During our desert vacation, we spent a second day near the "top of the world" trail but we explored a little-used trail that appeared to wind its way into a cleft in the sandstone cliffs. Although the runners (including K) followed the same route as I did, they started earlier than I did.
I descended on my bike into a "wash" - a low and wet channel that almost certainly gets filled with rushing water or even a flash flood during a downpour. These washes are oases of life - green leaves on cottonwood trees, green shrubs, flowers, and myriad birds.
From the wash, I cut upward on the side of the cliff followin a trail that somehow wove its way upward without ever being very steep. Soon, I was peering back down at the valley that I'd just been riding in.
Amazingly, once I'd passed through the first barricade of cliffs, I found green meadows. Evidence of deer abounded, including an antler that my pack's runners had propped in the middle of the trail for me.
I'd been reading that mountain lions lived in the canyonlands but I hadn't seen evidence of their favorite prey - deer. Consequently, I'd been second-guessing the nature books, thinking that lions didn't really live in this area. As I surveyed the meadows hidden in the midst of the cliffs, I knew where the mountain lions lived and hunted!
Not only did green grass cover the ground in this hidden paradise but wild flowers abounded. And, I soaked up the silence - except for the whisper of the wind through the cliffs.
I descended from the mesa on a sinuous trail into the next valley over from our campsite.
As I descended, I spotted another place where deer (and therefore mountain lions) almost certainly flourish - on the fertile plains next to rivers. I guess that the nature books were right.
In the "new" valley, I spotted a Prickly Pear Cactus whose yellow blossom had opened.
The yellow flower made a beautiful sight against the blue sky.
When I returned to camp, we decided to move on for our next night. We resupplied in Moab and drove to a familiar campsite in the midst of imposing red cliffs. To our surprise, we discovered that we had the entire popular canyon to ourselves. It was our lucky day!