Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Slot canyons- Off a beaten path via Kia

Ok, so we checked with NP at Fruita before we took off. They never say this but the rangers gave us a 100% assurance of no rain. The absolutely perfect day for slot canyons, novice style.  Consulting three maps, notes of a reliable biology teacher and tour guides, we pulled off onto Hole in The Rock Road and proceeded to navigate the 26.1 miles of straight dirt road to nowhere. Every write up assures that this is a rough paved road. By rough, they mean, no pavement. Our rental Kia jostled along without complaining. I eyed the 6 gallon reserve of water in the back seat and crossed my fingers as we passed a broken down jeep with a flat. We waved enthusiastically when a Ford pickup flew by with a tailgate of young bucks. It even lightened the mood when the road hump was hit dead on and the boys bounced up and into each other with great whoops and yeehaa.

Devout Mormons built this road and it intrigued me from the moment I read its name. It does dump into a river but let's faced it, it is a road to nowhere and no tour bus would follow us. Even though the guides assure that it is well marked. It isn't. Or, it is but the markers don't match the directions. We chose to turn left at Dry Gulch and bumped along until we discovered a parking lot full of vehicles. It was already passed 11 am, the sun was high, above 85 and the dry winds were picking up as we descended into what I call, the funnel.

Following cairns down, down this once molten rock lava flow into a canyon gave me the impression of climbing the sidewall of a funnel. Should it rain somewhere distant, water would collect and spiral down this rock filling up those slot canyons we we so excited to explore. And I stupid or adventurous in bringing my 8 year old into this abyss? She seems resigned to compliance with our plans. This only makes me feel guilty until we spot a family with more to risk than us. Slinking in the shade of the canyon walls brought us face to face with a friendly Mormon family and their kids ages 2-10. Kata and their 7 year old joined forces and ran ahead from the Coyote canyon slot into Peekaboo. We literally had to climb up the already hot walls of the Peekaboo into the slot. What seemed risky soon became a playground as we helped to hoist the toddler into the shade of the cool slot. Sucking her billy, she disappeared through an arch. Adults had no choice but to follow her and the squeals of the siblings leading Kata almost out of sight.

Pumped up by adrenaline, shade and success we combined forces again with our new found friends and made the impetuous decision to search out Spooky. They had been here long before kids but the canyon split, leaving us skeptical and lost. I ran ahead, found other people to confirm its location and once again we were off. Spooky slot is shaded. We had to drop our bags because it was purportedly too narrow for much more than our bodies. Wide enough for our hat brims to brush the canyon walls front to back, we began shuffling sideways through. I panicked. The kids were moving with ease ahead of me and I couldn't keep up. At times I had to squat to fit through and I feared begging able to reach Kata should she need help. Marc was hot on her heels but it all seemed just a bit unsafe. I turned around at one point and headed back. Going back renewed my sense of adventure and I grabbed the camera.   I went up and waited in a wide opening in the slot. The sand beneath me was cool and the wind singing down the walls calmed the heat of anxiety. I shot the camera lense at the aperture above and reflected on my entombment. Should it rain, began my morbid thoughts, would I rise and survive or be dashed into these unforgiving rock walls? No longer could I hear my family and this disturbed me more than anything. Suddenly I felt a calm, acceptance of this natural place. Images of temples, crypts and Middle Eastern cities carved into canyons flooded me. I understand the grandeur of being tucked into a final resting place for all eternity. Would I be so lucky someday to be sheltered by rock? Well, not today. I hopped up and plunged into the shadows, climbing up and up until I heard happy voices once more. With no place to turn around, I turned my head and shuffled back to my aperture to click photos of emerging explorers. Together once more we resigned to the heat and the climb out of the funnel. We resigned to the slow return to pavement and cheered as we headed to the power lines and houses of Escalante. Would've stayed here if we. Hadn't made reservations in Bryce. Wolfed down burgers, refueled the car and the food supply. Towns after this would sufficient grocery stores.
Thank you to the friend who suggested leaving the safety of objects, wifi, cell service...
Thank you Mormons for building this road. I now understand its purpose.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Trip to Utah

Somewhere,enroute to Moab, I began to breathe easier. not only because the air is purportedly clearer but because the open sky, the long ribbon of highway gave me the perspective that, once again, my collected problems were small. The world is a big place and zipping 80 mph through Spanish Forks to Price, Utah helped remind me of this. 8 days of camping was a gift I could give my family. I worked for a week in Salt Lake City grading essays for the Collegeboard to pay for the trip. Other graders wondered if they should take on a similar venture next year. I say, go for it. We drove nonstop to Moab but camping along the Green River or in Price appeared tempting. Vermont friends on a similar trip two days ahead did not enjoy their campsite on the Green River but I still would try it if driving at night was a problem. Price was greener and less crowded, yet Moab was calling. We only drove the last 20 miles in waning light at 9 pm, heading right to our air conditioned cabin. Air conditioning is a must with nighttime temperatures still in the 90s.  

Moab RV is clean and tidy. The cabins have beds and bunks with nothing but the sweet smell of cedar. it is located across from the Colorado River walk and next to the entrance to Arches NP. We could have hopped on the bikepath if we had our bikes. We hoped to get up at 4am, head into the park for early sunrise viewing. But I slept until 6 and struggled without our coffee. Must. Buy. Stove.
The campground did provide free coffee to campers, I discovered two days later. We mustered strength and drove into Arches. At 7 am there are no lines to get into the park. It was Good Morning at Windows Arches before the bus tours arrived. Blue, no cloud sky.
We played until noon at Windows and Double Arches until the heat caught us. Staggered back to the visitors center for the films and notes on where to go next, what to avoid. The film overview actually helped me become decisive enough to pick other must see adventures ahead in Capitol Reef. Back to the campground for long showers, pool time and siesta. We slept until 5, ate dinner and headed to the park again for sunset. Once again, no cars, no lines. We climbed onto double arches for sunset around 8:30. Only one other couple was there. We then shot pics of the waxing Gibbon moon and delighted in the uncluttered night sky.