"I was, in fact, homesick for wildness, and when I found it I knew how intimately - how resonantly - I belonged there. We are charged with this - all of us. For the human spirit has a primal allegiance to wildness, to really live, to snatch the fruit and suck it, to spill the juice." - Jay Griffiths, Wild: an Elemental Journey

Friday, October 19, 2012

Sun-Soaked Adventures

My last two days in Moab were deliciously adventurous in many new ways.  Yesterday, I began the day with an 8.6 mile mountain bike ride through desert single track.  It was the longest mountain-biking trail I'd ever done, albeit slightly less technical than the four mile track in Whitefish, Montana.  I hooked my phone up to the mount on my handlebars and blasted music the whole way.  I only saw two other people, and so mostly had the beautiful, expansive track to myself.  I was pumping adrenaline by the time I finished!  So exciting.

A shot of the trail

Arches National Park way off in the distance

Woot woot!  I did it!
When I arrived back at the hostel after my bike ride, Brian (my new friend from the hostel) and I began planning our backcountry trip into Canyonlands for that night.  We chose a trail, loaded our packs, swung by the grocery store for some camping food, and headed out into the gorgeous afternoon.

When we arrived at the trailhead and were arranging our packs, Brian began suspiciously eyeing mine.  It was much heaver and more loaded down than his.  He thru-hiked the A.T. last year and I knew he was into ultra-light backpacking.

"What?" I asked, a bit defensively.

"Nothing," he replied, still eyeing my pack.

"What are you looking at?  What's wrong with my pack?"

"Nothing, just - do you mind if I help you out a bit?  I love to do this."

"You mean reorganize my pack?  I've done that for my students in the past, but never had anyone do it for me."

"No I want to go through and see if I can make it lighter for you.  I can already see you have way more than you need."

I paused.  "Ok," I replied, hesitantly.

He emptied out my entire pack into the parking lot.  Everything.  He tossed my extra socks, extra water bottle, and several other things out.  When he took out the ground cover for my tent, I stopped him.

"Wait, I need that for my tent.  I don't want to risk the rocky ground tearing it."

He gave me a mischeivious grin.  "We're not using a tent."  Then he pulled my tent out and threw it into the back of my car.

My jaw dropped.  "What do you mean, not using a tent?"

"We'll just throw our mylar emergency blankets on the ground and put our pads and sleeping bags on top.  You don't need a tent out here.  It's not going to rain tonight, and we can see the stars better that way."

"But what about snakes and scorpions and other creatures?" I balked.

"What about them?" he gave me another one of those grins.

I sighed.  Open backcountry camping is something I've wanted to do for awhile, but always been to scared to do it.  I guess now is as good a time as any.  "Ok," I said.  "No tent."

The hike was a little over eight miles total, and none of it was flat.  We hiked straight down into a canyon, and then back up to our camping spot.  The three miles we did on the first night kicked my butt, and we hadn't even gotten to the hard part yet.

The sun beginning to set as we hiked down the canyon

As much as I hate admitting when a man is right, Brian was right about the tent.  It took no time at all to set ourselves up without it.  We ate some quick dinner and settled in to our bags to watch the stars.  We laid there and talked for hours, counting shooting stars in between.  (We saw well over twenty - we stopped counting eventually.)

When our conversation finally fell to a natural lull, I began drifting off to sleep.  The canyon was completely silent and still.  No wind, no trees rustling, no animal sounds - save a few distant owl hoots from somewhere across the expanse.  There was nothing to be afraid of, so I wasn't.  A few times during the night, I groggily awoke to shift position and saw where I was - under a blanket of billions of stars - and I smiled and closed my eyes again.

A shot of our sleeping spot in the morning.  Notice our bags on the ground.

A closer-up shot.  Brian is still in his bag, too cold to come out. :)

The trail out the next day kicked my butt even harder.  It was also never flat, and had many parts of rock scramble, which is always interesting with a pack on.  Brian skipped over everything like a mountain goat in gym shorts and minimus sneakers, and I huffed and puffed behind him in my heavy hiking boots.

As we hiked, we talked more.  All in all, we talked about religion, backpacking, traveling, his lady friend, my sort-of husband, our childhoods, and our life goals - just to name a few small topics.  I don't have many male friends, and it was really nice to make a new one.

All in all, Moab has been an incredible stop.  No one here ever asks each other what they do for work - only what they do for fun.  Everybody is on some sort of adventure; you can feel the playful energy in the air.  It made me want to get out there and explore, which I did - every day - and I have the scrapes, bruises, and sunburn to prove it!

Brian on the trail

And me

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