“There are no words that can tell the hidden spirit of the wilderness, that can reveal its mystery, its melancholy, and its charm.”- Theodore Roosevelt
A main goal of this trip was to stop by as many natural wonders as was feasibly and financially possible between Virginia and California. With Yellowstone roads still “snowmobile only”, my focus shifted to Colorado and Utah for my natural exploration. Even though I’ve been out west and into the Rockies several times the contrast between the rolling hues of blue that make up the mountain ranges of Virginia, and the massive salt & pepper rock faces that form from the perpetually snowy and pine-covered peaks of the west amazes me. Growing up in VA, the Blue Ridge Mountains have the familiarity and comfort of the girl-next-door, while the Rockies possess a sharp, intimidating beauty that I know will take some time for me to build up the courage to approach them. The challenge excites me, and I have no doubt that I’ll be back here to sing of my conquests.
Observations and thoughts from Colorado:
Garden of the Gods was my first stop upon arriving to Colorado Springs, and I remember how happy I was to be out of the car and exploring on foot. The park itself was smaller than I expected, and while in the moment I thought it was spectacular, it has since been overshadowed in my mind by vastness of the Moab landscape.
On a fantastic recommendation from Midget, I decided to spend my second day in Colorado at Great Sand Dunes National Park. I was only vaguely familiar with the park, and recall being decidedly unimpressed as the dunes first came into view. Perspective is key, and butted up against the alpine peaks of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains it doesn’t look much different than the dunes at the Outer Banks. My reality soon shifted as the piles of sand quickly made their presence felt upon me entering the park. I hiked the 699ft up to High Dune, the second tallest dune in North America. I brought along the rain liner from my ruck sack and was planning a reenactment of my misguided mountain sledding in Greenland that ended with me flying butt first into a pile of rocks, while ripping multiple pairs of pants in the process. Unfortunately, as it turns out, ice and sand are two vastly different materials, and as such don’t react the same when I plop down on a plastic bag. After 6-7 forceful “scooches”with little progress down the hill I scurried back to the top of the dune hoping to avoid my biggest fear; public shaming amongst total strangers who I’ll never see again.
The Dunes were followed by my first real camping night of the trip. There was a group of mid-20s aged kids camping in one of the sites above me, and at one point in the evening I overheard a classic line. “Let’s play Never Have I Ever. I think we should do it every year and a half, you know, check in and see where everyone is at.”
Observations and thoughts from Utah:
This state is incredible, and blew my expectations away. My plan was to head towards Arches National Park and camp for the night before exploring the next day. When I got into town all of the camp sites along the Colorado River were filled, and not wanting to revert to some place in Moab I pushed forward, which was the best decision of the trip. I ended up stumbling across a base camp of sorts for climbers preparing to attack Castleton Tower.
My plan was head straight to Arches the next morning, but since the roads were closed in the morning due to a half marathon, I decided to tackle Castleton. I was undeterred by the fact that I was the only person in camp that wasn’t a serious climber with necessary know-how and technical skills. I embarked on what turned out to be the shadiest and most nerve racking hike of my life. The 400 ft sandstone tower sits on a 1,000 foot cone of which the final approach includes multiple switchbacks on slick rock on an unforgiving incline. I wouldn’t say I’m afraid of heights, but I’m ultra aware of them, and always handle them with heighten senses. After a 2 hr ascent I made it to the base of the tower, which connected to another smaller tower with a bridge that was only 10-20 ft wide at any given point. I spent the rest of the morning enjoying the views and watching the rock climbers do their thing.
Because my computer battery is quickly fading, here are some quick hits from Arches National Park, followed by many pictures.
The daily in-car dance party was spurred on today by Flo Rida’s “My House”. In this version I went with the 2 6-shooters firing up into the sky for an extended period. I’m not sure why…
At one of the overlooks I saw a guy rocking a classic shirt that I have seen before, but I want to go on record stating that I’m a fan. “IOWA. 75% vowels 100% awesome”
Because of the sand-worn shapes of many of the spires in the park, there are throbbing phallic undertones all over the place, the likes I haven’t seen since I went into the gift shop of The Icelandic Phallological Museum. Probably not something you needed to know about, but it isn’t always about you is it!?