Spring Break 2014. We find ourselves drawn towards sunnier locales, as most Seattlites do. For us, this means a tour of the desert canyons of Utah. As Ross had already left town to help build a kitchen for his brother in Colorado, we took this opportunity to meet in the middle as he travels the country toward southern California for the first portion of his thru-hike. Anna drove down from soggy Seattle and we found ourselves in Moab, Utah. Our agenda was to get back into hiking shape, test out new gear we’d acquired over the winter, tie up some loose ends on our Nourishing Journey project and see some beautiful things along the way.
The desert is a world far removed from the lush green ferns and conifers we are accustomed to in Washington. If it weren't for the familiar green of shrubs scattered throughout the landscape, we may have thought we were on another planet. With new scenery comes new challenges - like sand in our shoes.
As we entered Canyonlands National Park, we were immediately greeted by winds ranging from 20-30 miles per hour, with the occasional 50 mph gust. This made our descent into the canyon all the more exciting. We started our trip on one of those trails that comes with a warning sign - "This trail is strenuous and not well marked". It meant a lot of climbing up, down, around, over and between boulders, traversing the land like mountain goats, trying not to be blown away as we scaled from cairn to cairn. Invisible, yet so powerful. Ten miles in wind is as strenuous as twenty without.
Though not exactly a welcoming first day, the canyon was full of gifts and surprises. There was, of course, the natural beauty of canyon light and shadows surrounding our walk. Despite the harsh landscape and weather, we felt profoundly connected to inherent serenity of the painted red walls and spiny, dry flora. Then, there was the five dollars that flew across the trail in front of Ross' feet. And the pair of camp shoes we found sitting, waiting for us around a bend. New shoes and five dollars for beer. Trail magic!
We continued our canyon trek up, back down, and up again. This desert hike was the perfect opportunity to see how much water we could fit into our packs if necessary. Four liters, it turns out, is about as much water weight that Anna's Gossamer Gorilla Pack can handle. Ross' ULA Circuit, on the other hand, had a comfortable carrying capacity for several more liters if necessary. Good to know. But we'd much rather travel light between frequent water sources when possible. We wish we were camels.
Our efforts paid off as we dry-camped, with no water in sight, at the base of Taylor Canyon. We rehydrated beans, rice, couscous, and vegetables, spending the night next to a couple towering rock formations named Zeus and Moses.
As this Canyonlands adventure comes to end, we are preparing for the next steps in our journeys. Anna is driving back to Seattle to finish up the last quarter of graduate school in dietetics, while continuing to prepare for the southbound thru-hike with Ross in July.
Ross is planning to head to Las Vegas for a few days of R&R before traveling to Mojave, California. He is eager to start his southbound flip-flop hike in just a few days, completing 500 miles to the Mexican border. Intent on spending as many days in the mountains this year as possible, his bag is packed and his legs are strong. The trail awaits.
With many more miles and vistas to come, we're both looking forward to the adventures that lie ahead.
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