Back when I was a recalcitrant teenager living in southern California – I was angry having had to move in the middle of my Junior year from the lush, green and mountainous terrain of Washington to the brown…very brown valley of Temecula – I held a hatred of all things desert in my heart and mind. All I saw was varying shades of brown. In the mind’s eye of my teenage self, brown was a shade of evil and annoyance. I did not see the amazing shades that could be cast across those browns and tans and reds by a rising or setting sun. I did not see the power of the desert or the power of Mother Nature in a desert storm; in the survival of plant and animal life in something seemingly barren. Oh, yes. I was the angsty teenager who failed to see the beauty of the universe. Well, Universe, thank you for proving just how wrong that snotty teen was.
I’m not really sure what drew me to Moab. It wasn’t sitting at the top of a list of places to go or things to do: hell, it wasn’t really even a thought in my mind. What likely happened was Instagram. I probably saw a photo and thought, “Christ. That’s beautiful! I’ll go there!” This happens more often than not: I’ll stumble across a photo I think is “pretty” and decide that I’ll just go to that pretty place and see it myself. Why see everything in pictures when you can experience it in person?
I rolled into Dead Horse Point State Park in the early afternoon on a partly cloudy, sun-shiny day, and, well… All I can say is, “Holy gorgeous, Batman!”
The sun brought out the most magnificent reds of the dirt and blues in the sky. The canyon is vast and awe inspiring. It was, quite simply, stunning.
I strapped on my boots as soon as I arrived at the visitor’s center and took off on East Rim Trail taking my sweet time to savor the lack of civilization on the trail and the incredible depths of the canyon. It felt almost fake – at least, until you catch a good gust of wind that leaves your heart in your throat for a hot minute while teetering close to the edge. I scrambled along ledges, up and over boulders, and down along some of the cliff sides and found out just why people say they feel a sense of peace or zen in the desert.
If I could go back and kick my snot-nosed self in the shins; I would.
A storm started rolling in as the sun began descending and I still hadn’t found a place to camp for the night.
I decided to follow the Colorado River knowing there were quite a few areas to be found down along the way… Yeah, about 23 miles down Hwy 128 later (the campgrounds were packed!), I found Hittle Bottom Campground in the pitch dark, figured out how to pay for my site, and set up camp as the lightning lit up the sky behind the massive mesas and Fisher Towers.
This, my friends, was the surprise that awaited me outside after a bit of a restless night’s sleep during thunderstorms.
Call me shocked and awed! The photos don’t do it justice, but the reds were darkened by the rain making the green in the shrubs seem to pop! The white-grey sky, the darkened red sand, and the green shrubbery had me sitting at the edge of my tent flap under the rain fly’s vestibule just to soak it all in.
After getting a break in the rain, I packed up my tent and headed for Arches National Park where I wound up meeting a group of some pretty baller Australian Ultra-Marathoners while climbing up inside one of the arches by Windows – a rather rain-slicked navigation in scrambling up.
In a twist of happenstance or irony, however you choose to categorize it, I ran back into the Aussies at Delicate Arch where I had perched myself across the way up on some flat boulder “steps”. This was, of course, after losing sight of the cairns and meandering about before finally coming upon the opposite side of the bowl from where the trail is supposed to take you, haha!
Overall, while I enjoyed Arches, I have to say I was far more enthralled with Dead Horse Point State Park. Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough time to do Canyonlands, but it’s on my list now!
Up next… Grand Teton National Park!