Go West! Bring Your Ark! – Day 1

The Background

A good friend of mine in the Boy Scout troop my son is in approached me last year about taking an adult trip out West. My immediate response was that I had been to Las Vegas and didn’t care much for the adult part. With a bewildered stare, he explained that he meant men only, no wives, no kids…just three adult men. Further, out West meant the deserts and canyons of Utah; a great state for hiking and backpacking. 
After a little more talking, I was hooked on the idea and enthusiastic about the trip scheduled for September 2013.

The Plan

Put simply, the plan was to:

Go to Utah and hike/backpack for one week in the desert.

Perfect! I liked the thought of escaping the 150% humidity of the East Coast of the US. Go where it was dry. See some red rocks and gorgeous, endless blue sky. I was feeling less-stressed and very positive. Next step? Probably grab some maps and plan where that week of touring would take us.

I’m what you call a “map guy”. I love maps be they paper or online. I got some maps and together, we figured out that we could probably visit three National Parks: Canyonlands Needles District, Canyondlands Island in the Sky District, and Arches. So that was the plan. One week, our backpacks and gear, and the open skies!

We planned to roughly do the following:

  • 3 days, 2 nights backpacking in Canyonlands – Needles District
  • 1 day and night backpacking in Canyonlands – Island in the Sky District
  • 1 day and night backpacking in Arches
  • Other days would be miscellaneous days for visiting other sites, reprovisioning our backpacks, etc.

The Trip Arriveth

And so the day of the trip arrived. Sure there was a lot in between: getting back-country camping permits, figuring out our routes, checking gear, conditioning ourselves for the physical part of the trip.

Myself and my two friends boarded the plane that would take us out to a hot, dry week of some wonderful sites. We had been checking the weather reports for the Moab, Utah area for several days (weeks?) before the trip and noticed these weird predictions of thunderstorms and showers. Really? In the desert? Nah. Quick check of the average rainfall for September turns out to be just 0.89 inches of rain. Heh. OK “thunderstorms”. I can handle 0.89 inches of rain. I’m from the East where we get that in an hour sometimes. And so we left for Utah understanding that there would be “rain” but we’d seen worse.

First Day in Town

BLM Camping Map

We flew into Grand Junction, Colorado, picked up a rental car and headed to the REI for those things we couldn’t pack on the plane (stove fuel and some food). We had planned on camping that night at a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) area just west of Arches. We decided we’d play it by ear and find a spot once we got there.

And so, we asked the REI staff if they knew a good place to get some pizza and beer for dinner. They noted that the Kannah Creek Brewing Company was a great local place. And so we went.
During dinner we…er…I pulled out my map and went over where I thought might be a great place to camp in the BLM area. Our waiter came over saw the map and mentioned that he knew a great spot in the BLM area. He pointed out a place near Dead Horse State Park that would be quiet and would provide us a gorgeous view of the mountains come sunrise. Having no better plans and trusting that this waiter knew what he was talking about, we decided that his spot would be our first camp on the trip. We finished our meal and promised to take pictures and show him upon our return to Grand Junction at the end of our trip.
Sunset in Colorado

And then we drove. Took a while to get to the place in Utah and, by then, the sun was setting. We found Long Canyon Road and stopped at where we thought was a good spot to camp before we drove over the edge of the cliff. In the dark, we unpacked our gear, tried to find some flat rock places and set up the tents 

Now, I’ve never set up my tent on slick rock. I’m from the East where you can most always pound a tent peg into something. This is somewhat more challenging when camping on a firm slab of [insert rock type here]. We did the best we could using small rocks to weight our tent flies down in case it rained. Heh…rain. There were clouds but would it actually rain?

It did. It was a windy time too camped there on the rocks on the edge of a canyon. Our tent flies flapped in the wind and the rain came. Gently at first and then somewhat harder but definitely bearable. It subsided in the early morning and we arose to a cloudy view of the mountains (Mount Tukuhnikivatz, Mount Peale, and Mount Mellenthin). What a glorious way to wake up. Day two.

Sunrise at our first night camp near Dead Horse State Park

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