December 17th, 2019 – December 23rd, 2019
Price, UT – Moab, UT
It had been several days since I woke up excited for the day ahead. Big driving days are far from my favourite and I knew that I only had a coupe hours to go. Besides I missed the desert and wanted to see daylight return to the land. I sat sipping coffee watching the horizon turn pink. By the time Frank got it it was proper daylight and as we had arrived by darkness he poked his head out of the van looking around as if to get his bearings.
Unlike the previous couple days I was once again curious where every little dirt road went. But I was on a mission and dare not stop. We had a destination to get to and a list of chores before we could settle in. It had been 4 years since our last visit to Moab and a week had not been enough. I knew then that I would be back for longer and the time has finally arrived. Looking back it feels like a lifetime ago we were last here. We had been living in a small mini van and still being obsess with climbing I was more interested in heading to Joe’s Valley than exploring the area.
But today when we arrived it felt like coming home. Knowing I would stay awhile provided some much needed comfort after the dizzying speed of travel from norther Idaho. The first matter of business was to drop into the visitor information where I picked up maps for the backroad and trails, asked about recycling, composting and where all the amenities I would need over the coming weeks were located. With no need to go anywhere I enjoyed stories of the history and details of diapered camping, land designations and mountain access. After that we were off to the pet store to get Frank treats and stock up on poop bags because out here they come in handy for both of us! With Frank sufficiently bribed I spent the allowed two hours powering up at the local coffee roaster then off to the gear store where they have free filtered water. Knowing I would be back in town tomorrow I decided to save groceries and showering until then and headed out to BLM land.
As we turned only the dirt road I was elated. Snow covered peaks in the distance contrasted the warm sandstone landscape. Choosing a spot away from the main track I settles in next to a couple small juniper trees. We were home. Immediate Frank took off to explore while I set to cleaning the van. I had made a mess of the place and when Frank returned he engaged me in a long round of fetch. The past couple days had been pretty darn boring for him. The with Truck clean inside, red mud on the outside and both our dinners prepared I announced to Frank we were home. He knew exactly what I meant and couldn’t be happier. Running around and jumping all over me he made it clear how happy he was with my decision. My boy sure loves the desert and days filled with exploring and chilling rather than driving.
For the first time in 2 weeks I don’t feel the need to lock my doors at night. The world is silent outside and when daybreaks it will once again be allowed to illuminate my little home.
Although the numbers said it was not my coldest night on the road it sure felt it. Probably shouldn’t have removed the window insulation so I can tell when day arrives but it was worth it. I was mindful to park Truck in alignment with the morning sun. Getting out of bed on a frozen morning is a lot easier if I can sit on the doorway ‘sofa’ drinking coffee with sun rays upon me. Frank wasted no time in bed opting to go out in the sun and engage me in a morning round of fetch.
After a slow, playful morning we drove further out into the desert. Given er a little more speed to get through the wash without worry and then crawling though semi-technical slick rock terrain. Truck has the most clearance I’ve ever had in a vehicle. It opens up a world of back roading that I have so much fun exploring and have yet to hear a dreaded scrape or thud on the underside. Every other vehicle I have owned I have driven to it’s limits (and sometimes beyond) out on the the dirt roads. With Truck there is no need. We aren’t out for the sake of romping, although if it were not our home I would be more inclined. I’ve slept in jaunty angles buried to the axel in sand before and have learned my lesson.
The road lead us to a ancient trackway buried for millennia, now unearthed and eroding. Footsteps of Dinosaurs, both predators and herbivores left in sand now turned to stone. I marvelled at their details highlighted by the low winter sun. Some sharper while most are blurred by time and decay. One location among many where these prints can be found. Countless fossils found and surely more lay hidden in this vast world of stone. One set of prints was a human sized predator which I then began to harness by initiation a little rough housing with Frank. Laughter rang out across the desert as Frank jumped all over me, and among the story of time we played like animals.
Now midday we headed to town for another round of chores. Shower, garbage, recycling, fresh bread at the bakery, 2 intensely focused hours of work at the roaster, groceries and then back out to BLM paradise. This time my confidence in Trucks abilities lead us a little further from the main road. With stunning views of the snowy La Sal Mountains and a world of sandstone and shrubbery between we were home. With time to play before dinner I felt relaxed knowing we can stay here for days walking around if that’s what I feel like doing
Today I admitted to myself that I am sick. I’ve felt it creeping on for several days, noticed the hoarseness in my voice and the heat in my sinus. I’m not bothered by it anymore I am the cold, but I’ve begun consuming warm concoctions of plants in water to help with both. Frank is curled up and toasty and I sit in the doorway watching shadows creep across the desert. The mountains coming to life with colour. It’s snowy slopes taking on hues that fell like my hands and face do in this moment.
Wandering in the sun today we made our own route connecting OHV trails, washes and rock. We neither saw nor heard another human all day. Some of the roads we walked had see more water than traffic. Aside from the cows and coyotes our prints were the only ones around. The solitude and silence was enjoyed as much as the sunshine even if my hands now burn. I found some rocks early in the day I have deemed solid enough to climb. The landings are flat, level and sandy and I can park right there. They have zero signs of any chalk but I guarantee every climbable line on those stones has seen hands and feet flowing along it. Perhaps the place to reintroduce myself to the ways of the stone. Wild rock perfectly suited for my current condition both mentally and physically. It almost doesn’t seem real that something so needed in my life happens to be at my doorstep. Kismet I guess.
Landscape features appearing and then disappearing in a matter of steps. What looks flat stone walking towards is really two book pages folded together hiding more within. Scampering up and down among boulders, smiling at the stones on the ground and admiring the cacti we went nowhere. It was a day of simply being a couple of creatures in our own world.
Waking up today it was clear I should not have spent yesterday wandering desert landscapes. My lungs and sinus cried out in discomfort and body ached. My eyes burn and lungs gently rattle as I breathe. The left side of my middle back felt as though it had been punched causing twinges of pain and sensations of being winded. I knew right away there would be no adventure. I need to take healing seriously and that means rest.
Coffee and breakfast took 3 hours to slowly work my way through. Tasks hindered not only by my current state but also by Frank insistence that he be so close we remain touching. And so that is how we spent the day, side by side warm and cozy. For awhile we laid on a blanket outside but the sun was intolerable and we retreated inside of Truck. Being sick always comes with guilt as I imagine the day could not be any more boring for Frank. With the door wide open he could go and explore as much as he wants but he chooses not to. He chooses to stay as close to me as possible and his sweet demeanour does not go unappreciated. Unlike a normal day he doesn’t ask to play fetch. He does’t ask for anything except to be in my space.
Living in a van down dusty back roads can be a isolating experience and being sick only exacerbates these feelings. Never does laying on a couch watching TV seem so appealing as when sick. And while being alone when sick prevents others from falling ill I definitely crave the comfort of fellow humans. But out here there is none of those comforts. Just Frank and myself in a pile of blankets. Our tiny living space quickly becomes a messy hovel as I pass in and out of sleep rather than tidying up.
With travel insurance out of my budget I feel especially vulnerable being away from Canada. I realize I should have laid low yesterday and wipe all future plans from my mind. As least there is no pressure to drive, and being well supplied we can stay put on BLM land until I am back to myself. Audio books make our isolation and stillness much easier to deal with. This morning I completed ‘Being Supernatural’ and have moved on to ‘I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within us and a Grander View of LIfe’ by Ed Yong. With plenty of time to listen I am already half way through the nearly 10 hour book and have enjoyed the mental stimulation of learning.
Woke up today feeling worlds better. As if a vail had been lifted and there was clarity again. I realized then just how out of it I had been. I agreed with myself right away I would take it easy so we walked only as far as to see the boulders again. This time I inspected them a little closer, checking for dangers such as loose rocks, etc. As I did this my mind raced with excuses why I can’t climb, why my body can’t handle it and yada yada. All of it bullshit, and quite the annoyance when constructive self talk is what will make it happen. Resolving to face the noise I walked back to Truck, made sure nothing would come crashing down and moved.
Now nestled in amongst rocks and Juniper I had the boulders in sight. Writing this stoke burn within to play in the boulders but today was not the day. Instead I aired out our home and set to work consolidating, tidying, and organizing. I needed to get my shit together, in more than one way. Since arriving I’ve had this desire to find a receptacle for bags of shit. And I mean that in the very literal sense. Our here both mine and Franks dumplings are bagged and removed from the public lands we call home. In the past I used chip bags as they do an excellent job containing the smell. I no longer eat chips to that magnitude I needed a solution for longer durations.
Out walking the other day I noticed a large amount of trash, and one piece had stood out to me. A orange 5 gallon bucket with lid. I was frustrated by the amount of garbage but as I don’t have any plastic bags I wasn’t able to collect it. I have a single cloth bag I use and the town of Moab banned plastic bags a year ago. After setting up my new camp, stringing a line to the Juniper and airing the blankets I went for another short walk. This time to the orange bucket. I was scared what I might find inside, but it was light and definitely not liquid. Cautiously I open is up and much to my surprise it was several sopping bags. What luck it was then when committing to working on the boulders which the desert serendipitously presented I would find this treasure. Not only a bucket to contain our shit bags but the ability to pick up trash. Walking back to Truck I filled half a bag of trash and found Frank a frisbee. The desert provides.
Frank spend the afternoon enthralled with his new toy. I continued to clean, both worlds inside and out as if in preparation for the turning tides. The days so short there is a long road ahead of us. Being the shortest day of the year nothing could really feel much more appropriate.
I continued this self care celebration of this darkest time of the year once again puttering around home. Frank chased and then chewed apart his frisbee while I followed him around picking up the little blue pieces. Nerf dogs, it was a good find, but no match for a Frank. I set a crash pad outside in the sun. The moment it hit the ground there he was in all his glory. Frank, climbing on top to claim the prized seating for his own.
Inside I kept busy. Asana punctuated a myriad (although not literally) of small chores. Patching jackets, trimming nails, applying stickers, hanging art, cooking, eating, writing lists, and so on. Time lingered and I savoured the midday sun during long gentle releases of tension. I spent far too long agonizing over sticker placements. To be fair my mind was mostly elsewhere.
I need to go to town tomorrow, and I need to make it count. After four days alone out here the last thing I want to do it go to town. So I have hatched a plan. A plan with many lists which will make sure every last chore is done and all obligations attended to. A town day of all town days so I can hit the dirt roads with Frank for some much needed exploring. I enjoy the world we share together and longer periods without town only enhance our enjoyment. I become less Amanda and more just another creature. Doing in each moment whatever calls. Throwing the frisbee and then watching Frank as he runs after it then dawdles his way back. No thought to be doing anything else; no desire he hurry up, and no looking at a screen. I wondered what would become of me if our food and water magically never ran out. If we could remain in our own world far from humans. If online Amanda ceased to exist. Would I miss people? Or just the people I already think of now? After a few days alone, disconnected, I dead going back online. What kind of insecurities will arise? How many different feelings and I going to encounter as I navigate my online tasks? This town feels good and it’s easy to drive in so why do I still dread it so much I wonder.
Finally the sun begins to set and I readily shut us in, feed us and pour over maps. The most motivating expanses of paper I have ever known. All most satisfying times in my life have be motivated by lantern lit map gazing. Creating routes of travel to minimize fuel spent while maximizing hiking and enjoyment. Imagining what type of wonder could be awaiting at the named dot I would soon investigate. I am inspired to send town day and get dusty. I need to hydrate better.
Well I didn’t get into town as early as I hoped I might but so far so good. Before heading in I loaded up my trusty SOG backpack with ALL my chargeable electronics for efficient charging. After mentally preparing to town day I headed in. The sharp contrast of entering the highway after days faffing about really tested my attention span but we made it. First stop was the bakery where I enjoyed coffee, a oat bar and purchased one of their amazing sourdough loafs. Made with organic flour, and baked with solar powered ovens makes it a feed good purchase. The loaf it’s self is nearly 2lbs and very filling.
I set to work on my lists. Writing emails, downloading trail data, and trying to take care of responsibilities. Then off to the gear store for water and several small items that added up to the price of many things I would rather have. But until I can find a way to make income off creating my funds go to Frank and responsibilities like stove fuel and clothing/gear repairs.
Then it’s time for Franks favourite stop in town, the Barkery. We take out time making several laps of the store while Frank thoroughly investigated every smell. Twice! And then I load up on treats for him, probably spending more than I will on my own groceries. After his quiet companionship while sick I can’t help myself but prepare to spoil him during the upcoming week we will spend on backroads.
Now I sit in yet another cafe trying to get all my batteries to max. I make some obligatory instagram posts and download some audio books to waste time. After this I will check out the book store for a informative read on the areas natural history, to treat myself because I’m not entirely responsible. Then it’ll be laundry and perhaps a shower. By then I hope to have charged everything enough to enjoy a week offline. Someday I will invest in a solar set up so I can write until my heart is content but for now battery is savoured and music is limited.
Distance travelled: 321 km
Picture of the week:
Thank you for reading my stories!
If you are interested in more updates I am on Facebook as ‘Tideline to Alpine Photography and Adventure’ and on Instagram @tidelinetoalpine. I also have a podcast about backpacking with dogs called ‘WALK 9 Radio’ which you can find on iTunes, Spotify and many more.