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.