Eastward Bound: An Interview with Matthew Benjamin




What was your overall experience, in a nutshell?


MB:

This past September, I embarked on an eight day, 2,500 mile road trip with four of my best friends. We rented a minivan, filled it with our gear and groceries, and left for six new states. We visited Zion National Park, the Bonneville Salt Flats, Grand Teton National Park, and Yellowstone National Park.


Did everything go according to plan?


MB:

The original plan was actually to travel along the West Coast and live off the land. Three days before we were set to leave, the fires broke out in Northern California, Oregon, and Washington. We quickly made an audible and decided to head east.


What did you do along the way?


MB:

We made it our goal to camp, hike, and cook throughout the trip. We lived at dispersed campgrounds; meaning no services like trash removal, bathrooms, showers, etc. We literally pulled onto a dirt road, drove for a couple miles into the middle of nowhere, and set-up camp along a lake that we had all to ourselves.

We experienced scorching hot days in Utah, and freezing nights in Wyoming. In Utah, the days got as high as 105 degrees. In Wyoming, the nights got as low as 20 degrees. We had to prepare and pack for both scenarios. We built our own fires from dead trees, dry brush, and rocks.


We hiked in Zion National Park. One of the hikes was the world famous Angels Landing. The hike was about 4 miles round-trip with an increase in elevation of about 1500 feet. The view made the workout of a hike worth it. We got an amazing 360-degree view of the entire canyon. This was my third time completing this hike and the view gets me every time.


We also hiked the Narrows. With walls a thousand feet tall and a rocky river as your path, this Hike was definitely a highlight of Zion. There were times within the hike that I was waist deep in water, covered in mud, and trying my best not to slip. The hike was about 3 miles long and worth every second.


On the second day, we decided to visit the Bonneville Salt Flats. It felt like I was in another world. We saw a couple of Camaros race, a truck attempt to drift, the most amazing sunset, and a firework show all within the span of two hours. We actually cooked dinner on the salt flats. There was bratwurst with stuffed green bell peppers, and onions. We even had a carrot cake for my friend's birthday.


See the entire trip mapped out here:


What were some key takeaways and/or lessons you gained from this trip?


MB:

The days with no cell service were the most connected I’ve felt with the world in years.

This trip reminded me that:

"Life is so much more fulfilling when you are present in the moment."

"It is possible to explore while still respecting social distancing."


It was definitely a nice break from my routine. Since March, I have practically been in front of a screen for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. As you can probably relate, social media has become the main way to stay connected for a post-grad, covid-era person.

When you wake up, the first thing you probably do is look at your phone screen, when it’s time to be productive you probably open up your laptop, and when you get tired of that, you turn on the TV.


Any tips for someone looking to do this as well?


MB:

  1. Research dispersed camping spots before you leave, there are thousands of campgrounds that are free to camp on, with no one around you, and beautiful scenery.

  2. Pack it in - Pack it out. Leave no trace of your campsite, respect the animals and plants.

  3. Pack spare batteries, ibuprofen, and multi-tool.


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All photos courtesy of Matthew Benjamin.