Zen On Dirt

A Month in Moab

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We spent just about a month in Moab this spring. Compared to the six weeks that we spent last spring, a mere four weeks seemed far too short. But what a four weeks it was!

The most interesting part of it was the simple contentedness that I felt while being there. I’d arrived on a pair of legs that could best be described as ‘trashed’ from a week-long running binge in the Grand Canyon, and three days on the Kokopelli didn’t help, and really, we didn’t exactly just sit around during Girls’ Trip to the Desert and drink cocktails…there was a lot of riding too!

Last spring, there was the intense desire to make the absolute most of our Moab time. We ran ourselves into the ground, on days that we were too tired to do anything, we felt almost a guilt for wasting a Moab day.

This time around, there were many days where we were simply happy to lounge in the desert, maybe go for a short ride around a mellow trail system if the motivation was there. But the desperation to cram in as much as possible wasn’t there, at least not until the end.

I think it’s a side effect of #Scamplife. If we follow good weather and always try to park in places with amazing things to do, we simply have to have the self-control to pick and choose our energy expenditures. We have to recognize what our bodies can do, when we’re too tired to really enjoy what we’re doing, and to embrace simply being in a beautiful place on the days where we sit around the Scamp working, reading, or puttering.

That’s not to say that we didn’t get in heaps of adventuring. We started out conservative, and when we had a final departure date set, we ran out the energy rope as far as we dared.


Alexis and Denny stayed for an extra day after our Kokopelli trip. I declared that I was too tired to ride, and thus ended up riding Bartlett Wash, which seems to be our go-to for easy rides.


Except the riding really isn’t all that easy, and trying to corral Scott back to the car is nearly impossible. But I tend to just find my perch at the top of the hill and let him ride laps until he gets tired. Which is never, for the record.


Scott and Pete went for their traditional post-work lap of Ahab. I tend to come along and run because I know these rides end a Giliberto’s, and Giliberto’s has horchata, and I like horchata.


We found ourselves at a new campsite that was relatively close to Canyonlands National Park. Or, at least it was closer than it normally would be from Willow Springs, so we scoped out a running/hiking loop down to the Murphy’s Hogback.


Things would have gone a lot smoother if Scott would have remembered to put his running shoes in the car before we left camp (you have to remember one thing for running!), but even with the drive back to the Scamp, we still had plenty of daylight. Summer is great that way.


Definitely easier to get to the Hogback on foot than on bike. We looped the route by heading down the White Rim road and heading up a trail following a wash. I’m not convinced that sand is any easier on foot than on a bike.


I can’t run everyday (without hurting myself), so it was good to hookup with Julie for a quick Navajo Rocks spin. We were both feel pretty worked over from our respective previous activities, but managed to eek out a 5.3 mile ride followed by La Croix drinking in the parking lot while watching Fritz the Wiener Dog wander around.

Some days you’ve got it, some days you don’t. It’s all good.


At some point of time, full moon came around and we were treated to an amazing show over the La Sals. File that one under Special Moments.


Back at Kodachrome State Park, I’d picked up a book on non-technician canyon hikes on the Colorado Plateau. One of its suggestions in Moab was Hunter Canyon, and it made the claim that there was an old Indian route that you could use to exit the canyon and head over to Prichett canyon or come down Hunter Rim Trail.


The trail was real nice at first…and as most traditionally out-and-back trails go, got fainter and fainter until we were faced with bushwacking or wading through waist-deep standing water that was laced with spider webs inhabited by giant spiders. The last half mile took us as long as the previous four. I was skeptical that we’d make it to the end and then find our way out.


But we found the route out, scrambled up it with as little grace as we could manage (I’m glad no real rock climby people come on these trips with us…they would laugh), and figured our way to Hunter Canyon Rim trail by following a pair of bike tracks and then a two pairs of foot prints.

Because of course, we’d left the actual map in the car.


The map would have been useful when we got back to the mouth of the canyon, saw our car several hundred feet below us, and wondered how and where this Hunter Rim trail was going to take us. Lucky for us, we only ended up with a couple of miles of dirt road running to close the loop…whoops?

Maps. Maps are awesome.


Still being camped relatively close to Canyonlands NP, we opted for a day on the Syncline trail that circumnavigates Upheaval Dome, a giant geologic feature that was caused by a meteor hitting the earth a long time ago.


Somehow I managed to lose a pile of photos from this day, which makes me a little bit sad, but I guess that just means that we’ll have to go back and take more pictures? It was beautiful down there, and for a main-ish trail in a NP, pretty empty.


Our bikes were getting a bit lonely, so we used them to explore a canyon near camp that we’ve been looking at on maps for a long time but hadn’t made the time to ride down. It made a beautiful loop with Schaeffer’s Switchbacks on White Rim.


Think you could huck it?


I love how wrinkly the earth is in Moab. Nothing is far from anything else, as the crow flies, but the ins and outs are endless.


A rock fell down a few years ago. Cars and trucks fit under it, so the BLM has decided to just leave it. We got to climb the Schaeffer’s switchbacks at sunset, which is the best time to do it because the La Sal mountains are lighting up, and everyone else has gone home. Never have I seen the place so empty.


Scott had some work to do on a day that I didn’t, so I opted for a quick jaunt down the Alcove Spring trail in Canyonlands.


I ate jelly beans with rock formations named Zeus and Moses before heading back up. I hadn’t been on a long-ish solo run in a while. It was nice.


With time in Moab running out, I schemed up a plan to try to visit a giant snake petroglyph that we’d heard about. We’d heard of two different ways to approach it, nothing specific on either route, but I had a grand plan of using the two routes to put together a big loop, starting at Pritchett Canyon, which is famous for being the hardest jeep route in Moab. We watched the rock crawlers struggle for a while before they gave up and started hooking winches up.

Jeeping looks terrifying.


The snake was rad. Somehow I convinced Scott to keep going up the canyon, even though we weren’t seeing much sign of human travel.

‘Footprints! I think I see footprints!’ was a common refrain. Clearly, people are wandering around back here, probably just as ‘lost’ as we were.


How do we get down there? I don’t know.

Unfortunately, from the top, we couldn’t see the exit that several people had verified existed. Maybe we went north when we should have gone south, maybe we didn’t go far enough north, who knows. But after a while, we reevaluated our plan and headed  west down a valley of fins that looked broader than the rest.

We knew that there was a very real possibility that we’d get cliffed out and have to retrace our steps…which would have made for a very, very long day.


There are a lot of canyoneering/rappel-required routes back here, and we followed several sets of footprints to cliff edges and proceeded to curse.

But then there it was! The little sneak up a gully, down another, and we were back on open ground with a clear line of sight of where we needed to go to get back to Pritchett Canyon. We were saved!

There may have been a bit of celebration and chugging of water that had been rationed for the past several hours and eating of the last of our food. We would have made it if we’d had to retrace our steps, but there might have been tears involved.

We spent the run back to the car trying to figure out what the second approach to the Snake looked like, where we’d gone wrong, and how to do it better next time.


The fins. Scott called it “complex topography.”

We were down to our last weekend before having to head to Colorado to watch dogs. We were determined to make the most of it. The following three weeks would be spent in Bouder, in a house, so we might as well show up as tired as possible.


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