Sunday, June 23, 2013

Traipsing Through the Desert

Playing in Arches NP

About this time last year I was just returning from one of the most incredible adventures I could have imagined.  I had spent over a week traveling around the beautiful country of Japan, experiencing all that I could take in.  I saturated myself with wonderful memories that I still can perceive vividly in my mind to this day.  

Today, I sit here a year later with a whole new set of unbelievable memories that are now very freshly carved into my mind. For the past 10 days I traveled around out West touring all sorts of incredible sights, landscapes, and vistas.  The idea for this trip was organized rather quickly, and without much planning. On paper, it was to be a "PhD defense celebration trip" for my other-half and favorite partner-in-crime-now-doctor, but in reality it was sort of a convenient excuse for another adventure.  We purposely didn't plan much as we wanted it to be spontaneous.  We both had places we wanted to go, and things we wanted to see, but we left just about everything open for truly "winging it".   I have never really taken in nor experienced the beauty of the Four-Corners area of this great country, so I went into this venture extremely excited and with an overly-eager attitude.  I knew it was going to be incredible, I guess I just didn't know HOW incredible.  Between the two of us, we took over 1000 photographs, drove over 2400 miles, and crammed whatever we could into the short 10 days we had.  There were days where we found ourselves up on a mountain getting sleeted on in 40 degree temps...and there were days where we were melting in 107 degree sun.  We saw canyons over 2000 feet deep, and hiked along enormous slickrock sandstones.  We played in the most remote places imaginable, camped on BLM land with no one around for miles, hiked through narrow slot-canyons only a foot wide, drove up cliff-side 4x4 roads, drove over 100 miles on a spare tire after getting a flat in the middle of nowhere, and even panned for gold.  I could fill entire books with all of the little bits and pieces from this trip.  I thought about detailing each day of our trip, but I've decided instead to just sprinkle some photo highlights below and walk through it as more of a pictorial overview.  There are many sights and specifics not shown below, but those I left out, I choose instead to keep to myself.

I've been calling this trip, the "Four-Corners Trip" as it encompassed parts of each of the "Four-Corners" states.  In truth, we played in deserts, canyons, mountains, and rivers.  Here is a rough outline of where we drove and spent our time playing over the entire 10 days.
Full path of our adventure over the full 10 days.  
We started/ended in Denver

Looking down into Ouray on our way up the Million Dollar Highway

Black Bear Pass Road. One day, I will conquer it!

View looking over Molas Lake, CO

Mesa Verde NP, CO

Climbing up to cliff dwelling, Mesa Verde NP

Four Corners, AZ, NM, UT, CO

Floating in four states!

Four Feet, Four States

Four Corners Twister!

Shiprock seen from the South along exposed dike (NM)


Desiccated Cow Carcass (Near Shiprock)

Shiprock Silhouette

Shiprock Silhouette #2

Up at the base of Shiprock

our car at Shiprock for scale...

View North-East from part-way up Shiprock 

Utah balancing!

Utah balancing #2 
Mexican Hat, UT 

Horse grazing near Monument Valley, UT

Classic view of Monument Valley (aka the "Forest Gump Road")

Riding my invisible Monument Valley Donkey

The Mittens!

Mittens #2

Spire/Pinnacle in Monument Valley, AZ

Typical daily temp in UT

View of meander bends from Gooseneck SP lookout, UT

Gooseneck SP lookout panorama

Attacked by Tumbleweed!

Valley of the Gods, UT

Sunset at Muley Point, UT

View of Monument Valley from Muley Sunset 

My absolute favorite photo from entire trip!  Sunset at Muley Point
We literally had the entire point to ourselves.  It was simply perfect.

Video panorama from Muley Point

Standing at cliff-edge (Muley Point) with Monument Valley 
in background (1000' drop right behind me) 

The "Dug Out" Road

Best campsite EVER!

Tossing the tent over the cliff (not really)

Booooooooooo!  Flat tire on Johns Canyon Road 
(100 miles from nearest tire shop)

Balancing Rock (Arches NP)

One of many arches at Arches NP

Arch Sitting

Delicate Arch (Arches NP)

Delicate Arch at sunset

Gopher Snake (harmless)

View from half-way up boulder field

Looking up boulder field (Can you find me in this pic?)

Landscape Arch (Arches NP).  My favorite of the arches.

Near the Marching Men (Arches NP)

Guarding Goblins (Goblin Valley SP)

Playing on some goblins

Goblin Valley

White Horse Slot Canyon

White Horse Slot Canyon #2

White Horse Slot-Canyon #3

Slot-Canyon Video

Shafer Canyon Road (Canyonlands NP)

Upheaval Dome Meteorite Impact Crater (Canyonlands NP)


Looking out on the Colorado River (Canyonlands)

Edge of a 1200+ foot overhang.  It doesn't look like it
in the photo, but right in front of me is the straight drop.

Getting a break from the heat in a cave (Canyonlands)

Playing on dirt roads in Canyonlands

Driving the backroads

Hiking on some slickrock in Needles area of Canyonlands
(Lost Canyon Loop)

Lost Canyon Loop fun!

Ladders!  On the Trail!

Newspaper Rock

Enormous forest fire on South Mountain (La Sal Mountains).
This quickly became the largest fire in Utah and we watched as
planes dropped fire retardant on the flames. The fire was 
officially labeledas the "Lackey Fan Fire"

Mountain run-off near Mt. Sneffels (CO)


Mt. Sneffels upper trailhead (near Ouray CO)

View from Sneffels upper trailhead

Gold-mine tour

Panning for gold!

I'm rich!  (not really)

That's probably the most pictures I've ever posted on any single entry on this site...and it still wasn't enough to properly convey just how incredible the trip was.  I wish I could go back and keep playing, but for I now I will have to be content with the memories the trip has given me.  Spending time in amazing places, with amazing people really does put a light on in our souls.  I will never forget my time touring four-corners.  

Looking ahead, I have some races on the calendar that I'm looking forward to. Specifically, I'm very excited about the Vol State race...a 500 kilometer race across Tennessee that is also the "sister" race to the Barkley (both put on by the same race director).  It should be a fantastic, albeit HOT, adventure.

So hike on everyone and happy trails.  Make sure to get out there and see this incredible world.  There really are so many unbelievable places to see.  Standing on a remote cliff-side, watching the sun set over Monument Valley can't possibly be described in words.  You simply have to experience it for yourselves.