Adventure has a lot to teach us about preparing for the unknown and handling challenges

Rugged, winding and challenging paths are often the best ones. They are the teachers, the life changers and the character shapers. We simply have to trust our instincts, intuition and those ever-changing winds. After all, being prepared for anything is only helpful when anything can happen.

Even the van wasn’t what I expected. As we bumped off along the road, the image of a relaxing road trip faded away into the orange sunset. My door never closed right, I usually had to slam it three times to get it to latch correctly. Buckling my seatbelt was another unnecessary nuisance. A typically easy task was made frustrating by the fact that I had to hold the receiver with my left hand while using my right to buckle it. If I let go, the receiver would fall to the floor out of my reach. I know, it’s a stupid thing to complain about, but it’s like a fly constantly buzzing around for attention. Of course, we never stop to think about what flies are teaching us.

sunrise hike silhouette utah road trip
Taking a sunrise hike with my son in the beginning of the trip before things took an unexpected turn.Marc Bergreen

My husband, Marc, and I finally made the turn toward the Temple of Sun in Capitol Reef National Park, a remote 60 mile loop far from services and cell reception. We couldn’t wait. We had been dreaming of this trip for a long time. We had a vision of camping out under the stars, taking night photos while the kids slept soundly in the van. But I was already nervous. The van was making funny noises and my faith in it was limited. And we already made a detour for an emergency tire repair when the tires wore down much quicker than expected.

Our Utah road trip took us to both new and familiar places. We somehow found solitude in Moab, peace in Zion and endless roads in Escalante. Capitol Reef called our name and we obliged. We tried to keep our expectations for the trip low with two small children along for the ride. However, the Temple of the Sun was one destination that was high on our list.

“Are you sure we should be out here in the middle of nowhere? What if the van breaks down and we get stranded?”

Surprisingly, Marc didn’t argue. The man whose summit fever makes it a struggle to turn him back from anything simply turned around without question. And he said I was right, of all things. Intuition can surprise you like that. Still, we debated if we made the right decision as we bumped back toward pavement. And then the van started smoking and the voltmeter flickered. Our alternator went out.

Fifty miles later we found Wi-Fi, and 25 miles after that we coasted into the closest repair shop. They, of course, weren’t open. The van started one last time before officially dying in the driveway of the next repair shop. And that’s how we ended up in Goblin Valley instead of the Temple of the Sun.

Unfortunately, the detour and repair time cut too deeply into our itinerary to head all the way back to Capital Reef. Our disappointment was quickly replaced with the joy of planning a new adventure. There were suddenly new possibilities, opportunities and dreams. We weren’t where we planned, but that didn’t mean we weren’t going anywhere.

With empty expectations, we found a new campsite in Goblin Valley, a place we had never explored. We hiked Little Wild Horse Canyon which is now on our list of favorite adventures. The kids were in heaven and the adults felt like kids again. We ran along the path with our fingertips caressing the walls of the canyons listening to the unsuppressed giggles of our kids.

slot canyon little wild horse canyon utah hiking with children
Marc Bergreen marveling at the curved canyon walls of Little Wild Horse Canyon.Brenda Bergreen

If I learned anything, it’s that embracing the unexpected is better than holding too tightly to expectations. Things don’t always go as planned and we don’t always get to do what we want. It feels very relevant, especially now, as I slowly erase plans from the giant calendar we have in our office. I’m doing my best to be mindful of the gain as well as the loss.

Since I haven’t been training at the climbing gym, I’ve been climbing less and running more. I still don’t like running. But I have discovered new trails hidden in my own backyard.

It’s a reminder that putting certain adventures and travels on hold can sometimes result in other unexpected adventures. Like the time I went ice climbing after a dislocated elbow and learned how to use my feet. Or when an aimless hike in the woods led us to two little bear cubs climbing trees.

One thing I do know is that the twists, the turns and the beat down from Mother Nature keeps me coming back for more.

family photo utah canyon road trip off the grid
A family selfie in the canyon helps commemorate the joy we felt at finding ourselves on an unexpected adventure.Brenda Bergreen

BRENDA BERGREEN is a storyteller and photographer living in Evergreen, Colorado, with her family. When she’s not writing or taking photos, you might find her searching for new unexpected adventures.