Woke the F*ck Up

This one is near and dear, because the adventure connected was my "wake up" to something I now truly love in this world.

2015. My best friend and college roommate Stephen is getting married and it's time for the bachelor trip. He's an outdoorsman so we pick something from both worlds—the wilderness and a city—Zion National Park, Utah and Las Vegas.

Now, before this trip my outdoors resume consisted of some car camping in northern Arizona with borrowed gear from friends. I wouldn't have even qualified for a Webelos in the Boy Scouts with my experience. So when Stephen and our friend Robbie flew into Phoenix to make the drive north, I was about to earn my wilderness badge.

We made a Spotify list for the road trip, as you do, and Stephen put three Jon Bellion songs in the lineup. I'd never heard of Jon Bellion and it floors me to this day how few of my friends have still never heard his music. The dude is an absolute vocalist and "Woke the F*ck Up" played in my 2010 Dodge Charger (RIP) from central Arizona to southern Utah to the Las Vegas Strip. When I listen, I can still feel AC blasting in the June heat and the intense sun outside.

Intermission 1: Jon Bellion - All Time Low (Acoustic)

First stop: North Rim of the Grand Canyon. This was my debut taste of true backpacking (hiking several miles with all your gear and setting up camp). We found a forest road just outside the park, drove up without knowing what was ahead, and blindly hit the trail with everything on our backs. What waited for us was one of the most incredible camping spots I've seen to this day.

If you look carefully to the left, that's our tent. This spot, this site, was my wake up moment. We wasted hours by the fire, drank whiskey, told stories, and looked at the millions of stars above us with a completely absent moon. The next morning we packed up, hiked out, and it was off to Zion National Park.

Intermission 2: Jon Bellion - Woke the F*ck Up (Acoustic)

Riding the high of my first true outdoors experience, I didn't even care it was 105 degrees hiking through Zion. I wanted to go everywhere and see everything. We scaled thousands of feet to reach the top of Angels Landing and trudged through cold waters to experience the deep, claustrophobic canyons of The Narrows. The time spent in the wild was so incredible, Vegas was just the victory lap.

So, what's in a song? We listened to a lot of tunes in the 1200 miles driven that weekend, but this one song is so closely tied to that memory. This was my first true experience outdoors, but it certainly isn't my last. I went back to the Grand Canyon, backpacked to the bottom, camped the White Mountains, Havasupai, Superstition Wilderness, and have 30 miles planned through Yosemite National Park. I even write about it on my outdoors blog, 9to5hiker.com.

This trip, more than any other, changed me for the better.

The Finale: Picture Time