Going Solo: A Backroads Adventure

A few years ago, I decided to step out of my comfort zone and try a solo vacation and, making it even more adventurous for me, I decided on a Backroads trip. Backroads is an active tour operator that deals with hiking and biking trips across the country and around the world. I was both excited and apprehensive with regards to this trip. Excited because I was going to explore some of our National Parks in Utah and Arizona, and apprehensive because the last time I was on bike, Ronald Reagan was in the White House. Armed with great advice from the Backroads reservation team and my first pair of biking shorts, I headed out to St. George, Utah.


The trip I chose with Backroads offered a combination of both hiking and biking, or a “multi-sport trip” as they call it. The first morning of our trip I found myself in the lobby getting acquainted with my new friends and the Backroads leaders, a grand total of about 25 people. The group consisted of a combination of couples, girls’ trip gals, and singles, all with varied abilities and age ranges.


Our first stop was the famed Narrows hike in Zion National Park. The Narrows is Mother Nature’s equivalent to a water park with hiking through the Virgin River and sheer cliffs rising hundreds of feet all around. Thank goodness Backroads provided walking sticks, otherwise certain parts of my anatomy would have gotten wet other than just my feet and legs. One definitely needs hiking boots or water shoes to navigate the rocky bottom of this trail/river. It was such fun and the water felt great on a very warm afternoon.


The next day, more great hiking opportunities were provided, and one could do as much or little as they wanted. The Backroads leaders had already planned the best possibilities for their guests, so I didn’t have to figure out what trail to take or if there were any unexpected surprises waiting around a corner. On our third day, it was time to try out my new bike shorts. There were a couple of options — either an 8 or 14 mile bike ride. I opted for the shorter one. It was such fun pedaling along the canyon floor of Zion. Childhood memories flooded back of the times I spent riding my bike around our neighborhood. Backroads was very helpful in getting the best fit for me and my new mode of transportation.


After the morning bike ride, it was time to move on to the North rim of the Grand Canyon. It was about a four hour ride, but Backroads provided a gourmet picnic along the way and one could either rest in the van or participate in any number of conversations that were going on during the ride. When we arrived at the one and only lodge at the North Rim (which, in my mind, absolutely had to be the original model for Lincoln Log toys), the leaders checked everyone in and collected our room keys, while we ventured out for a short 2 mile hike. We all started out together, but since everyone had a different pace and agenda, I suddenly found myself alone. It was a stunning autumn afternoon with a crystal clear blue sky interrupted only by the gorgeous Aspen trees with their golden leaves. Suddenly, appearing right in front of me was the massive Grand Canyon in all its spectacular beauty. Words cannot begin to describe this awe-inspiring view, nor can photos do it justice, but my first glimpse of this amazing creation was simply breath-taking!


The North Rim is much less crowded than the South Rim, and the elevation is a bit higher at just over 8,000 feet. As always, the Backroads leaders try to give options for hiking or biking or resting … whatever one prefers to do each day. On this day, I decided to hike down into the canyon and with the leaders’ warning, “Don’t forget, you’ve got to hike back up!” ringing in my ears, I decided not to venture more than two miles. I didn’t get close to the canyon floor, but at every turn there was so much beauty. After my trek back up, we had a very nice picnic lunch. That afternoon, I was feeling a little tired and just wanted to rest, so I grabbed a book and ventured to the lodge where they had the most spectacular balcony with Adirondack chairs. Within minutes, I was fast asleep for a wonderful afternoon nap! Some in our group continued to hike, while others went for a bike ride, and yet others rested in either their cabins or on the balcony. That evening was set off by the most beautiful sunset, enjoyed with a glass of wine from the lodge’s deck.


The next day we were back in our vans venturing out to Bryce Canyon, another fascinating National Park. This park was much more desert-like and almost other-worldly with its “hoodoos,” which are tall skinny spires of rock that protrude from the bottom of the arid basin. It would be a perfect spot to film a science fiction or alien movie. Again, there were many trail options suitable for all abilities. Backroads was always ready to help any of us and provide water and other goodies along the way. Their trail mix bar was the finest I’ve ever seen! On our last morning, we were on our bikes again, pedaling out of Bryce Canyon with so many fun memories.


So, I survived my first “solo trip” and thoroughly enjoyed getting out of my comfort zone. So much so that I’ve continued bike riding and subsequently joined the Bluegrass Cycling Club. This trip was also the catalyst for my involvement with VAST (Virtuoso Active & Specialty Travel). So, you just never know where a vacation may lead you!


Wendy Sifford
Travel Advisor

Wendy Sifford