The drive from Raleigh, North Carolina to Salt Lake City, Utah, spans over 2,141 miles and covers 10 states. Estimated driving time is 32 hours on Interstate 80. The last eight hours of the drive are through the barren desert. Only the lucky road trippers get to see an occasional tumbleweed float across the highway.
On a suffocatingly humid day in mid-August, Tyler Stephenson and her family piled into a minivan and left behind life as they knew it. It was Stephenson’s first week of summer after her freshman year of high school. Her dad had just accepted a job offer in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Stephenson had never been west of North Carolina and could not even identify where Utah was on a map of the United States. She felt as if everything she knew was yanked out from beneath her.
She spent her first few months in Utah struggling to make it her home. She missed the little things that she took for granted in North Carolina. A summer hanging out with childhood friends was replaced by high school tours and mounds of unpacked boxes. The melody of cicadas singing at night was replaced by desert silence. Fall weather in October was replaced by feet of snow on Halloween. The blossoming dogwood tree in the front yard was replaced by a view of endless mountains.
The mountains fascinated her. Each morning she would wake up to snow-capped peaks, no matter the season. Every sunset cast a magenta glow on the mountain range. She saw them as a beautiful challenge and wanted to see her new life from their peaks. One Sunday morning in early October, she drove up the canyon with her Dad.
She and her dad found a trail and began to hike together. This was the first time she was alone with her dad since the move. She had been so resentful of him for making her family move but saw the toll it took on him. They started talking as they walked beneath the bright yellow aspens. Her dad just wanted her to be happy and start an exciting new chapter in her life. She looked around at the mountainous terrain and decided she was ready to start over.
On this day, Stephenson discovered her passion for hiking. When she was in the mountains she was freed from what worried or troubled her. She saw life from a new perspective. She realized she was a part of an exciting and beautiful life and felt at peace. The strenuous changes in altitude and constant uphill climb were rewarded with breathtaking views.
She knew everything was going to be o.k. This move was the biggest challenge she had faced in her life so far. However, the move was what pushed her to truly discover who she was and what she loved. She always climbed on. No matter how hard the ascent, there was a view worth marveling at once she reached the top.
No mountain was impossible to conquer.