|Emilie's minion on the move|
Here is the first installment.
Tuesday, June 2 –
|Emilie captures a duck|
I had helped Emilie move all day on the 1st, so I spent much of the day packing, organizing, and doing last minute preparations. I had planned to be on the road by noon, but it was 4 p.m. before I actually began this summer’s adventures.
One of the hardest moments was saying goodbye to my good friend Twila, who is moving to Kansas City. Although I’m extremely happy for her, I’m very sad that when I get home in August, she won’t be here. She’s been my person for so many things for the last few years; living in Sioux City without her here will be such a difficult adjustment. I love you Twila.
I decided to forego driving across the state of Nebraska on I-80, perhaps the most boring and mind-numbing drive I know, and cut down through the middle of the state, going through Wayne, Norfolk, and some other familiar and not-familiar towns. Driving through some of those familiar haunts reminded me of trips from the past, and in addition to experiencing the current landscape, I revisited lovely memories as I drove along. The weather was great, and I had my arm out the open window for most of the drive as I headed for my first stop.
I have found a website called freecampsites.net, and I plan to stay free whenever possible as my funds this year are very thin. Through that site, I’d located a city park in a small town just off my route, Calloway, Nebraska. I arrived in Calloway just as it was getting dark, and the campsites sit just behind the tennis courts at the park. I heard kids calling to each other and playing on the nearby playground equipment as I fended off mosquitoes while setting up my tent.
Once I was set up for the night, while I ate a quick dinner from my cooler, I checked the radar. There were chances of storms, and I had watched clouds building as I’d approached the town. The radar showed an intense storm stretching west and north of the town. After texting a friend and mulling over the possibilities, I followed his advice and pulled up camp instead of risking the high winds and hail predicted. The campsites were all covered with trees, and the thought of being hit with a widow maker kind of sealed the deal for me.
As I drove out of town, the wind picked up to the point I had to turn off my brights because the blowing dirt blinded me. After the strong winds, the rain and hail began, and even with my wipers on high, it was difficult to see. After being back on the road for five minutes or so, the radio warned of 70 m.p.h. winds, hail, and torrential rains hitting Calloway within the next 10 minutes. I had made the right choice.
My dilemma now was to find a place to sleep. It was midnight by this time, and I was exhausted. There was a visitor’s center just at the Colorado border listed as free camping, and although it was two hours away, I decided to aim for there.
When I arrived, after battling fatigue on the highway, I simply pulled into their parking area, grabbed the twin-sized Mickey Mouse comforter I travel with, and curled up in the front seat. I slept hard until 9 p.m. or so, waking only briefly when dawn broke. As my friend Jesse says, sleeping in your car is highly underrated.
Wednesday, June 3 –
|REI gets how women should be pictured|
After hitting the road at the Colorado/Nebraska border, I headed for REI where I had a few things to exchange and replace. The REI in Denver is so wonderful – it’s in an old brick building and surrounded with landscaping that evokes feelings of being on the trail.
|The La Sal Mountains|
As usual, they helped me out, sending the item I needed – a new sleeping pad – general delivery to pick up in Moab. After fixing a quick lunch in the parking lot, I was back on the road, intending to get to Moab that evening. The drive was uneventful, and I enjoyed it. I-70 through Colorado is one of the few interstate drives I will take. I always prefer two-lane highways, but there aren’t a lot options from Denver to Moab, and the drive itself goes through mountains and canyons.
|Driving 128 to Moab. Fisher Towers, the Colorado River, and the Le Sal Mountains|
I reached Moab around 8 p.m., and I unloaded the car quickly, settling into my accommodations. My friend Dan Christianson, whom I met last summer at a campground in Flagstaff, has generously offered his house for me to stay in as long as I need it. It’s a very comfortable house, and it’s quite different from what I’m used to on these trips – a bed, a refrigerator, high-speed internet. I have all the comforts of home. It’s wonderful to have the space, time, and comfort to do my last preparations for the two stints in the wilderness I’ll have this summer.
Thursday, June 4 –
|Start of the hike - part of the old mill?|
I did my first hike of the trip this day. Larry, the landlord for the place I’m staying, suggested a hike called Mill Creek trail that is close to town and runs along a creek. He said it is a local favorite, and there are a few swimming holes in which to cool off. Only a few miles out and back, it seemed like a good first hike of the season.
|Hiking on slickrock always takes a little getting used to|
I didn’t get an early start after sleeping in, so I didn’t get on the trail until after noon. Since much of the hike was shaded and close to the water, this wasn’t a problem at all. The hike was interesting; there were various routes available, but all led to basically the same place, running parallel to the creek.
I arrived at the first fishing hole, and there were lots of kids there, jumping from a high rock into a pool at the bottom of a small waterfall. I watched them for a few minutes, listening to the laughter and hooting, before moving on to quieter stretches of the hike.
Although much of the hike was right along the creek, there were portions on slickrock that involved climbing or descending the orange formations. I realized how much I enjoy hiking in this part of the country – it’s a great way to build confidence and balance for my summer’s hiking. There are many instances when I hike in this area where I encounter drop-offs, hard-to-find trails, and various other precarious situations. After the initial anxiety, hiking these trails becomes natural, and that part of me that loves heights and adrenaline rushes enjoys being fed.
I found a place to sit with my feet in the stream and have some lunch. I took off my boots, enjoying the cool water rushing over my toes, and enjoyed the solitude and quiet. My only companions were birds and insects, and I could feel the stress of the previous months of artificial light and deadlines slip away.
|Roger, leading the way|
|The cactus were in bloom|
|Abundant poison ivy along this trail|
After a while, I decided to head back. I knew there was another swimming hole a bit further on, but I wasn’t sure how far and didn’t feel like encountering more people. Once I stood and started up the creek bank, I ran into another hiker. Roger was close to 70 and looked like he’d hiked a lot of trails. He told me the swimming hole was just a little farther, and, deciding I would after all go farther, I asked if I could tag along. He said sure, and told me if I’d come upon him a few minutes later, he’d have been naked. I said I was fine with naked, and he kind of chuckled.
We reached the swimming hole in just a few minutes. It was quiet and the water was clear, fed by a small waterfall. Just under an overhang, to one side, was one hiker reading a book. We said hello and I sat to take off my boots again and enjoy the place. When I got my boots off and looked up, there was Roger, stark naked, wading into the water. His freedom from the restraint we’ve come so dependent upon as a culture was as refreshing as the cool water, and I watched as he swam, then emerged from the water to hike around to the other side of the pond, looking for a peach tree he knew of.
I realized then that I have been doing this wrong. Although I do relax and de-stress on my trips, when I hike, I have a tendency to get too caught up in getting the hike done, treating it like work. I don’t sit enough, relax enough, take my boots off enough. I’m not sure why I’ve been this way, but I vow to change this. I vow to make the lazy enjoyment of the experience my goal, not accomplishing the hike.
Friday, June 5 –
After another lazy morning, I decided to do the Hidden Valley hike. The hike begins with a short but steep climb up “Barney Rubble,” followed by a flat stroll across a wide meadow. About two miles in, the trail connects with another trail and offers a look across an expanse of canyons and rock formations.
The climb was not nearly as demanding as I had anticipated – a very good thing – and when it opened up to the meadow, it was a wonderful transition. While climbing to the meadow, I was accompanied by the sounds of traffic from the main highway running south out of Moab and I continued to see the outskirts of town. In fact, a couple from Chicago, who were also hiking, turned around because they wanted something quieter and more remote. If they had had the patience, all that quiet and solitude awaited at the top of the climb.
|Storm in the La Sals|
Once in the meadow, the only sounds were the calls of the ravens at the tops of the cliffs and melodies of the small songbirds closer to the ground. Wildflowers bordered the trail in places as if planted by a careful groundskeeper, and the view of the changes ahead added a dimension to the hike.
|Coming out of the valley|
When I neared the junction and the overlook, I heard thunder come from a sky that had been darkened by clouds. I don’t mind rain, and I had thought to bring my rain jacket, but thunder makes me nervous, especially when I’m so exposed. Fortunately, I had just reached the end of the meadow and there were some rock walls and overhangs the offered some shelter. I hunkered down under one of those overhangs, put on my rain jacket, and ate my lunch. There was a perfect, smooth rock on which to sit and a place to lean my poles and set my bag. I ate and waited for the thunder to pass.
|My car is the little spec in the parking area to the bottom left of the picture|
When it had quit thundering for a bit, I gathered everything back up and decided to head back. I was only a little over two miles in, and I had hoped to go another mile or so, but the weather was unpredictable and I was anxious about returning thunder and lightning.
|Back down Barney Rubble|
It rained for about half the hike across the meadow, but before too long, the rain stopped and the sun worked its way back out. After removing my jacket, I picked my way back down Barney Rubble to my car.