The Chutes and Ladders of Life: Shortcuts to Change

The hands of the clock tick faster the older we get. The places around us never appear the same twice. This is more likely a result of change within ourselves, than our actual environment.

Those who know me well can attest to the fact that I don’t just welcome change, I seek it out. Change helps me grow and gain a more holistic perspective of the world. I’m always looking for new opportunities to expand my limited perspective. How? By engaging with those who have differing viewpoints, traveling to new places, or ingesting various forms of psychedelics. (Just kidding?)

Another way I like to seek change is by experiencing new things. One way to do this without too much risk is to visit the same place twice, under different conditions. It’s like a shortcut to a new experience. I’m not going to call it an “adventure hack” because I don’t like the word “hack.” To me, hacking life indicates you’re too lazy to put in the effort. A matter of rhetoric, really. We’ll call it a shortcut to excitement and adventure by way of subtle change.

Chutes and Ladders - ©️ Ben Husmann

Chutes and Ladders - ©️ Ben Husmann

The Chutes and Ladders of life, my friends. I always preferred the ladders, myself.

I recently moved to the fine state of Utah. I’ve always loved southern Utah but have never seen it in the winter. I’ve heard of the winter wonderland Zion transforms into and I've seen pictures of the snow-covered hoodoos of Bryce.

Map of Utah Road Trip - ©️ Nicole Atkins

Map of Utah Road Trip - ©️ Nicole Atkins

 

 

So, I took advantage of a long holiday weekend and planned a 1500-mile solo road trip.

My first stop was the Bonneville Salt Flats because it was on the way. Timed just right, I happened by this place as the blazing sun rose over the horizon. I’m not a big fan of salt. That’s a long story for another time. Seeing this place is the closest I’ve come to being near salt without cringing. I almost shed my own salty tear. Almost.

Bonneville Salt Flats at Sunrise - ©️ Nicole Atkins

Bonneville Salt Flats at Sunrise - ©️ Nicole Atkins

Zion National Park was my next stop. Zion has always been one of my favorite places. It evokes a sense of grandiosity that has a way of putting me in my in my place.

The contrast between the colored sandstone and the starkness of the snow bewitched me.

Snow Covering Zion's Valley Floor - ©️ Nicole Atkins

Snow Covering Zion's Valley Floor - ©️ Nicole Atkins

It took me three hours to get from one side of the park to the other. This time, it wasn’t due to traffic, because there wasn’t any (which was nice). It's the constant eyeball-busting beauty of the place, at every corner.

West Temple, Sundial, and Altar of Sacrifice in Zion - ©️ Nicole Atkins

West Temple, Sundial, and Altar of Sacrifice in Zion - ©️ Nicole Atkins

The new-yet-familiar feeling around me was comforting and exciting. And let me tell you, if you haven’t camped in sub-zero temps, you haven’t lived.

Next on my list was Bryce Canyon National Park, the best or worst place to lose a cow, depending on your personal convictions. Bryce shuts down most of their higher-level viewpoints in the winter but you can trek to them if you have time. Even better, you can snowshoe among the hoodoos.

Snow-Capped Amphitheater in Bryce Canyon - ©️ Nicole Atkins

Snow-Capped Amphitheater in Bryce Canyon - ©️ Nicole Atkins

The starkest difference visiting Bryce in the winter is the absence of tourists. I didn’t see 30 people there. No need to yell at anyone for feeding Cheetos to the chipmunks (true story). The solitude was welcoming. It was just me, the rising phalluses that make up this wonderful place, and the wildlife.

The sun shining on the fresh snow gives the amphitheater a glow that’s unique to the winter months.

Snow-Capped Amphitheater Close-Up in Bryce Canyon - ©️ Nicole Atkins

Snow-Capped Amphitheater Close-Up in Bryce Canyon - ©️ Nicole Atkins

My last major destination was Capitol Reef National Park. Most people drive right by it when they’re in Utah, which is unfortunate. It's one of my favorite parks in the state. The landscape definitely looks different in the winter.

Capitol Reef in Winter - ©️ Nicole Atkins

Capitol Reef in Winter - ©️ Nicole Atkins

Change is good. It’s restorative. A good step toward change is to find those valuable shortcuts. Something that’s familiar, that you can make subtle changes to. We don’t always have enough time in life to make big, dramatic leaps. We also don’t have enough time to avoid change altogether.

Don’t risk falling down those chutes and landing somewhere at the bottom. Climb the ladders. Be cunning, and proud. When you get to the top, you’ll know you put in the work without being frivolous. While you’re at it, play a game of Chutes and Ladders once in a while. It’s a great metaphor for life.

 

Have you ever had the pleasure of seeing a place you love in a different light? Tell us about it in the comments.

 

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