Recently, for my 34th birthday trip, I picked Nevada-Utah-Arizona-California as my backpacking adventure destination: 9 days and 8 nights. I am glad that I did this epic adventure, as the life lessons from this journey gave me a new perspective to understand life. Now, my fellow adventurers, I would love to share my experience and a little wisdom with you through four blog “chapters”.
Chapter 1: Reflecting on a remarkable adventure: risk and reward
What does risk mean? Everyone has a different definition based on their own experiences and abilities. Risk and reward are related: both play a role in almost every decision you make, especially when it comes to adventure. It is human nature to focus more on the downsides of risk than on the upsides of potential reward. But the risk and reward equation in a life adventure is not the same as can be ascribed to a stock investment. So understanding the risk and reward equation is very important, and it helps you to complete a remarkable adventure successfully. My recent adventure proves it.
A few months ago, I saw Alstrom Point, Utah on a random social media post. It seemed too beautiful to be real, with the best overlook of Lake Powell. It stayed on my mind. In this backpacking adventure, I decided to explore and see it in person.
Traveling alone to Alstrom Point is a risk, due to its remote and wild location, so before I started this adventure, I did extensive research, particularly of weather, road conditions and the terrain, to calculate the risk and potential harm. I prepared well. Alstrom Point is a journey of “backcountry adventures Utah” located 25 miles from Big water Town, Utah. Utah’s remote areas are mostly wild and isolated, and to travel there you need a high clearance vehicle or 4WD – and good driving skills – to handle the dirt roads. This is especially true during the “wet season” when the roads are messy and muddy, making the drive more dangerous and technically challenging. A regular rental car is unlikely to be able to navigate the terrain. The weather and road condition are key factors to consider to make this adventure successful.
On March 19, my 34th birthday eve, before I departed, I called the Big Water visitor center to double check the current weather and road conditions. Although the ranger replied that the road was dry, conditions on the north part of the road were uncertain because no one had been there recently. I still decided to go, and to drive my rental SUV, based on my observation of the weather forecast calling for four consecutive days of no rain or snow. Good weather and road condition were important to minimize unforeseen consequences. Also, the driving instructions I found on online helped.
The road to Alstrom Point was too long to forget: it was 23 miles to the first overlook, and I spent a full hour to get there, driving at only about 20 mph. It was an unforgettable driving experience: the bumpy, rocky and gavel dirt road rising up and down endlessly, in the middle of huge canyons, going over small, round black hills or seeing huge cliffs on the roadside, before entering a washboard road, truly wild, with just a few bushes and grass.
I slowly drove, only traveling about 15-20 mph, moving slowly to minimize the potential of getting stuck or having a problem.
Only a few cars passed by, so it was mostly just me and my SUV in this wild desert. It felt like I had left Earth and it looked like I was driving on the moon. I could feel my heart beat a little faster, and it was a little scary: I did not know when and where this crazy road would end, and I was taking this adventure alone. Still, I overcame my fear and trusted myself to handle it.
I arrived at the first overlook point, Glen Canyon, and parked. The last two miles of terrain to Alstrom Point is complicated and more technical, requiring a high-clearance vehicle or 4WD, with experience driving in such conditions. I knew my rental car SUV could not handle this terrain, so I parked, got out and hiked to the point instead.
I began my hike at 3:30 PM. The sun was strong and beat on my head, as I carried my 30-pound backpack of gear. At the beginning, it was easy to follow the path. But then I entered slickrock terrain, where everything surrounded me looked the same, with no clear path, and rock faces looking alike, with no landmarks and a nearly identical horizon everywhere, making knowing the true direction very difficult. My off-line GPS helped me to navigate, but it still was confusing and disorienting because everything looked the same. My navigation skills finally helped me realize the direction I needed, and I hiked to this special place successfully, to witness and embrace an unreal but amazing view.
I was very happy and pound of myself: I completed another remarkable adventure in my life, before I turned 34. I was living an amazing and wonderful journey.
I set up my tent on the cliff and slept under the stars with a beautiful view. On the morning of my 34th birthday, I awoke. I saw the color change in the sky, reflecting multi-layer rocks and Lake Powell. I had a feeling again: it was worth it to take this adventure. It was one of the best birthday gifts for me.
Despite my solitary experience, I do not recommend you go to Alstrom Point alone, especially for a less experienced adventurer, due to the remoteness of the location and the complexity of the terrain. If you do go, this driving direction reference was particularly helpful to me: https://alstrompoint.com/information/ .
This was the first part of my adventure trip. I will share the other three parts soon.
Meanwhile, I also want to mention: Escalate is a hidden gem in Utah, especially the 56 mile long ”Hole-in-the-Rock” dirt road, which has unique and amazing places to explore, but it does require a good 4WD vehicle, as well as good dirt road driving skills and good weather. Based on my current “off-road” experience, traveling there alone is pretty dangerous even in “dry weather” and with good road conditions. After I calculated the risk, I did not go there alone.
Adventure is a high-risk dynamic. The more exposure to high-risk situations you face, the more likely you’ll encounter the nuances of danger. But higher risk does not automatically mean higher reward in an adventure. We have different experiences, different levels of innate risk tolerance, so my risk and reward might be different from yours. It is important each person understands what they have to gain and lose, and to anticipate any potential bad outcomes and how they might handle them. Prepare ahead of time. If we know ourselves very well, it is possible to strike a balance, to be brave and decisive to take the risk, to enjoy the precious things adventure and life throw at you, including mistakes. It is part of living a full adventurous life.