May 2, 2024

You never know when an experience or adventure will shape you or change the mindset you have held for so long, until you’re in the midst of it. For the past 12 days, I have been calling the canyons of the Dirty Devil my beloved home. I have felt the deep silence of these great outdoors, the rustles of the wildlife I’ve been so grateful to call my neighbors, and the sweet melodies the plants sing in the wind. With each passing day, the fondness I feel for this strange desert grows deep inside me like the taproots of the rabbitbrush I hike by every day. It is such a strange thing, how easy it is to get caught up in the complexity of balancing school, work, friends, family. When I first embarked on this adventure, I thought surely this would fade away with every moment the starry nights and canyon walls wished me goodnight instead of my social media…and it did. All the complexities constantly circling my mind faded in an instant. What I would have never expected is how suddenly new thoughts paved their way through my once quiet mind. These thoughts changed from what was once a worldly complexity to an even deeper one found within these plants and canyon walls. 

When we first descended into the depths of the Dirty Devil, my pack was heavy, my mind tired, and my body still sore from so much hiking beforehand. Each day, as I picked up my pack to start a new adventure, a sense of rejuvenation kicked in. I could feel my body getting stronger and my mind telling me I am more than capable to push towards what needs to get done. This course has taken my mind to a place where self doubt is no longer welcome, to confidence in my ability to be accountable for not only myself but the little family I have made along the way. Out here, nothing is a chore. The complexities that once were, turned into the complexity of the natural world which suddenly seems so much more important. From white primrose, globemallow, prickly pear cactus, and an extensive variety of plant families, I have explored a new and exciting way to learn and celebrate the flowering life around me. Desert plants adapt to their surroundings and communicate to survive just as us humans do. In this arid environment, these plants and flowers tend to be the best water conservationists ever known. For example, the claret cup cactus opens its stomata (holes that let out O2 and allow CO2 in) at night rather than during the day to minimize water waste that the sun would have happily soaked up. Everything growing in the desert serves its own unique purpose and without the variety of each species we see, our desert lands would look drastically different. However, not everything in the desert has to be living in order to shape one’s mind. 

For the past 12 days, I have noticed these inanimate things that have been watching over me like a foreigner, so gracefully accepting me into their home…the canyons and their towering walls. The unique layers of Carmel, Navajo Sandstone, Kayenta, Wingate, Chinle, and White Rim Sandstone tell a story of what once was. As much as they share their stories of life and extinction, mysteries lie beneath every crack and crevice. While focusing my gaze upwards, hundreds of feet above, I feel miniscule in a place I once felt so bold and large. I look at the tattered paintings the Earth has so gracefully placed on the long stretch upward that us humans call desert varnish. The image of beautiful lakes and trees that once lived in the sand sea (also known as “erg”) which makes up the slick Navajo Sandstone we see today dances through my mind. The shallow seas that uprooted the Carmel rock formations were home to complex prehistoric life such as stromatolites. The Kayenta that is home to over 1,000 different plant and animal species was once a river bed carving out the canyons we explore today. 

The more time I spend in this arid desert bursting with life, the more I can conceptualize that the land is its own entity, with its own bustling cities and peoples and the stories it tells are far greater than any movie, TV show, or book that can be seen or read. The canyons and the plants of the Dirty Devil have shaped my mind, heart, and soul in which I can only repay them by sharing the intrinsic knowledge that they were  ever so kind to share with me.

One Reply to “Finding Solitude and Self-Discovery: A Journey through the Canyons of the Dirty Devil by Kate Antone”

  • What a beautiful description of your journey. It is so nice to hear what value you have placed on this experience.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.