Wedding, Part 2: Steelbender

Wednesday morning we found ourselves with an entire extra day at our disposal (remember we left Monday instead of Tuesday). In the morning we visited with Joyce and Ron, friends F made when he lived in Moab. They fed us coffee cake and were really excited to hear about all of our travels and adventures.

Leaving their house, we took Mill Road to downtown. It was time for us to pick up our marriage license! The clerks were only a bit confused about the fact we already shared a last name but were very happy to congratulate us on our wedding.

Grand County Courthouse

Licensed to wed, we headed back to Danette’s to retrieve Sprocket and make lunch. When we were done eating, we pondered where we could go for the afternoon and settled on taking the Jeep out to Steelbender (or Metal Masher if you’re a mountain biker).

Jeep Trail
Sprocket is a RIDER yo.

Steelbender starts in Mill Canyon. Mill Canyon is a really beautiful place. I really love this first part of the trail.

Mill Canyon
Mill Canyon

After we let Sprocket play in the creek for a little bit, we started the climb out of the valley onto a large flat between the North Fork of Mill Creek and the main fork. We tried to head out the Ken’s Lake exit however there was an eight foot drop that needed to be negotiated and we decided not to attempt it. On our way out, we did the northwestern loop of the trail which afforded us some distant views of Arches National Park.

Wilson Mesa
Jeep descending obstacle on Steelbender

We made our way back out the trail, stopping again to let Sprocket play in the creek. Back at Danette’s we decided to get some takeout sushi (for Danette, Robin and I) and Chinese food (for F and Kirk). Robin and I did some college browsing and we all relaxed on the deck as the sun sank behind the La Sals.

Wedding, Part 1: Departure

I had planned on working Monday and then a half day on Tuesday before the wedding but things sort of fell apart when, on Monday morning, the office manager asked me if I was working a half day and then hitting the road. Right there my motivation to be in the office drained away. Since I’d sort of been given permission (I mean, she had suggested it, right?) I called F and told him I’d be home by 3 and we could go.

So happy we have a van for all this stuff

When I got home, he had the van all ready to go. We put the hitch on the front of the jeep, hooked it up, put the bike on the back of the jeep, and hit the road.

Adventure train

We made a stop in Missoula to hit up Costco, Walmart, and Albertsons for the fresh ingredients and food for the week. The Costco Polish dogs for dinner hit the spot! It felt really good to get back on I-90 and feel like we were on our way “for real.” Monday night we made it to the truck stop in Butte, filled up both the van and the jeep, and crawled into our cozy Sprinter bed.

Sunrise over the Continental Divide

Tuesday morning we were up way before the sun and it started to crest the mountains just as we were passing (back) into Idaho. We made good time down to Salt Lake, fueled up and grabbed lunch at In-N-Out. The haze we’d driven in through most of Montana and Idaho seemed to still be surrounding us but we hoped that in the next few hundred miles it would dissipate. As we descended into Price we were disappointed to note that the haze was still following us. Reaching I-70 I was elated to be almost there but really sad to note that we could barely see the La Sals.

Fall color along Highway 6
Coal seam on Highway 6 descending into Price, UT
Highway 191 heading towards Moab

Once we arrived in Moab though, the smoke didn’t matter at all—it felt so good to finally be there! We drove to Danette’s house where we washed the van and the jeep and just finished as she and Robin pulled into the driveway. We got to catch up and discuss our plans for the wedding and relax with a beer or two before heading to bed.

Canyonlands National Park Proposal Brochure, 1962

Browsing the Canyonlands National Park website a couple of weeks ago, I found a brochure  printed by the Park Service in 1962 detailing the reasons that Canyonlands should become a national park.

It really makes me wish I had been able to explore canyon country “back in the day” before it became a major tourist attraction. (Um, I mean, how cool would it have been if Ed Abbey was your park ranger at Arches National Monument and you gave him a beer and talked over your campfire?)

 

Desert Solitare Favorites

All quotations from Desert Solitaire by Ed Abbey.

“A weird, lovely, fantastic object out of nature like Delicate Arch has the curious ability to remind us—like rock and sunlight and wind and wilderness—that out there is a different world, older and greater and deeper by far than ours, a world which surrounds and sustains the little world of men as sea and sky surround and sustain a ship. The shock of the real. For a little while we are again able to see, as the child sees, a world of marvels. For a few moments we discover that nothing can be taken for granted, for if this ring of stone is marvelous then all which shaped it is marvelous, and our journey here on earth, able to see and touch and hear in the midst of tangible and mysterious things-in-themselves, is the most strange and daring of all adventures.”

“An increasingly pagan and hedonistic people (thank God!), we are learning finally that the forests and mountains and desert canyons are holier than our churches.”


“A venturesome minority will always be eager to set off on their own, and no obstacles should be placed in their path; let them take risks, for Godsake, let them get lost, sunburnt, stranded, drowned, eaten by bears, buried alive under avalanches—that is the right and privilege of any free American.”

“No wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit, and as vital to our lives as water and good bread. A civilization which destroys what little remains of the wild, the spare, the original is cutting itself off from it’s origins and betraying the principle of civilization itself.”

“If man’s imagination were not so weak, so easily tired, if his capacity for wonder were not so limited, he would abandon forever such fantasies of the supernatural. He would learn to perceive in water, leaves, and silence more than sufficient of the absolute and marvelous, more than enough to console him for the loss of ancient dreams.”

“Feet on earth. Knock on wood. Touch stone. Good luck to all.”

Desert Solitare, Ed Abbey, and Learning to Love The Desert

When I met F almost four years ago, he was sitting in a coffee shop in Corvallis reading Desert Solitaire. While I liked to read about the outdoors and traveling, I’d never had the good fortune to discover the writings of Ed Abbey. I’m sure this was in no small part thanks to the fact the closest I’d ever come to the “desert” was the area just east of the Columbia River in Washington (mostly the Vantage area).

I hadn’t ever really delved into the ways that being in the desert could complement and enhance the being in the mountains. F left his beat up copy of ol’ Cactus Ed’s book with me when he decamped for Mexico just after meeting me. I devoured it. I loved it. But, as sometimes is the problem when I plow through a book I love, I didn’t savor it.

Last fall, when we were in the early stages of planning our Moab wedding, I promised myself that I would reread it over the winter. Winter pretty much came and went and I didn’t. This spring, however, I decided I’d pay a few dollars to download it on my Kindle and one evening at the cabin, I dipped back into it. I’d read parts aloud to F and really settle in to the landscape that I always itch to go back and visit.

(If you haven’t ever read Abbey, Desert Solitaireis the place to start. After that, you have to give his fiction a try with The Monkey Wrench Gang and its sequel, Hayduke Lives! I recently read Beyond the Wall: Essays from the Outsideand enjoyed it very much. Some people sort of frown on Abbey’s attempts at poetry that are collected and published in Earth Apples but really enjoyed the collection. Confessions of a Barbarianwill also give you some pretty good insight into Abbey’s tongue in cheek way of viewing the world. I’ve also read Brave Cowboy and Fire on the Mountainbut I generally don’t enjoy his fiction as much as the essays.)

One of the things I love so much about good travel literature (like Travels With Charlie, Blue Highways, or the like) is that they can transport you to a place. Before I traveled through the south I was able to absorb William Least Heat Moon’s description of his travels there. The desert, and specifically, the red rock desert of Utah, was a little different. While I loved Desert Solitare on the first read, I wasn’t able to fully process and absorb Abbey’s words. I was completely unequipped to understand and feel for the landscape as he was describing it.

While you’re reading this, I’m down playing in the beautiful red rock canyons of Utah with my soon-to-be-husband. (SATURDAY people…that’s like TOMORROW.) If you’ve been there, you’ll read this and think, “September in Moab? AWESOME.” If you haven’t you might be a little more “Meh.” But in any case, this afternoon, I’m sending some of my favorite Abbey quotes your way…try to feel the desert however you can.

America’s Public Lands: Under Attack

Conservation means development as much as it does protection. I recognize the right and duty of this generation to develop and use the natural resources of our land; but I do not recognize the right to waste them, or to rob, by wasteful use, the generations that come after us. -Teddy Roosevelt

America has a lot of public land—in fact, more than 30% of our land area is public. In August of 2010, I heard Tim Egan speak in Wallace. He spoke about Teddy Roosevelt, Gifford Pinchot, the Fire of 1910, and his book The Big Burn. The thing I remember most, and that I scribbled in my notes from the evening, was his comments on the importance of America’s public lands, “‘We didn’t have a home on Hayden Lake like the swells,’ Mother said, ‘We’re richer than the bastards! We have the national forests!'” In an op-ed piece for the New York Times, he elaborated: “Not long after I was old enough to cast my first vote, I realized that with American citizenship came a birthright to my summer home.”

The land area of the United States is about 2.26 billion acres. Of that, the Federal Government owns 605 million acres that are administered by the public lands agencies: the Bureau of Land Management, the Forest Service, the National Parks Service, and the National Wildlife Refuge system. In addition, state governments own 197.5 million acres. The lands are administered in a variety of ways, they include recreation areas, forest land sold for timber purposes, and the lands in the National Wilderness Preservation System (cited data). Whether it is Tim Egan acknowledging the wealth the lands grant to all Americans (and millions of foreign visitors) or Teddy Roosevelt designating 230 million acres of public lands America’s public lands have been repeated acknowledged as an asset to our country.

Public Lands: BLM

Continue reading “America’s Public Lands: Under Attack”

Louisiana to Midterm

The alarm went off at 4am and we were up, dressed, and in the van by 4:11. On our way out of Leesville, F found a doughnut shop that was open (4:13am). I’ve always sworn that I don’t really like doughnuts but that was the first fresh one I’d ever had and I had to admit that they were quite good.

We headed north. I took the opportunity to sleep in the back  until we were about an hour outside of Shreveport where I swapped into the drivers seat. Forrest tried to sleep but the condition of I-49 was a little rough for him in the back (I maintain that I would have slept just fine!).

As we cruised through Dallas, it started to rain. And it rained. And rained. All the way across Texas it rained. It was about 40 and raining (what happened to going south where it’s warm?!). We did get a pretty decent hamburger at “Giant Burger” in Rhome (F had to fix a busted power steering cooler line in the rain though) And then we kept on driving. After a brief stop in Amarillo for windshield wiper blades we cruised into New Mexico. Continue reading “Louisiana to Midterm”

Day 4: Moab, Utah

Today, Forrest and I (and Sprocket) drove up towards the La Sal Mountains. Forrest really likes it up there where the red rocks meets the pines from the mountains and I must say I concur! It’s gorgeous. Rather than taking the mountain loop road all the way to Castle Valley, we cut off on Sand Flats Road. We checked out Castle Valley Overlook (which is incredible!) and popped out in Sand Flats Recreation area. Sprocket had a blast getting out of the car at each stop and sniff, sniff, sniffing his way around!

Back in town, Forrest indulged me in heading out to Spanish Valley Vineyards where I tried their assortment of wines (Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, Riesling, cherry wine, Cab Sav, and a Riesling dessert wine). I loved the Chardonnay and I know Mom (Suzan) would too. Sprocket didn’t mind the detour too much, he loved hanging out the open windows and greeting everyone who drove up.

We relaxed a bit before heading out to hike Hidden Valley with Danette, Robin, robin’s friend Mckinley, and a friend of Danette’s. Sprocket was such a trooper! He hauled himself up that hill with no problem and ran all over the place. When Sprocket started to seem pretty tired Forrest and Robin hung back with him while the rest of us hiked all the way up the valley and then Mckinley and I ran all the way back to the hill (and my knee didn’t hurt at all!!). The valley is absolutely gorgeous and sometimes it’s so hard to believe that you’re right above town. Sprocket was bomber going back down the hill although I was a little worried that he wasn’t going to be able to stop sometimes. He’s currently crashed at our feet while we’re writing this.

Day 3: Moab, Utah

First order of business on Thursday was to reorganize our supplies for the trip, because we’d moved up our departure date the “things to go” just went rather than being carefully packed away. The Cherokee and motorcycle both got baths and Sprocket got to run around the yard and play in the hose.

After we’d finished up with our road “chores,” we loaded the bike back on the Cherokee and headed into town for a bit. Forrest went to visit some friends at Moab Tour Company (where he used to give Hummer tours) while I hung out in Back of Beyond Books (pretty much one of my favorite bookstores ever) before we all headed up to Slickrock. Forrest rode his bike around the Slickrock trail while Sprocket and I walked the practice route. Sprocket had a blast but that up and down the rock in the warm weather just tuckered him out. He got back to the jeep and crawled right under it and wouldn’t move. I had to give him his water under there!

Afterwards, we made a quick pit stop at the grocery store and took our lunches over to a park where Sprocket played in the fountain. We came back to Danette’s and then went out to hike on Steelbender. We had to drag Sprocket out from his kennel but he came. He had a blast splashing around in Mill Creek—I think he decided it was worth getting up for. He got to walk back to the car with Danette though because Forrest, Robin, and I decided to take a “scrambling” route over a fin of rock. It was really fun, I love how there are so many opportunities to do that here!

We finished up the day with dinner at Pasta Jay’s in town—the pasta was pretty darn good. Back at the house, we all headed for bed pretty quickly, it had been a busy day!