The month of May found me in a state of improving health and the itch for adventure and exercise needed attention. My Wife and I didn’t have to study the map long before placing a pin on the Red Rock Country of Southern Utah. We even arranged to rendezvous with my In-Laws so that we could share the experience. Why Southern Utah you might ask. For one thing, Denver was still getting pounded by turbulent Spring weather just as high pressure was taking hold to the West. Furthermore, this is the time of the year that deep canyon floors are thriving with green hues and runoff from the high country. The two of us and our Italian Greyhound Gracie were packed and on the road, destination Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument.
The Staircase is special. It is one of the most remote and beautiful places in the desert southwest and during previous visits my exploration had only scratched the surface. The plan for this trip was to do as much desert hiking as possible and to experience the solitude of a wilderness that is now at risk of losing its protected status. I also needed to get a photography fix in the worst way. I had hardly picked up the camera since last fall when I fell ill and I couldn’t wait to get back to it. For hiking, I pulled my old trustee Asolo boots out of storage. They had carried me up half of Colorado’s Fourteeners when I was much younger. Surely they would serve me well in the desert.
It’s always good to have an audio book on hand for long drives. For this trip I selected “Finding Everett Ruess” by David Roberts. His true story documents the life of a free spirited explorer who vanished without a trace from the Escalante region in the 1930’s. The book originally caught my attention because the forward was written by John Krakauer who wrote “Into the Wild”, one of my favorites. The subject of Krakauer’s book was Christopher McCandless, also a free spirited explorer who spent a great deal of time in the Desert Southwest. McCandless, who ended up starving to death in the Alaska wilderness, went by the alias “Alexander Supertramp”. I so much love the story that I named my camper “Alexander Supertramp” long ago.
Sometimes the Universe aligns itself in such a way that you cannot deny that something is meant to be. That is exactly what happened on this trip to the Grand Staircase. Here we were in a rig named “Alexander Supertramp” following the footsteps of a free spirited lost soul and while hiking near the last know location of Everett Ruess, the soles of my Asolo boots peeled off, one after another. You can’t make this stuff up. It was a great trip!
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I’ve been to Moab, Utah region many times and have found with each visit that there is always something new to discover. Potash Road, as I found out during our October trip, is a must see and do. Just North of town near the entrance to Arches National Monument, a road crosses and follows the mighty Colorado River. Vertical red rock canyon walls are Mother Nature’s embellishment to a landscape that is an absolute world of art. Slow down and look a little closer and you’ll find that the Native Americans were inspired to follow suit. Rock Art is everywhere and mostly untouched for centuries except here and there where someone felt to compelled to destroy it.
If you continue up the road beyond the pavement, you will find yourself skirting a number of tailings ponds, leftover from the cold war era uranium mines. You’ll want to make sure you have a high clearance vehicle, preferably four wheel drive because this is no place to have car problems. I didn’t even want to stop to take pictures for fear that we might start glowing in the dark. We continued on up the road and eventually ended up driving through a real life Hollywood movie set (read my recent post “The Accidental Paparazzi”) before climbing up to the entrance of Canyonlands National Park.
Mankind leaves an indelible imprint on the land, there is no way around it. Hopefully, we will learn from past mistakes and strive to make our mark on the world one that says we were a caring and respectful people. If we don’t….well, the handwriting is on the wall.
Each Fall I find myself struggling to accept the seasonal loss of light and color. The Northern Hemisphere is tilting toward the dark and cold side and there is nothing I can do about it. This year I held on as hard as I could for as long as I could and I’ve stored up the images that I need to sustain me until Spring. Beginning at the end of September, I went on a fall foliage bender like never before. Before it was all said and done, denial fueled a journey to the relatively low elevations of extreme Western Colorado and Eastern Utah.
Alexander Supertram (the camper) at Sand Flats near Moab, Utah
The high desert around Grand Junction and Moab is always visually stunning. Add the colors of fall to the red rocks and big vistas and you have a beauty that is hard to describe. I’ll let the pictures tell the story.
“High Desert Sunrise”
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“As Close As I Dare” – I basically crawled to the edge of the Goose Neck turn of the Colorado River, afraid the bank would cave in.
I’ve been editing photos like a maniac several days now and I’m finally ready to share more. Last week’s photo expedition to the Utah Desert was a success and I’ll be sharing a bunch or images. I’ll keep it short and sweet this morning and simply brag about the fact that we drove Alexander Supertramp right through the middle of a Hollywood set on the remote Shafer Canyon Road, the back road into Canyonlands National Park. We knew something was up when we took note of a campsite along the Colorado River. A long ticky tacky row of luxury tents and heated outdoor sitting areas were the first signs that something big was being filmed nearby. It turned out that HBO is filming a mini series, a remake of the 1970’s movie “Westworld”.
The set of “Westworld”
A lot of movies have been filmed in these canyons over the years and on this day, they were filming at “Thelma and Louse Point”. At a crest in the road, we literally drove less than ten feet from the actors, dressed up in western wear, plates in hand waiting in line to eat lunch. We had no idea at that moment that we might have been rubbing elbows with Ed Harris or Anthony Hopkins. I’ve got to get a dash cam! Anyway, it all caught us so much by surprise that all I managed to capture with the camera was from a distance. I managed a few shots from the drivers seat with my long lens just before the Sheriff escorted us on down the road. So if you end up watching “Westworld” on HBO, look for Alexander Supertramp in the background during a cemetery scene.
Abundance truly is in the eye of the beholder. It isn’t something we can own or possess, it is a mindset of freedom. So I’m standing at the Rim of Schaffer Canyon within Canyonlands National Park and this fully equipped adventure RV pulls up right behind Alexander Supertramp. Big Wheels, three feet of clearance and two motorcycles strapped to the back, this rig was a zombie proof fortress on a Mercedes Chasis. Jealousy reared its ugly head within me. “Where are you from?”, I asked the Man and Woman as they climbed down from the lofty coach. “Germany” he replied with a heavy accent. “Are you going around the world?”, I asked. “Just the America’s, we started with Alaska and are going south to Patagonia” he informed me. We walked over to the viewpoint and looked down at the Shaffer Canyon Switchbacks. “Are you going down there?”, I continued to quiz him. “Not in that” he said, referring to his rig. “Vee vill go on za bikes”. His rig weighed 18000 pounds and he was concerned the the road would not hold.
My envy began to subside. We had driven up the switchbacks the previous day and had never felt so free as I did in the wild Colorado River Basin below. We had driven through an expansive swath of some of the most remote wilderness in the country with everything we needed to make that possible, what more could I want. Sure I admire the German couple and I could see that their abundance was in their freedom, not in their highly cool rig.