From advice on where to go next or just having a few laughs, the people you meet and see on the road could be anything from a wealth of knowledge to absolute nut jobs. For the most part, we have known which ones to avoid (hitchhikers, homeless people, etc.) and which ones could help us get the most of our journey (our blogging cyclist friend, the lovely ladies from Arizona we met in Vegas, etc.). Though almost all of the people we have met have been amazing people, there were two that we met in Zion National Park that particularly stood out to me.
First off, Zion (another desert park) is absolutely beautiful, and the hike we did gave us a tremendous view of the canyon (and was rather difficult with the elevation change). The Angels Landing trail began with long switch backs, which we started in the heat of the day. I did not think I was going to make it as I heaved myself up the first section. Eventually those switchbacks leveled out and I caught my breath, just before the shorter switchbacks came in and snatched the wind right out of me again. The coolest part came after those short switchbacks, when we hiked out to get to our view of the canyon. What we hiked along my father tells me is called a window, it was a narrow path along a ridge, where there are steep drops to either side of you. The Angels Landing window had chains set up to help guide you up the steep and narrow passage (it was not as strenuous as the switchbacks for me, and was by far one of if not the coolest thing I have ever done). If you want an idea of the view from the top you should check my Instagram (http://instagram.com/rotz_l), but I will tell you now that a panorama does not give justice to the beauty and the amazing feeling you get when you have made it to the top, let alone a 2 inch by 2 inch square on Instagram.
When I arrived at the top Cola and Jeff had already walked around and took in all the vantage points. I joined them as they were shooing away some overly friendly chipmunks with a hankering for trail mix. Shortly after I reached the summit, a man in his early thirties and his father found the top. He asked me to take a video of he and his father with his monstrous camera and then we conversed for awhile. John is a film editor living in Los Angeles, and as his father sat and relaxed with his hat shielding the sun from his face, I learned about a new Mercedes commercial he had worked on and a place in San Francisco that had the best burritos. His father would chime in every once and a while with a funny quip now and again, but he mostly sat quietly. We spoke of everything from my health, to his passion projects and even the old ladies in Vegas who sit on their scooters from dusk till dawn playing slots, only retiring when they run out of money or when their mountain of chain smoked cigarette butts avalanches out of their ashtray.
He told me about a nationwide tour that he went on with a band he played in, and even though I never found out the band name, their musical genre, or the instrument he played, it is where I connected with him most. The role his father played in his opportunity to go and enjoy his experience on the road, is how my family is treating my trip right now, they just want us to have fun (and be safe!). To ensure the maximal experience we were both offered money and good wishes for our trips. As he spoke of his tour I saw a genuine smile come to his face. He seemed as grateful as I am for all the advice, help and cash I have been given to help make this trip as pleasurable as it can be.
By the time we said our goodbyes quite a bit of time had passed. As I shook both John and his father's hands goodbye I realized that the relationship they have is what I want to have with my father. They are out doing and seeing incredible things together. My father has seen some amazing things hiking, many of those things are parts of our trip, but at that point there were not many that we really shared. As California neared closer and closer, I knew that my first backcountry experience in the Sierras would be special, mostly because I could share it with my dad (and my brother, Paul).