Zen On Dirt


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I love Moab. I love Moab to the point that we actually considered renting a room and wintering there this year. It was just a passing consideration, but the fact that I was even thinking about living within four walls for a semi-extended period of time was a pretty big thing.

This time, we were headed back for a family weekend with my parents and my brother, and Alexis wanted to make the drive down from Logan one weekend as well. Who were we to argue?

Since we were camped somewhat near Canyonlands National Park, we opted to go poke around on some lesser known routes. One of those routes described with the description of “an intrepid hiker should be able to find a way through”.


We started with the descent down to this spot, which is semi-well known in the park. We found it on the internet, so it definitely is no secret. There was an older couple there who said they’d been coming back to this site for 30 years and had watched as the walls of the structure slowly gained height as visitors added rocks.


Nope. We’re definitely not getting down right here.

Apparently we weren’t intrepid enough hikers to find a way through to where we wanted to be, so we made up our own route going up, mostly following sheep prints. Sheep always know where they’re going…it just sometimes isn’t the same place as we want to go. It led us to a giant field of slickrock with giant potholes dotting it.


A lot of them still held a good bit of water, even though it hadn’t rained in weeks. The fascination with water in the desert continues…


Alexis showed up for a day. The draw of Moab is strong in that one. We rode some trail that had just been finished in the spring. It was getting nicely beat in and was a lovely addition to the set of trails that live up on the plateau.

Melissa and I finally found a time and date for a run that worked for both of us. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about going for a “run” with Melbjoi is that it definitely isn’t going to be a run in the traditional sense of the word. Especially if Randy is coming along.


Those two know so many neat connections on town runs that nothing is ever dull or routine. This is great for me because I don’t actually enjoy the act of running all that much, I just enjoy the places that it can get me efficiently.


When I mentioned to Melbjoi and Randy that they weren’t really “ultrarunners” in the normal sense of the word, they weren’t really convinced. I’m pretty sure that many (most?) runners down really consider climbing fins that you could fall off and die as part of a normal training run. I definitely didn’t until I met these two.

For the next run date we made, there was debate on whether to do a route that involved a river crossing with a packraft, or a canyon scramble in Arches. We ended up back in Behind the Rocks instead.


Melbjoi emerging from the earth.


I mean, running, right? I think we ran the final downhill on this route. Mile six of six.


But not before plenty of scrambling. Which is good, because running is hard. And I’m really slow on the downhills.

With another day off, I convinced Scott to go on a longer run. Scott has no issues running 15+ miles when he decides he wants to, but if I mention a route that is longer than 8, I still get the ‘Oooh, that’s long’ from him. Which is completely ridiculous if you ask me. So it took a bit of convincing to get him to come out to Canyonlands to try to find the route to loop Grandview Lookout and Gooseberry trail via the White Rim.


We didn’t really have clear directions on how to find the weakness in the cliffs that would get us off of Grandview, so we loaded up with a day’s worth of food and water and headed out to the touristy Grandview lookout. We definitely looked out of place as we searched around the cliff edges for the route down.

We were ready to give up when we saw two other people looking very out of place, wearing climbing helmets and carrying a rope and a full trad rack. “I bet they know where they’re going! Let’s follow them!” I instructed.

They didn’t know. But we got to talking and between their info and our info, we ended up finding the way down. Which was exposed, and somewhat scary, but a lot of fun. We bid our new friends farewell as they went towards their climb, and we worked our way down to the White Rim road.


Because Scott couldn’t stand the thought of running several miles on the road (running! gasp!) we took a “shortcut” (don’t worry honey, it’s a shortcut) (it wasn’t) up and over a saddle. It was more entertaining, but sometimes I can get behind some easy miles.

The routing up the Gooseberry trail was pretty cool once we go over to it and it was a straightforward climb back out. Now all that stood between us and our car was a mile or so of pavement. It was pretty rough. Complaining was done.

Then my parents and brother showed up for the weekend! We’d been planning this family trip for the better part of 6 weeks, and I’d been watching the forecast closely, hoping that we could get a good weather window in November.


I was really hoping for at least one clear and warm day so that I could take them up Bell Canyon and down Little Wild Horse Canyon. I’d been sending pictures of slot canyons to the family text message group, and there was much interest from my parents to go check one out in real life.


Andras brought Little Man the dog. He was mostly a brave Little Man and did a great job at route-finding routes that worked for him.


There were a handful of dog-carry moments, but all in all, A+ for effort. He learned pretty quick that if there was something that he couldn’t get up or down, he’d just lay down and wait for someone to pick him up. He peed on me once because he got scared. That was awesome.


It was really neat to have my family come and see parts of the desert that I love so much. I remember going on a family trip where we went to Zion, Arches, and the Grand Canyon, way back when, and thinking that the landscape was so neat.

I still think it’s neat.


Boys being boys? Little Man looks on. So does my mom. 

It was pretty amazing to see Little Wild Horse completely dry. When we’d come through it five weeks ago, the water was deeper than my waist, but I’m pretty sure that the storm that had tried to wash the Scamp away must have flooded the canyon too. It was a completely different atmosphere.


The following day, I took my parents up to the petroglyphs on Hidden Canyon. I had sent them pictures of them last fall, and I think they were one of the major motivators to come out to Moab for the weekend.

I wish my parents could have stayed longer. There were plenty of other things that I wanted to show them.

But lucky for me, Andras’ job had ended the week before, so he decided to stay an extra week. At first, I sent him with Scott to do all of the techy rides that Scott always wants to do, and I don’t. It was a win-win-win situation for all involved. But I did make sure that I got to get out and ride with Andras and Little Man at least once.


He’s such a good trail dog! He’d run nine miles earlier in the week, and did nine with us, and seemed to love every bit of it. For a dog that was too scared to go through a doorway a month ago, he’s doing so well.


And Andras loves him. And he loves Andras. So that’s pretty rad.

Somewhere in there, Melbjoi and Meghan invited me on a “long run”. I was scared. These are two of the most bad-ass women I know, and they wanted to go for a long run. And they invited me. ME! Yikes.

First they tried to sell me on a 26 mile route in the La Sals. I plead too out of shape and lazy.


So Melbjoi came up with a 17 mile option with a long shuttle. I agreed to come along.

And then they changed the route on me, mostly because none of us wanted to run a long shuttle. I, of course, didn’t really ask for a mileage on the new route, because it was just a variation of the 17 mile option. This was my mistake.


On the plus side, there was a really cool archaeological site that had both the grinding holes and the monos, the rocks, that were used to do the grinding. I’d never seen the two together before.

The other plus side to the whole situation is that M&M’s idea of a long run is very similar to mine. Run some. Wander some. Scramble some. Get lost some. Run a little more. I had it in my head that we’d be running the whole way…so I rejoiced as we bushwhacked through grass and trees and rubble and scree. It was great fun.


I got pretty tired by the end,  as the mileage tipped up over 26 miles. I started asking how many miles were left. Were there any more big hills? Can we go get Milt’s milkshakes and hamburgers when we’re done? (Of course we’re going to Milt’s when we’re done!)

In the end, it was a lovely outing through the desert, and except for a short stretch on Jimmy Kean and UPS and LPS, it was on entirely new trails to me. And there really wasn’t all that much running.

I’ll go on a “long run” with these two any day of the week.


And then it was time to leave Moab. We made one final outing up to the Snake, just to say goodbye to the desert. I cried a little tear. We had friends to meet farther south, the temperatures were dropping. It was time to move on. Still…I was sad.

Someday, Moab, you’ll probably be the place I call home. Until then, I’ll just spend as much time with you as I can.


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