I did a great couple of hikes in the neighborhood this week. The first was Mother Superior / Priest & Nuns / Sister Superior, I know.....Those are all names I've seen on different maps. It starts out super mellow walking horse trails through red hills for the first four miles but the last 3/4 of a miles you gain about 1800' of elevation and my Fitbit read the equivalent of walking up 233 flights of stairs and in 3/4 of a mile. A suffer fest and I loved it!
The next day I decided to finally climb Round Mountain. It's a feature at the base of the La Sal mountains in my small town of Castle Valley, Utah.
There isn't any certain trail to follow and my neighbor Frank joined me. We parked on the highway and made our way around to the western slope. I followed a game trail that led us up ruble slides and was incredibly steep. Once we reached the top we realized it was the least hospitable side for climbing. Oh well now we know for the next time. The views were amazing over the valley it's about 1500' climb from the Valley.
Tomorrow begins a three day stretch of guiding clients on hikes within Arches NP. I pulled a couple of Fiery Furnace permits for this weekend for filming and to just keep the momentum of going to that amazing place in the Moab desert. I think I'll break 380 times through this weekend and have made the decision to go for 1000 lifetime trips. I'll try to hit 450 in 2017.
This year marks my fourth season in Moab. I arrived in late February 2013 and within a few weeks it was the beginning of "Jeep Safari", the longest running jamboree for rock crawling jeep enthusiasts in the world.
Moab is a Mecca for that sort of thing. Some of these rigs very easily go up to the six-figures range and can pretty much climb anything in their way. Last year I took some clients to see the Ancient Owl Petroglyph which is up above the Amasa Back trail, under a hidden ledge.
Amasa Back is one of the older and more popular Jeep trails in the area. After we parked by Birthing Rock, a large boulder with a Petroglyph that depicts a "birth"; we had to walk the trail down into the canyon and up the other side to get to our destination. There was a line of about 15 jeeps just starting the trail and we walked through the line to get to the trail head. It's a pretty tough hike but isn't big in distance, only about 4.5 miles round trip.
We dropped down and leisurely hiked up to the ledge talking and sharing stories about our lives with one another as hiking tends to bring out in people. We made it to the petroglyphs and I was telling them what knowledge I have about the scene and the history of the Kane Creek area. We had lunch and started back up the trail.
When we made it back to the intersection of foot trail to jeep trail that same caravan of jeeps had only traveled about 150 yards. It surprised me at how slow the process of a trail ride can be in Moab. Being a hiking guide here I take pride at how much I can show my clients in just a few miles of hiking and while I wouldn't call my services cheap it's nothing compared to renting and insuring a jeep to ride trails in the area.
I guess 'ol Cactus Ed was right once again when he said, "You can't see anything from a car; you've got to get out of the goddamn contraption and walk, better yet crawl, on hands and knees, over the sandstone and through the thornbrush and cactus. When traces of blood begin to mark your trail, you'll see something, maybe."
So, I had another birthday yesterday. I'm not big on surprises and cake on my birthdays. I've never once said "it's my birthday week".
Some of my past birthdays have also marked life changing tragedies. Going all the way back to my 17th birthday when my best friend from childhood, Les Riley, was killed in a car accident that I was supposed to be in too. I still feel the pain of that loss 26 years later. That was the first time in my young life I had felt the real pain the world holds for us all if we live long enough. It is hard to be alive and that was the first time I learned that lesson and of course it wouldn't be the last.
I used to dread this time of the year that for so many, is a happy time. Because of tragic times on my birthday Ive became reflective of my own life this time of year. Since the first anniversary of that loss I've always used that day to get away and go it solo for at least a few hours on 4/10. This, over the years, has evolved into something I've now come to cherish. I have used my Birthday as a reason to take everything from solo river trips to jumping on charter boats and going deep sea fishing.
Five years ago on April 10th, I was in the last days of my cross country solo hike. I was on a lonely road passing through the Kansas prairie; it was the first day I could see the Rocky Mountains in the distance. I had built the stamina to walk around 30-40 miles a day. I was in great physical shape by then but I was very road haggard from a journey that had already taken me over 1000 miles from home, and the whole world I had known.
When I saw those mountains, for the first time, so far off in the distance; I remember thinking once I got there I would never be the same again.
Now that I've had the years to reflect back on it, I realize I had already changed. When I left Florida, on foot, with nothing but a backpack. I didn't know it at the time but I was walking into a new life that I couldn't have even dreamed myself.
In my experience I believe I have been most changed and learned the most from the pain in my life. While I've spent years letting that pain tell me I would never have a life I could be truly happy living, that same pain has taught me that this is all temporary and it will one day be over. That's why instead of going back to Florida when my journey had to change after I was injured climbing I decided to come to Moab and meet this young lady I had enjoyed talking to online. While I thought all the fun was over; it hadn't even truly gotten started.
I woke up next to that young lady again this morning and we'll celebrate our fourth wedding anniversary next week. I'm still in Moab and will remain at the very least on the Colorado plateau she introduced me to four years ago now.
Pain brought me west. Pain in a life where my achievements would be referred to as "relatively successful" by some. I never could quite understand, be happy or content living that way. The southwest has given me all the things in life I wanted, yet had no idea how to obtain.
So, on my forty-third birthday, my solo excursion was a 12 mile trek up to the Priest & Nuns Towers just beside my home. After the approach that is the equivalent of walking up 233 flights of stairs in less than a mile I stood under those towers and gave thanks for all the pain that brought me to that point. I remembered all the people I loved that have gone before me and felt them with me on that ledge. There have been times I knew in my heart they would have been disappointed in me. On this birthday on that ledge, if they could see me now and knew how content and full of life and love that I have become, they would be happy. They would know that the gift they gave me in life is not going wasted and that birthdays to come don't have to be times of pain anymore.
What a great week on the trails this week.
I shot my first video and broadcast my first Periscope within the Fiery Furnace in Arches National Park and it was also the 373rd hike through the Furnace and no it still hasn't gotten old. However, it did make me a bit sad. Since the NPS has banned commercial guiding in the Fiery Furnace and haven't started their own ranger led hikes the damage is already starting to show. I saw social trails over what was once untouched sand dunes and trampled crypto-biotic soil that was pristine less than a month ago and it's only just beginning.
I also spent many hours exploring a new route I found that I'm calling Upper Courthouse Wash.
I've been spying this area since I had the good fortune and moved to Moab, UT. It's a beautiful area and not explored often. I spotted a dry-fall I knew I could climb on a thu-hike of Courthouse wash a month or so ago. It's about 3/4 of a mile up the reverse of the trail and has some exposure of about 12' over the wash and a whole lot of bouldering involved to get to the rim but once you're there it's wide open. Just above the bridge leading into Moab but just hard enough to make it too much of a commitment for your average tourist hiker. Everything I love in a hike with views you have to earn to get the honor of seeing.
This is what happens when it rains in the desert.
Desert Waterfall in the Fiery Furnace in Arches National park.
Moab, Utah is a time capsule. About 300 million years ago the Moab area was the bottom of an inland sea. That sea evaporated and reformed 29 times leaving behind salt beds thousands of feet thick. The salt beds were covered with a layer of sand and stone boulders brought by streams from upland. The salt beds were less thick than the top layer forming it into domes and ridges between the valleys. These domes collapsed forming this unique landscape giving us these amazing arches and fins. You can look southeast across the valley here and see the cliffs below the La Sals which are 70 million years old and one of the youngest mountain ranges on the continent and imagine the shore line from that ancient sea.
Impermanence is the word that continues to come to my mind here. There are dinosaur tracks in now petrified ancient mud beds sealed in time. Archaic sites that give insight on the what the daily lives of hunter gathers might have been. Pictographs of great leaders within these tribes. Petroglyphs of what must have been significant events for these people and then petroglyphs that were just doodles of sun spirals etched into the stone by some bored person on watch over the valley. In more recent artifacts of time gone by you can find shot up tin cans in the middle of the desert by crazy cowboys just trying to have a good time or go to canyons that were hideouts for outlaw cowboys on the lamb. Theres even a 4Runner wedged in-between the rocks by Lions back where some 4X4 enthusiast over estimated his competence as a driver. Who's knows? Maybe one-day that will also be a fossil that gives folks in the distant future a glimpse of our on current times that is surely moving forward to become ancient history one day as well.
I truly love this area and all the history that comes with it. To explore this amazing place is an honor for me and to share it with others is a gift that I hold dear and whether I can sustain myself and family from doing so doesn't matter because Ive found a home in this impermanent land that is ever changing but still very much the same in the span of humanity.
“One final paragraph of advice: do not burn yourselves out. Be as I am - a reluctant enthusiast....a part-time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure. It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it’s still here. So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, climb the mountains, bag the peaks, run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, the lovely, mysterious, and awesome space. Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to the body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this much; I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those desk-bound men and women with their hearts in a safe deposit box, and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators. I promise you this; You will outlive the bastards.” Edward Paul Abbey Born: January 29, 1927 - Died: March 14, 1989