They call it a rendezvous — the And She’s Dope Too women’s weekend getaway I attended. But rather than a rendezvous of women and adventure, it felt like a rendezvous for my soul, a time and a place in which I would feel like myself again.
I stressed most of the week leading up to it. Between packing, coordinating the carpool, and throwing myself in a group of 150-200 strangers, I was a tad nervous. I had just launched my new website and was itching to make progress on some of my projects. But I was committed. I didn’t want to miss out on an opportunity to challenge and better myself. We were going to Moab after all, and southern Utah has always been a place in which I can let go and relax.
Thursday morning, May 2nd, I drove to the airport to pick up three strangers, three women who flew across the country (obviously much braver than I am) to drive from Salt Lake City to Moab for this women’s outdoor adventure. I admired them for their courage and investment, and for some reason, I trusted them based on the fact alone that they were going to the same retreat I was.
I spotted them easily as I pulled up to the curb at the airport. Duffle bags, a large hiking backpack, and the obvious marker, three women waiting for a ride. We squeezed our bags into my trunk and began the drive.
Talya, Haley, and Vaugn. We talked about where we were from, how we heard about And She’s Dope Too (thanks Instagram), and listened to crime podcasts (courtesy of the Criminal episodes I downloaded for the trip). Our group arrived to Moab earlier than most, so we took a detour into Arches National Park to hike to Delicate Arch.
We split some pizzas at a restaurant in town and then crashed at a hotel for the night. Check-in was the next morning.
I didn’t sleep well. I’d actually sleep better in my tent under the stars than I did in that soft, white bed. I hadn’t arrived yet, and I knew it. I was anxious to enter the And She’s Dope Too world.
The next morning, we drove to the official campsite. Maybe it was my love for youth camps as a kid, or the relief that we had finally made it, but I felt like I was coming home. The Roo Crew waved us in.
I found my tent-mates — also strangers I had met through the event’s Facebook group — and unpacked my things. Unrolling my sleeping bag in that warm, bright blue tent under the expansive sky felt liberating.
I had signed up for paddle boarding that day with my new friend, Lindsey. We went on our own excursion into Arches and then met the group at the Colorado River.
Nerves kicked in like they always do, but once we were on the river, it was exhilarating. A group of women paddling down the Colorado River, finding balance and confidence, what an experience.
We ate delicious food at camp that night, and danced our hearts out under the desert sky.
Saturday was my favorite day, filled with yoga on the desert sand, and hiking through Canyonlands. We took goofy pictures and felt present, not caring about the dirt any more. We were just glad to be there.
Before the rendezvous, I had signed up for specific hiking slots. The Sunday sunrise hike was one of them, but once we were at camp, it got pushed up from a 6 a.m. hike, to a 5 a.m. hike. I do not like getting up early, and I was going to be driving the four hours home alone, but I didn’t want to cancel my plans for fear of being tired. That weekend wasn’t meant for sleep. I could sleep when I got home, and I’m of the belief that we can never see too many sunrises or sunsets. I often miss them when I’m back home. I’m working, or still sleeping, or somehow preoccupied.
But this time, I was in Moab, with dear new friends. A couple of the others and myself realized we were all signed up for it. That sealed the deal. We would wake for the sunrise together. We decided our fate while we ate our warm, delicious Thai Curry Kitchen dinner.
That night, we sat up late, our bonds growing stronger as we mentally prepared to leave camp the next day.
Talya, Vaugn, and I sat in my tent, talking about our fears, our careers, and what that weekend meant to us.
My arm was asleep. I was lying in my sleeping bag and I woke up to the tingling of my right arm, withering away, completely numb. I flopped it out from under my body and checked the time. Five minutes before my 4:45 a.m. alarm. That was convenient.
“Vicki. Vicki.” My tent-mate woke up. I had set my alarm for both of us. We grabbed our things. I brought a sleeping bag and a blanket to cuddle up with for the sunrise.
As we walked to the meetup location, I peered at the stars. They were brilliant. The Milky Way glittered across the sky. We turned off our headlamps and stared for a few moments.
Vicki and I took a quick trip to the port-a-potties. We were talking about waking up that morning when Vicki said, “All I heard was…”. I jumped and grabbed Vicki’s arm. Her statement startled me into thinking she heard something creeping by us. She repeated herself a few times before I realized she was simply telling me how she woke up: “All I heard was Vicki, Vicki.” We laughed, our early morning chatter and giggles waking us up. I was more awake than I had been in weeks. On five hours of sleep.
We scooted into the van with the rest of the ladies who had also been brave enough to wake up before the sun did. I ached to sit outside and stare at the stars as we drove into Canyonlands for the sunrise through Mesa Arch.
The photographers blocked the view. The sun sat behind the mountains, ready to rise above where its rays would peer directly through the arch. But the photographers lined the small arch with their tripods, stand to stand, shoulder to shoulder. I chose to watch the sunrise through a less famous point, but a point that held a little more serenity, the kind I ache for when the sun lifts for the day.
Sarah, my sunrise buddy, and Vicki, joined me to the left of the arch, above it, where we could watch the sunrise, without fighting for a view or hearing the click of a camera shutter. We took photos on our phones, but also sat and enjoyed it. There we were, a group of women who came into Moab alone, sitting as friends watching the sunrise come up for our final day together. It made my heart soar. No wonder I felt so awake.
We said our goodbyes the rest of the morning. Group photos and hugs, like the kind you might give to your best friends when you’re 12 at a youth camp.
I drove home alone. I wasn’t going back to Salt Lake, so the girls I was with arranged other rides. Originally, I worried about the lone, long drive, but the weekend uplifted and emboldened me. I drove home, singing at the top of my lungs, no fear or self consciousness preventing me from feeling the pulse of happiness the weekend had brought me.
I was alive.
I’ve done 30 minutes of yoga at home that’s meant to restore you, or received an hour-long massage, hoping to rid myself of aches and pains. But never have I been so restored as I was after a weekend in the desert.
You could contribute it to the yoga or the hikes through red rocks. Or maybe it was the expansiveness of the desert. But really, I think it was the women. The girls that came to the Rendezvous were looking for something. Maybe it was friendship or confidence. Perhaps they just wanted to spend time outside, away from the stress at home. Whatever it was, by coming together in an empowering and uplifting community, by being there with a purpose, we found what we were looking for. For the first time in a while, I found my happiness, the smile I can’t hide from the corner of my lips, the feeling of wholeness inside my being. I was restored.