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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Moab: A hike down memory lane

After a couple of days in Fruita, we drove to Moab. After leaving the interstate, this drive felt like it transported us onto another planet. As we drove along the Colorado River toward Moab, the canyon dug deeper into the ground with glowing ember cliffs looming on both sides.The roiling river eroded such a steep canyon that the north-facing cliffs harbored snow in their craggy faces. When the view opened up down the canyon, snowy high peaks, the La Sal Mountains, hovered on the horizon.
As we drove south along the Colorado River, we reminisced about our cross-country drive 18 years ago. On that drive, we didn't know it but we were tracing our future. First, we found that we were unable to tear ourselves away from Colorado. We camped within a half hour of where we now live. It was February, freezing cold air and deep snow surrounded us. Yet, we couldn't leave. We instantly loved the area.

When we finally departed Colorado, we drove to Moab and were truly awed by the canyonlands. The sheer and impossibly tall red sandstone cliffs seemed surreal. On that trip, we hiked a side canyon off of the Colorado River with two dogs who are now deceased, Astro and Acadia. On our recent trip, we decided to repeat that hike, taking a walk down memory lane, and letting our current duo walk in the pawprints of their predecessors.

We remembered it as a narrow canyon with looming, almost claustrophobic, walls. Funny, the canyon turned out to be spacious, with a flat marshy area around a rare perpetual stream down its center. The photo below peers straight up the canyon from the trailhead. We started the hike in mid-afternoon but, due to the high canyon walls, all but a few spots were already engulfed in shadows. In fact, I began to wonder if sun rays ever touch this canyon floor in the winter.
The moon barely peeked over a sunny rock wall.
We realized as we hiked that our memories from 18 years ago reflected our awe when we visited the red rock canyonlands for the first time. Of course the canyon seemed unbelievably narrow - we'd never set foot in a deep canyon before!

After our hike, we headed to a tried and true campsite that sits in an exposed spot bathed in sunlight from about 8 AM until 3 PM at this time of year. We rapidly learned that finding sunny spots is tough in the midst of a labyrinth of canyons and mesas. Those cliffs cast long shadows when the sun arcs so low in the sky.

Fortunately, no one, and I mean not another soul, was camping in this magnificent area. We were surprised beyond words. This is a popular spot in the spring, where other campers sometimes crowd closer to us than we'd like. It was all ours on this trip.
My bike fit beautifully with the view from the campsite. It was primed and ready to ride.
Before sunset, we took a short walk to loosen up and gaze at the beauty.
And, our duo decided that they'd lay claim to the spot, standing tall on a massive red boulder in our campsite. We acutely felt S's absence because this was the last spot that he ever camped with us. But, the duo carries on his spirit.
No doubt, early winter is the best time to visit popular desert spots. The term "Desert Solitude" resonated with me as I took long bike rides surrounded by stark and stunning landscapes but almost no other people.


  1. It must have been so nice to have this special part of the country all to yourselves. Great photos - and look at those blue skies.

    woos, the OP Pack

  2. We love the relative solitude in our own mountains during the winter. What a great photograph of the dogs with the shadows and blue skies.

  3. Amazing photos! Makes me want to do a winter retreat trip to Moab! There is not much as striking as the red sandstone against the white of the la sals. Beautiful.

  4. Great photos - again! Early winter is in many ways the best time for travelling - not only to popular desert spots but also to cities. There is nowhere as quiet as Venice before the Christmas rush.

  5. so gorgeous and all to yourself, beautiful pics....i must get out has been too long...thanks for reminding me of the beauty of our west...

  6. I read this post last night but didn't get a chance to comment. I am astounded at how diverse your state is - it's beautiful all over, but so vastly different!

    Looking forward to the next installment of your journey.

  7. After reading this, I wish I could meet you for coffee and pick your brain because you've had so much experience doing trips like this with your dogs. I've got this crazy dream (after I''m done with divorce hell and need some serious retreat time) to take Java on a cross-country road trip. There are so many parks and places I want to see, probably not all at once though. And I'd like to camp. So I'm trying to figure out the acceptable weather times to travel when parks are open but not too crowded. Have you ever visited Kanab, Utah, where Best Friends animal rescue is located?

  8. STUNNING! Fantastic photos, so glad you had a wonderful trip!!!! Mom is in day-dream memories of past trips to the area. Chicks on Crack clinics, climbs at Indian Creek, mtn' bike rides, red rock campsites...nothing like the spectacular one you had! What absolutely clear weather! Love the LeSals and the Castle Valley area.
    Sorry, says mom...just wishing we could beam on over to that really special area.

    Hugs and snaggle-tooth kisses,
    Sierra Rose and mom

  9. Once again, great shots!

    Thanks to Google Reader, this didn't arrive last night!

  10. I love your camping spot. They may widen Tom's work territory, which would mean 4 or more work-funded trips to Moab each year. What a shame, what a shame.

    Funny how CO or canyons or whatever seem different when you first see them.

    I can remember in college watching people from elsewhere standing on campus, with Pikes Peak looming to the west, and just being completely awestruck.

    And, just to make you laugh, I'll share that my captcha word is "nedness" today. Oh, dear. That's funny.


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