The Trip of a Lifetime


Katelynn Jones

Bryce Canyon

Katelynn Jones, News Editor, Copy Editor

  This past summer, I experienced the trip of a lifetime. I traveled out west for a week with the school’s hiking club, who partnered with WorldStrides, a company that plans trips for groups. 

   The morning of the 3rd, we went to the Ronald Reagan National Airport and waited for what felt like days. While we were there, I met Ben Chew, who was Johnny Depp’s lawyer during his trial against Amber Heard. I was standing in the Dunkin’ Donuts line when I first saw Chew walk by. I immediately called my mom, but the only words that were coming out were, “Oh my God, I think that’s Ben.” Someone in our group finally got the courage to ask him for a picture and I got the opportunity to stand next to him. 

   We finally boarded the plane, and I sat next to my friend, Ashlynn. Neither of us knew how to work the so-called Wi-Fi that the plane had, so we were only able to listen to music. When we finally landed in Vegas, I was on the lookout for a Kardashian, but was sadly disappointed. We then met our tour guide, Lorraine, and our bus driver, Julio. 

   Our first stop was The Valley of Fire State Park. I was shocked by the heat yet mesmerized by the beauty. The heat felt unnatural because of the absence of humidity. We climbed up a set of stairs and looked at the old drawings on the side of the rocks. We then drove to the visitor center where there were more opportunities to climb rocks. That was where the shirt collection started. 

   We drove to Kanab, Utah for the first two nights. One thing that intrigued us were the letters from each town. Every town has its first letter displayed on some sort of mountain to show where we were. I remember loving Kanab because it had a very visible K, that I claimed stood for Katelynn. That night we ate at a Chinese “buffet,” but there were only two options for food, and somehow both of them were gross. The next morning we went to the Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park to play on the dunes. We rented boards that we could ride down the dunes on.

   After we left the Sand Dunes, we traveled to Bryce Canyon. Bryce was, by far, my favorite part of the trip. I felt like it was easily the prettiest view, along with it being a good challenge. The trailhead was the perfect spot to view the full canyon and all of the rock formations were easily visible while hiking to the bottom. I enjoyed the ability to stay along the path while still looking at the different caves and rock formations. 

   On Sunday, we traveled to Zion National Park. We walked down a normal path and then hiked the remainder of the way through the narrows. The narrows are the bodies of water that travel through the canyons of Zion. After that, we started our journey towards Arizona. During every long bus ride, we either had a movie playing like Cars or Cowboys and Aliens inspired by our scenery, or we had our DJ, Sam Klapak, playing music. 

   We stopped at the Marble Canyon to stretch out our legs and really enjoyed it. I remember noticing how hot it was in Arizona compared to Utah. That night, we stayed in Flagstaff, Arizona, which was my favorite town we visited. If I could have changed one thing about the trip, I would have spent more time in Flagstaff because I thought it was so cool. While there, it left us with the feeling of a city, mixed with the beautiful country. It was a small town that was full of interesting shops that reminded me of Culpeper. 

   On Monday, we spent the entire day at the Grand Canyon. It was terrible. I fully believe that hiking the Grand Canyon is a safety hazard and it should never be done. It was extremely hot with the sun blazing down in the canyon, and most people don’t attempt to walk back up until they’re too tired from walking down. I felt dead and I didn’t even walk as far down as the rest of the group. Ashlynn and I had to stay behind to put on layers of sunscreen every five minutes. That was also the one hike where everyone had to spread out; the first and last person to finish were placed around 30 minutes apart, due to the breaks some had to take while hiking back up.

   On Tuesday, we departed towards Las Vegas. The original itinerary was changed, which left room for surprises from Lorraine. She planned a stop at Red Rock State Park where we climbed and explored large formations of rocks. The best part of Red Rock was the absence of a path. We could climb anywhere we wanted without any consequences. Without planning it, Red Rock became my favorite part of the trip. That night, we walked along the strip and ate at Hard Rock Cafe. In disregard for how much money I had, I bought yet another shirt at a Hard Rock Cafe (not even mentioning the shirts I bought from every single park we visited). 

   The next, and final, day of activities consisted of floating the Colorado River. We stopped at the Vegas sign to take pictures and then traveled toward the river. We boarded a large, motorized raft and floated down the river. Our guide had us stop at a small beach area to eat our lunches and swim. The water was probably the most clear and welcoming I had ever seen but was also the coldest. We were told it was around 30 degrees, yet we all still decided to swim “for the experience.” That night, we went to the strip again and were able to stop in Margaritaville, where I bought yet another shirt. 

   Thursday morning, we boarded the plane to head back towards Washington DC. Sadly, Ashlynn and I were not able to sit next to each other, but, by then, I learned how to use the Wi-Fi and watched New Girl the entire time. I remember getting off the plane and immediately trying to find my mom. When we finally saw each other, we lived out the movie scene of slow motion running towards each other. I was so happy to finally be home and see my family, but leaving such an amazing trip like that was hard. 

   This trip allowed me to grow individually and improve on life-skills that I will always need. My mom is my best friend and I’ve never been away from her for too long; we were both scared that we couldn’t handle a week apart. There may have been a few tears (on her side) but we both dealt with it very well. I will forever be grateful to Miller for allowing me and many others to go on such an amazing trip.