Arianne Brown
Arianne Brown's husband, Adam Brown, carries their 4-year-old son, Axel, on a hike in Bryce Canyon.

I was walking with my 4-year-old son, Axel, on a dirt trail as we gathered foxtail weeds we could bring back to the hotel to tickle his brothers and sisters with. We picked up pine cones, sorted river rocks and stopped to draw pictures in the dirt with sticks we had found.

Seconds later, we saw a young man riding a horse while several others followed behind. Axel and I waved and said, “Hi,” as he passed. The young man tipped his hat and said, “Howdy,” as he slowly but surely led his herd down the long, dirt path.

This moment was a happy one that brought back so many memories of the many times we’d been on that same dirt trail, doing the very same thing.

I took a picture of this moment and texted it to my husband’s biological father with the message, “We miss you. Wish you were here with us.” He then replied, “I wish I were there, too. Take me back!”

Just a few years before, my husband met his biological father for the first time. The details of the history behind that meeting are not my story to tell, so I won’t write anymore about it. However, there is a story I can share about when we met him. He was struggling with some life issues, like many of us do. In an effort to give him a little pick-me-up and to get to know him better, we invited him to come along with us on our annual family trip to Bryce Canyon.

While there, he met me at the finish line of the Bryce Canyon 50K along with the rest of my family. We ate Navajo tacos prepared by Native Americans who made food for the race. We went to an authentic cowboy dinner with an old West inspired performance. We swam in the hotel pool at the historic Ruby’s Inn. And of course, we went on walks through the nearby forests and among the hoodoos of Bryce Canyon National Park.

Over those few days spent with him, we saw a sad man smile. We saw a man jaded from this world take a step back and enjoy his surroundings. We saw a man who not too long before had felt there wasn’t much left to live for, getting a new lease on life as he breathed the fresh mountain air in a world much different from his own.

While I have no doubt this change came about by the unconditional love he felt from the son he never knew — who brought with him several awesome grandchildren — there’s something about where it happened that made it all the more sweeter.

There’s just something about Bryce Canyon that makes you want to go back.

1 comment on this story

Maybe it’s the long, dirt roads covered in miles of foxtails and pinecones, or the river rocks polished by the local Tropic Ditch. Maybe it’s the majestic red rock and bright orange hoodoos that take your breath away and replace it with clean, refreshing mountain air. Maybe it’s the deep local roots mixed with world travelers.

Or perhaps it’s the slower pace of a small town far from the hustle and bustle of the city, where instead of a quick wave “Hi,” you get a slow tip of the hat, followed by a genuine “Howdy” that makes you feel like you belong.

There’s just something about Bryce Canyon that keeps us coming back year after year and causes one extremely loved family member to ask us to “take him back.”