white-knuckled the chain.
[caption id="attachment_6338" align="aligncenter" width="454"] The point of no return at Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park[/caption]
There is a reward at the end though….beautiful views with breathtakingly stunning 360 view of Zion’s National Park in all its glory! You can see why it is called Angel’s Landing once you stand in this place. I feel like I took 1,000 photos up here, for more of a reason than just to plaster them on Facebook or Instagram….it was a triumph of fear, self-doubt, and self-deprecating thoughts of my failed attempt at doing this so long ago.
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I was a little reluctant to share this experience because I was worried people would judge me for finding this hike to be so challenging. I have been finding more and more that I am my own worst critic, and I think we all are. Why do we let ourselves be defeated by our own thoughts?
[caption id="attachment_6371" align="aligncenter" width="425"] Celebrating my victory over Angel’s Landing[/caption]
Why do we limit our experiences because we are afraid society might think, ‘oh she is so stupid for even attempting this at her [insert comment on physical shape or age]’? Who cares if you look the part of an experienced hiker? Who cares if you are huffing and puffing to the top! Are you taking the photos for your Instagram followers, for yourself, or your posterity?
If you stuck with me to the end of this post, you are likely one of the few that take photos for your posterity, for your own memories, for your video or photo journal — as a consistent reminder to yourself that you CAN do it, and you can succeed at anything you LET yourself succeed at.
Celebrate your victories, learn from your defeats, but don’t ever give up….find your courage and say, “I WILL NOT LET YOU DEFEAT ME!” Even if we are saying that to our own critical selves.
Thank you for taking this hike with me. Honor the best that is within you, make peace with the parts you have labeled as weaknesses, and never ever give up on yourself.
Where is your next hiking trip?
What is the hardest hiking trip you have ever done?
What are some tips you would give to new hikers?
*Please note there are affiliate links within this post, I make pennies off of these links, but wanted you to know that I’m transparent about it — the things I recommend are truly my own opinion. For more information see my full Amazon.com disclosure *