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Showing posts with the label Utah

(Autumn) Paradise Lost!

I wonder how many RV wannabees look at the pretty scenery on blogs and vlogs, and then flutter their eyelashes about "Living the Dream" someday? To their eyeballs, the RV lifestyle must seem like an escape from reality.

But it isn't. It might be an "alternative reality" in a "parallel universe," but it is not an escape from reality. 

The most mordant illustration of this fact happens the third weekend of October in Utah. The kiddies get a school holiday on the same weekend that deer hunting season starts. Remember that red-state Utah is fond of guns, ATVs, and making babies.

This weekend always causes my heart to sink. The weather and scenery are perfect in Utah in October -- and a cynic would say that 'things that seem too good to be true, usually are.

Actually, it would be better to say that things can be perfect, here and there, for a  short while. And that is what happens until the third weekend in October. If you were considering visiting M…

I Tawt I Taw a Pootie-Tat

What would happen if I encountered a pootie-tat on a mountain bike ride? Would my dog be foolish enough to run towards or away from the mountain lion? (She chased a black bear once.) But I've never seen a mountain lion in the wild. That's not to say that one hasn't seen me. I do carry a knife. 

Would I have time to take a photo of it? Can't you see me calmly fumbling with getting the camera out of the handlebar bag, removing the lens cap, turning the camera on, and stepping down through the menu system, while the bright sun makes the screen illegible? Then I would have to remind the cat to smile. 

In the meantime, this photograph is the best I can do. Can you spot the head and face of the cat?


The kitty is looking at something in the reef. Reefs are indeed one of most wonderful geological and topographic features of Utah, despite what the tourism industry says about those stupid arches.

The Benefits of a Freak Cold Front

After a lot of unnecessary worrying, the dreaded cold front has vanquished Utah. Actually it has turned out rather nice. I "retreated" to Green River to warm up. But Honour required me to first find a legal loophole: like a good general I am superstitious about retreating. But making a small loop back to where you were recently is different from "retreating."

So that is what I did. Rather than sit in the trailer and freeze -- or worse yet, deign to use a heater or plug into shore power -- I am spending most of the day in the driver's seat of my van, with its huge windshield facing the sun! What a great feeling it is to be warmed by the sun, when you are surrounded by chilly air!


This afternoon I am being reminded of the calm euphoria and healthy-mindedness that comes from being able to enjoy a sunny day. 

Postscript: last night was the coldest one. It works wonders to shake/roll the shoulders to warm up, when you are sedentary at a desk. Also, I filled a nalgen…

Surprises in the Backcountry

There is a nice kick to starting a post with only vague notions about the title, theme, or photos. I never begin with a blank slate. But there is enough uncertainty that nature becomes a problem to solve. And surprises happen.

The first time I was at today's location, many years ago, I arrived with only vague notions about something special being here. I had to find it, and when I did, it took my breath away.



How fortunate I was to experience this feeling. Does that opportunity even exist anymore? I am referring to the modern addiction to "researching" everything on the internet before you go there, so when you actually go, there are no surprises except perhaps the disappointments.

When I see tourists driving up at high speed, stepping out of the car, taking a couple snapshots, and driving away in a hurry, I wonder why they didn't just stay home and look at postcards on the internet. Please don't tell me "There's no substitute for being there," because…

Solar Tailwinds

A summer in one place gets a guy out of shape when it comes to driving. Still, I like driving better now than when I was young. Perhaps it was the impatience back then?

Nothing is better than driving early in the day, with the sun at your back. (Especially true for un-air-conditioned vehicles like mine.) Why, this is more important than having a tailwind for a cyclist or sailor. 

My goodness, I drove over 100 miles today! When I got into Price, UT, I was hot and cranky. I even yelled at my dog.

But then I went uphill onto the land that I love. It only took 15 minutes of exploration on some BLM land before I was feeling happy. There was real drama to it, considering how vile I felt down in the hot parking lot.

It is easy to stand somewhat outside yourself and watch the magic take over in just a few minutes, despite it happening many times in the past. 

Now I am cooler, and have an almost 180 degree view of Book Cliffs. My (current) dog's life started with me because my first dog disapp…

Tables and Mesas

There is a quarry in the neighborhood that makes flagstones for patios. Maybe the quarry is a private in-holding, surrounded by BLM land; or maybe it is leased BLM land.

Perhaps it is the latter, because that would give the quarry operators reasons for brown-nosing with the BLM. And that could explain the donations to a trailhead nearby.

There were two picnic table made of these flagstones. They were functional -- but not too soft!


You don't have to know too much Spanish too see something a little poetic in these flagstone picnic tables with a famous mesa in the background. 


The Courage to Do the Unpopular

A canine friend and a two-legged friend and I are checking out an area not so far from the overcrowded tourist hellhole of Moab, UT. This place is so uncrowded that it is almost funny.

How do you explain this? It has wonderful physical assets, not just in terms of "Wow," but also in terms of variety. But as I said before, it is uncrowdedness that really counts in modern America. Perhaps it is blessed with scenery that is just short of being a national park. That means it lacks the razzle-dazzle to get on the bucket list of millions of idiot-tourists. This area is like a picturesque mountain in Colorado that is 13,950 feet high.




The town doesn't really have a bicycle culture, but it could. In fact it has built its first mountain bike singletrack close to town. It has a hip coffee shop. Of course, with mountain bikers being the besotted sybarites that they are, the town probably needs a microbrewery. 

Tomorrow we will ride that trail. It doesn't seem to have many customer…

What Would Edward Abbey Have Thunk?

Moab, UT. The world is still full of people who have to be given credit for good planning of a certain type: they arranged to be born in the right year. In fact, most people who chose to be born from 1945 to 1960 in Europe and North America should get credit for this.

The author, Edward Abbey, also deserves credit for being born in the last decade or two when one could still experience the glories of Moab, UT. What would he think today?

I believe it was in "Desert Solitaire" that he wrote about being so tired of the summer heat in Moab that he got in his car and blasted down a washboarded gravel road on his way to the LaSalle Mountains, in order to cool off. 'The ultimate test of man and metal,' was how he put it.

Let's consider his example of deliberate hardship and postponed release, and see if it applies to my situation today.  I was able to use it by remaining parked in a ghastly place, just to milk the act a bit.  I "enjoyed" tourist helicopters overh…

Family Values in Utah

Towards the end of a mountain bike ride, when I am feeling my best, I saw this family enjoying a ride together in Utah. I don't think a vision of a family ever seemed more appealing.


The boy was even wilder and more spirited than the border collie. His parents were wise to let him go first so he wouldn't always be struggling to keep up with them, and becoming discouraged. The bike was too large for him, but no doubt he was looking forward to growing into it -- and as soon as possible!

The Longest Day...in Frog Hollow

It is quite something how popular 24-hour races have become over the last few years. But why should that matter to anybody other than extreme athletes? 

That was the challenge before me, as I camped in "Frogtown" and volunteered at the "longest 24 hour race in the world," so called because it goes from 10 am Saturday to 10 am Sunday, over the end of Daylight Savings Time. Thus it is 25 hours long in real time, and Frog-Time.


Practical benefit: I learned how some 29 inch mountain bikes will accommodate the 27.5 inch (aka, '650') wheels with 'plus' sized (wide) tires.  I was leaning to the 650 Plus bikes for my next mountain bike.

Additional benefit: having my nose rubbed in the obsolete-ness of my 26 inch mountain bike. Will I even be able to buy tires for it five years from now?

When roaming free range over a wide group of people, it is so easy to begin categorizing creatures. Otherwise the human mind drowns in minute and fractured details. Here is a li…

Finally, Finding Hope in Moab

I have been struggling to make 'lemonade from the lemons' of Moab. The pressure was made worse by a Utah school holiday coming up. But I'm glad I didn't give-in to defeatism. 

Surprisingly good results can come from remembering that 'the early bird gets the worm.' There is a jeep/ATV road that is easy to see from my campsite. It looked quite appealing to mountain bike on. Should I be so foolishly naive as to try?

I started a few minutes after sunrise, when it was still chilly. For the first hour and a half, not a single motorized device passed me, despite this trail being well-signed and well-known. Then I popped out on a dirt road and had a nice conversation with a young couple who was taking their niece on a walk. My dog loves children, and vice versa.

It is not surprising that this worked, but it is that it worked so well, and in Moab! There is probably quite a wind chill factor when 'four wheeling' in an open jeep, ATV, or Texas wheelchair ('side b…

Part 2: Hopeless Moab

What is that crazy dog up to now?! She took off running up a cliff. But I have learned that bizarre behavior on her part is usually due to ravens.  The raven sat right at the top of this strange, ugly geologic feature. 


She never learns that the raven will simply fly away before she gets there. On the way down, Coffee Girl seemed to pose for the camera, with a look of contentment in her body language. 


It seems that I am content to look at things from her point of view. 

Often I run across unpleasant and impractical dogs, and wonder why the owner was so 'stupid' as to choose that dog. But to be fair, it really isn't about stupidity. Didn't the Bard say (more or less) that 'a young man falls in love with his eyes, not with his heart.' The same could be easily said about most people as they choose their pets.

It would be better to choose a dog blindfolded. Lower your hand to its mouth for an eager, but bashful, lick. Feel its body start wriggling when you petit. Hear…

Moab Is Hopeless, But Is That So Bad?

Is there something cheerful to think about when you are in Moab, UT? Let's be playful and take it as a challenge. (And no, red rock scenery doesn't count.) So far I am drawing blanks...

1.  And yet look at all the people milling around town: they seem pleased to be here. They must be doing something right. Enjoying Moab vicariously seems like the only approach that might pay off.

To fail at this completely is still good news, if it helps me to appreciate novelists and scriptwriters. This could be a big deal to me. Just think how good they must be at putting themselves into other people's 'shoes' in order for their novel or script to be the least bit interesting!

2. Quite separate from the angle of vicarious enjoyment, there is a second approach thatties in with the book I am reading, by Siedentop. Why did early Christians choose Hope as one of their cardinal virtues? I think it is pernicious. It only leads to disappointment and disillusionment.

I came to Moab without …

Understanding the Driving Force of a Movement

For a traveler of the interior West, few books are more natural to choose than Wallace Stegner's "Mormon Country." Nevertheless I had never read it until recently, after a friend put it into my hands. Stegner did an admirable job of being unprejudiced about Mormonism per se. Clearly, he was more interested in the human story of the Mormons than theological doctrines, and rightly so, considering the drama of the Mormon story.

Somewhere in the book, Stegner said (more or less), "After the faith had subsided a bit, the driving force was still there." But then he didn't say what that driving force was! That is really the question that interests me. Although the non-Mormon reader today may have no interest in Mormon theology, it was important to the Mormons of the time. Their great efforts were predicated on a theology that convinced them...but of what?

Stegner can be forgiven for not really explaining what the Driving Force was. It is difficult to look back into…

The Autumn of Experiencing Nature in America

What should an experienced outdoorsman look for in a hackneyed location like Moab, UT? Certainly not the iconic red rock arches and canyons. They are justly famous, but you've seen them a hundred times in jeep commercials, cellphone commercials, nature pin-up calendars, etc. They belong to everybody and to nobody. They certainly cannot belong to you.

But that doesn't mean you should just give up, and relegate Moab to the tourist trade, as I used to do. When the weather was still a little summer-ish, my dog and I started a mountain bike ride before most of the tourists were up. As always, we wanted to beat the heat.

We started going downhill; not far, maybe 300-400 feet. I was shocked at how chilly it was getting. In fact, I wished I had gloves on! At the bottom of the canyon I was amazed to find a "crystal house" of dew, that is, preternaturally dense dew, glazed onto grasses in a little swale. 

It reminded me of the ice crystal house in Dr. Zhivago. The movie was filme…

Ghouls Silently Dancing Along the Ridges

Many people in the USA live along the latitude of 40 degrees north. So did I for much of my life. Typically there was a nasty weather collapse near Halloween. Now living in the Southwest, I should be free of all that.

But not this Halloween. Actually I put it to good use. Blue skies can make scenic areas look too predictably pretty. And insipid. I rather like the moodiness of mesa and canyon country during storms.


Canyons also give you a little protection from blustery winds. Of course if it were raining hard, you would be wise to stay out of the canyon. So I took my dog, Coffee Girl, up some canyons that are parked right outside my camper's door.


I wonder who loves this more, she or I? But this time the experience was enhanced by the stormy weather and the possibility of rain on the walk. It sounds ridiculous to think that a little rain has become some great Malevolence to me, but I guess living in the Southwest will do that to a person.







Good luck put a little more mood into this Hal…

The Mesa Minders

OK I admit to feeling a naughty grin when I looked down on the mesa where some Lazy Dazers are camped. My dog and I were on a mountain bike ride on a higher mesa popular with my breed, near St. George UT.


Zooming in, I can see somebody's rigs, left-center and slightly to the right of center.


An allegory popped into the mind: do you remember that episode in the third season of the original Star Trek, called "The Cloud Minders:"  a community of exalted intellectuals, musicians, and poets live in a city called Stratos that is levitated in the sky. They do nothing but pursue intellectual and aesthetic pursuits all day. Meanwhile, down on the planet's surface, live the miners who do all the grunt work that allows the elitism and luxury of Stratos to exist. 

As I looked down on the Lazy Dazers and grinned naughtily -- and haughtily -- the allegory grabbed control over my mind. Why was it so powerful? It was not caused by the visual stimulation alone, impressive as it was. M…

Time Travel in Utah's High Country

On a recent mountain bike ride near Richfield UT, they caught me sleeping. I was focusing on choosing a path between the rocks, when my herding group dog, Coffee Girl, took after a herd of sheep that we had almost stumbled into. But she was eventually scolded into returning to me, and the sheep weren't too rattled.

Hey wait a minute, weren't we only a couple seconds from an ambush by giant white dogs, screaming out of the sagebrush to protect their herd?

But none came. As we sidled up the ridge, the size of the herd became more apparent.


Where were the dogs and the human shepherd? Eventually we spotted him. But he seemed to only have a couple border collies to help him.


I waved at him so he'd notice that my dog was now on a leash, but he didn't respond. Maybe he didn't speak English, or even Spanish. Maybe he was a Vasco, that is, a Euskal from the Basque country. I'm a bit skeptical about Great Pyrenees dogs being hostile to humans, but I wasn't so sure what t…

Make Room for Mistakes and Surprises in Your Sport

It was surprisingly chilly this morning so I switched from a mountain bike ride to a hike down some canyons, right outside my trailer door, on some BLM land near Torrey, UT. But what if they turned out to be nothing more than uninteresting gullies? 


This must be a surprise to the other hikers in our camping group, since I squirm out of just about every hike that they propose. But this is the right kind of hike. And once again it worked beautifully, but with a gratifying twist at the end. 

At the risk of sounding like the Judi Dench character in "Room with a View", here is the exact science of an interesting hike:

1. Start from the the trailer, early enough for chilly weather. Don't drive an hour to some trailhead; by the time you would get there, you are already lost "spiritually."

2. Choose ordinary scenery, not some tourist attraction that is written up and photographed to death in a guide book, probably entitled "Top Ten Hikes in Capital Reef National Park…

Rethinking the Tribal Dance

Normally I'm not as slow in finding some significance to an outdoor trip as in the last post. I did mention that it was the best group event in 16 years of full-time RVing, and that the little spring was the first gurgling of water that I had ever seen in the desert. But now I want to try harder.

There was a similarity between the ebullience of the dogs and gurgling of the water out of the side of the arroyo. Think of the 'irrepressibility of life.' I know, it sounds a little corny. But it's true. Perhaps it only seems like corny overstatement because we live in an age when we can take water, the stuff of life, for granted. The early explorers or settlers in the Southwest would not have needed convincing. They would have fallen to the muddy ground at the foot of the spring's trickle and prayed.

If we can't appreciate something as fundamental as water, isn't it likely that we are handicapped in general when it comes to experiencing anything authentic in nature…