In kindergarten, a couple of park rangers gathered the entirety of Wares Ferry Elementary School into the gym. The center of attention was focused on a rabbit, leashed, and perched atop a table in the middle of the floor. The rabbit (whose name I could not tell you) was the main character of a photographic essay/children’s book set in the desert (whose title or further details I also could not tell you). Although, I remember the red rocks of those pages and the bizarre mars-like quality of the earth with vivid detail.
It wasn’t until we reached Moab, Utah that similar types of rock formations to those in the book stirred up that memory. My point is that this trip has been the things of dreams and distant memories until now. A cross-country road trip I’ve only ever read about in books and seen people do in movies, but something I would never be able to afford. The Western United States has always been a dream someday to conquer. It’s seemed so far away and too expensive. But it’s not. It’s within drivable distance.
On another note, there’s something to be said for living out of your car in the desert, in July. Try not to do it. Unless you’ll be staying somewhere every night with a shower, the layers of sweat, sunscreen, and dust only build upon each other in an unflattering kind of way. Dirt is life and leaving behind the sanitized conformity of modern society is always a treat, but without having the proper time to become acclimated to the desert, things can get dirty, fast. There is a permanent layer of rust-colored grime on my body and my car. But that first shower after a week in the desert sleeping on the ground and climbing mountains in mid-summer heat is the equivalent of reinventing yourself, something I’ve been looking forward to for a while. Here are some tips for dirt-bagging in summer:
- Sun visors (as mentioned in an earlier post). I’ve got one each for my front and back windshields. The interior of a car can become 40 to 60 degrees warmer than the outside temperatures. Also crack your windows, even a small amount of air flow is better than none.
- Wet-wipes are a life-saver for every inconvenience when you have no running water or river to wash off in.
- Carry a bandana to wipe with on long hikes or overnight camping out in the middle of nowhere and wash it when you have the water to. Waste and toilet paper does not compost in the desert. Whereas some places it might be okay to bury your little strip of toilet paper in the soil, it will not work the same in sand.
- Carry plastic bags with you, if you still prefer to use toilet paper and pack out your waste.
- DIY guitar case humidifier: place a damp sponge into a zip lock bag and puncture a few holes in one side of the bag. Place the bag in your case with the holes facing upwards. In places like Southwestern America, there are instances of high heat with no humidity, which can very easily cause damage to an acoustic guitar including cracking and fractures.
After leaving Colorado, we made it to Moab, Utah and camped in Sand Flats Recreation Area that night for about $15. We had just enough time to head into Arches National Park before their early closure due to construction. This summer, the park will close at 7 p.m. nightly. We hiked to the windows and climbed around the arches, a very easy and accessible hike. The next day we hiked Devil’s Garden, a little over four miles roundtrip. There are many arches along this route, and the hike becomes primitive, which simply means that the easy walkway turns rugged and scrambling over and on top of rocks is a necessity. After the side trail towards Dark Angel, you have the option to hike an even more primitive trail back creating a loop. Just make sure to bring plenty of water, because there aren’t very many shade opportunities and the heat will quickly dehydrate you.
Double O Arch, Arches National Park
That evening we rode up Hell’s Revenge, the best 4×4 and mountain biking off-roading trail in the area, with an adventure guide in Sandflats. Although there are many options to drive or ride the trail, we rode in an oversized hummer. Hell’s Revenge is a path up the steep and rocky slopes of Sandflats more like a roller-coaster ride. It’s 6.5 miles and takes about 2-3 hours to complete. I would recommend the sunset tour. Stops along the way will include a condensed history of the canyon, beautiful overlooks, and dinosaur tracks, as well as a stop on a rock peak to catch the sunset over the desert.
Hell’s Revenge, Moab, Utah
That night we stayed in BLM, Bureau of Land Management, land near the park. For those of you who don’t know, BLM land is public space, therefore free to camp in. It will not be a developed space, so bring plenty of water. The next day we drove to Bryce Canyon and hiked the Queens Garden and Navajo Loop trail, which is the most efficient way to see the canyon. I recommend starting at Sunset Point and ending at Sunrise Point for a less steep incline. We started at Sunrise Point, as the park map suggested, and walked back up the canyon through a set of very many and very steep switchbacks. The entire trail is only 2.9 miles and allows you to walk through and inside of the beautiful, intensely colored hoodoos, the rock formations that make the canyon famous.
Although there are many other trails and activities to explore we wanted to go ahead and make the drive to Zion National Park. I’ve had Zion highly recommended to me from numerous people over the past couple of years, and its Zach’s favorite national park, which is saying something from the amount he’s traveled around and outside of the U.S.
Zion was absolutely beautiful, with its mountains and abundance and diversity of wildlife. During peak season, a shuttle will take you to the different trail heads, so you don’t have to worry about parking. During our three days, we hiked the Narrows and Angel’s Landing, among other smaller explorations such as Weeping Rock. This is a great place to take the family, as there are plenty of easy, paved trails great for strollers, as well as very strenuous hikes for the more-advanced. The Narrows is a must-do. Sixteen miles of a narrow canyon carved from the Virgin River. You walk through the river, climb over beaches, and wade in the water as far as you’d like, a very unique experience. You can even buy a permit to camp at the very top and hike back down the entire 16 miles. For those seeking true adventure, Angel’s Landing is a must do: a hike up to a place so high only Angels could land there, according to one of the original Mormon settlers. This hike is up a very steep mountain with more than 21 switchbacks, and a climb up an even narrower section of mountain with 1,000 foot drop-offs on either side, although, there are chains to hold onto. Be careful during busy times; there were so many people when we were there, that it became even more dangerous because of the amount of bodies shuffling around the tiny cliff sides.
Angel’s Landing, Zion National Park
Although, I would like to be able to go more into detail about some hikes and parks, finding the time to write and post as almost been impossible with the amount of camping and sightseeing we’ve been doing. But there surely isn’t anything more American than exploring our beautiful country and sleeping in the dirt, the same as the first American settlers. Happy Fourth of July!