Hello again. One thing I forgot to mention last time was the friggin heat. Obviously it’s always pretty warm down there this time of year but apparently we managed to catch part of the same heat wave you seem to have gotten in Saskatoon. The only problem is that “heat wave” in Vegas meant 111F (I’m not sure what that is in C but I’m pretty sure it’s over 40). That was the extreme but it did remain well above 90 throughout our stay (30+) which meant most of our hiking was done before 10am and after 4pm. How warped is it to set your alarm for 6am most of your holiday?
Anyhow, after Bryce Canyon we continued east to Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument (a big thank you out to Bill Clinton for a name that just rolls off the tongue). There we headed into the desert to hike some slot canyons at Dry Fork Gulch via a “rough gravel road”. Picture a typical Saskatchewan country road with some rough spots where you need to slow down to miss them, right? Wrong. Try rippled washboard from one edge to the other making it unavoidable that we be shaken from toes to teeth the whole way. It was like a 26 mile, 1 1/2 hour epileptic seizure. We began trying to figure out how we might manage to hold the car together if we arrived with only 2 or 3 bolts left.
Thankfully we did arrive at our destination eventually and the slot canyons, ominously named Peekaboo and Spooky, turned out to be well worth the trip (now that we know the car made it out alive, anyway). A claustrophobic’s worst nightmare, these fissures carved through the rock by water runoff were often so narrow that we had to turn sideways just to continue shuffling along. Unfortunately, being built like an Austrian downhiller, my feet often wouldn’t fit sideways, forcing me to somehow keep my lower half pointed forward while the upper remained sideways. Trust me, it looks just as graceful as it sounds.
On to Capitol Reef (we’re still in the process of trying to block out the return drive from Dry Gulch from our memories) where we made an executive decision to bypass hiking that one and stick with the fairweather driving tour. Nice scenery, a little bit o’ rain.
On Saturday we made it to the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park(home of the Nipple Rock, named by our very own Laynni Locke). Very middle of nowhere, and probably the nicest campground we’ve ever seen (for location, not amenities). We were camped right under the shadow of some amazing slickrock cliffs. We decided to climb up with our packed supper to eat at the top as the sun was setting. Typically, however, it began to rain as soon as we started climbing and eventually got bad enough to force us to take cover under an overhang. Then, just as we started to get settled the rain let up so we packed up again and headed out…….and the rain started again. Stopped, we’d move, it would start. Etc, etc. You get the picture.
Our last 3 days were spent in Moab, the mountain biking capital of the world (according to Moab, anyway). At the very least it has to be the mountain biking T-SHIRT capital of the world. It’s also the gateway to the Island in the Sky district of Canyonlands (incredible panoramic views of the canyons below) and Arches National Park (I believe the name says it all). Here we grabbed a rather mediocre site in an otherwise very well developed campground (i.e. showers, laundry, and a pool).
We toured Island in the Sky, hiked Arches, got pictures of us dwarfed by massive rock donuts, and checked out the Moab Cinema. Then on our final day I rented a bike to try my hand at the famous Slickrock Trail.
<A side note: we also stayed at the Slickrock Campground, ate at the Slickrock Cafe and bought a Slickrock t-shirt; the word has now lost all meaning>
Anyway, as for biking, I can say in all honesty that the “trail” was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. Thirteen miles up, down and over a scary mix of rocks, gravel and sand. It was originally designed for motorbikes, which would at least partially explain why I spent 1/2 the time walking my bike up 45 degree inclines with my tongue dragging on the ground (that’s just a figure of speech, I’m not bragging or anything). It did get marginally easier as I got braver at building up speed on the downhills. Of course, there are some downsides to that strategy, too, many of which became very clear to me as I soared high above the handlebars on my way to a hard landing 6 feet away. Luckily, though, my loyal bike had no intention of abandoning me and caught up on just the second bounce, knocking me flat and covering me protectively. No lasting damage, though, and I managed to finish the trail before the true heat of the day began. Incidentally, I couldn’t believe the dozens of morons/masochists I passed who were just starting the trail at 10am. I started at 7 and went through 3 litres of water. It was insane.
So that pretty much takes us to the trip home which will feature stops at such crowd-pleasers as Grand Teton National Park, Yellowstone National Park and, crowds permitting, Cadillac, Saskatchewan.
I’ll fill you in later.