A person who rarely gets bored, who does not constantly need a favorable external environment to enjoy the moment, has passed the test for having achieved a creative life - Spring Road Trip Part 4
“A person who rarely gets bored, who does not constantly need a favorable external environment to enjoy the moment, has passed the test for having achieved a creative life” ~ Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
So it turns out I needed 4 posts to describe my 7,000 mile road trip from the midwest to AZ/UT and back. This was truly one of the best road trips I've ever embarked on. I have some Maui posts coming after this and then some ramblings on my recent adventures in the midwest. I'm also working on a book about my adventure lifestyle so stay tuned in!
Making my way across Utah after enjoying 2 weeks in the Escalante Staircase region, I decided to stop near Moab for a week to explore, hike and bike the area. The drive over was filled with geologic wonder, I was following the Morrison Formation closely and was super happy to find a part of Utah where dinosaur bone collecting is allowed, 25 pounds a year any person can collect! Bad news, there was thunderheads above and rain was imminent, being near the Morrison Fm in a rainstorm is asking for trouble. I had about an hour to explore, so I stopped off at dry stream bed which was covered in many ATV tracks. Wandering around I started looking in the banks, along the bottom of the stream bed and in the shrubs and trees that had been bent over the last time there was a flood. Digging into one of these trees I found a bone from the Morrison roughly the size of a grapefruit! I was ecstatic, this is only the second time I’ve found a dino bone in the Morrison Fm, it made my day, so I walked back towards my vehicle collecting some shell fossils and agates along the way. As soon as I pulled away from the stream bed the rain starting falling and it followed me all the way into Moab where I would spend the next week.
I finally woke up to some sunshine this morning, camped on Willow Springs Road, 12 miles north of Moab. I’ve been here for a few days already and planned on heading north soon. I made a trip into Moab on Monday afternoon, grabbed some food at the local organic co-op and headed back to find a free camping spot on BLM land. There were lots of campers and tents along the road but I managed to find a perfect spot for 1 or 2 people, in my case 1 as I was alone once again. The camping spot was perched up on a hill, getting a good view in all directions, plus most of the area around me was undisturbed, thus additional campers could not get very close. Several people were camped in what was now a dry creek, but looked like it would be a mess in the rain. Tuesday was a rain day, and my stomach felt awful, so I read most of the day away taking naps in-between. I’ve been reading the Captive in Hawaii book which is good but slow going with a lot of history intertwined into the overall story. So I picked up Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand, easily my favorite book of all time, this would be my third time reading it. The first I was a frat boy at NDSU and only 19 years old, it opened my eyes to the energy/transportation crises and our economy which we strive to always improve and the utopian world we all dream about. Atlas Shrugged easily became my favorite book at that time. The second reading I was living in a trailer house in Winnemucca, NV working at an underground gold mine during the day and playing with my dog Mel at night. She had to stay home alone for 13 hours while I was at the mine, then we’d play kickball and eat dinner before repeating the process the next day. Atlas Shrugged comforted me during these rough but entertaining times. Now I pick it up for a third time, funemployed and loving life, this reading gives me a much better understanding and appreciation for Ayn Rand’s writing, feeling as if I were one of the main characters living in paradise while others are struggling to make it in the real world.
Wednesday I rode the Klonzo trails which were a few more miles down Willow Springs Road, so I just road my bike to the trailhead. I rode the north section, then the south section, and for fun and pain and suffering, rode the north section again which is situated next to Arches National Park’s border. I could see the famous sandstone fins in the park through my binoculars. There were blue cliffs behind me towards Moab and the La Sal and Henry mountains in the distance to the east. The north section of the Klonzo trails was tough, I could feel the 6000 feet elevation and reduced oxygen as my lungs sucked for more air. I passed a large group, then let them pass me, only to pass them again, we were just taking breaks at different times. They had a guide with them, and this was not only my first time biking in Moab but my first experience with slick rock. Luckily I was on my Salsa Blackborow with 5 inch tires, and slick rocks weren’t very slick anymore. After passing the group for the last time I did the Wahoo trail then continued down the canyon and hit the rest of the trails on the south section, skipping only 2 black diamond runs all day. Not feeling completely on my game since I hadn’t biked in 2 weeks. Voltaire and Houdini trails were all slick rock, kinda fun but a front suspension would have helped out a lot. Rollercoaster was awesome and a perfect name with some gnarly descents and ramps. Top Spin circled around a rock pile, it was super technical perched on a cliff, using nicely placed rocks as bridges between the large boulders, I did this one 1.5 times before catching the Edge and back to the trailhead. There were lots of people hanging out at their vehicles, so I pushed on and flew up the next set of switchbacks on the Dunestone trail, composed mostly of slick rock. My legs were shot at the top, perfect time to push it and see what I was made of! Another mile and a rock perched nicely in the shade looked enticing, so I sat for a break, water and food, before riding another 10 miles then back to camp. I had ridden approximately 30 miles in 4.5 hours, I didn’t care to know exactly how far or how long, does it really matter?!
Thursday was a rest day, even though I woke up feeling pretty good, I knew better. I picked up Atlas Shrugged and made a day of it. The rain started again in the afternoon and turned to hail at some point. I decided to make another trip into Moab, I was out of water and it had been a week since I had showered last. That night it began to rain hard, so I ate dinner inside my truck, being anti-social once again to the two parties next to me, one was playing acoustic music around the campfire and the other lighting off fireworks. I was half asleep when a large flash startled me! When I opened my eyes, I caught the last of a large lightning bolt, striking across the sky, the thunder shook the ground like an earthquake that lasted for several seconds. I felt my hair raise on my body and my heart beat almost doubled in frequency. Wow I was awake again! Delved into some Utah geology and learned more about this end of the Colorado Plateau. The reading allowed me to choose Friday’s hiking location, I was torn between arches and Canyonlands, however reading about the impact crater that can be hiked to in Canyonlands I was convinced to go see it.
Friday morning I made my way into Canyonlands, and drove to the trailhead for upheaval dome, which is most likely a meteorite impact crater vs. a salt diaper. Either way the hole showing salt and older sediments was fascinating. The crater could easily be 37 times the size of the meteorite causing the impact, which is the common factor that has been measured around the world at other meteorite impact sites. I was going to journal while observing the crater, but was startled by two girls that saw me climb up a nearby rock, they got too close and started to journal, I smiled but had lost my motive to write at that point. So I climbed down the rock and started my journey back to the vehicle. As soon as I made it up the first ascent it started to rain, and continued to rain harder as I got closer to the vehicle. The rain was nearly a downpour by the time I got back, weird how I knew it was time to go instead of journaling, especially without a rain coat and the slick rock can be extra slick in the rain. I drove to Grand View point after, had a salad then went for a short walk to a cliff edge exposing the rest of Canyonlands. The views were spectacular through the binoculars, I even gave a few tourists a chance to look through them. After an hour of daydreaming it was time for some more extreme biking. I saw a trailhead on the way to Canyonlands, thus I drove back to that location and got my bike ready for the ultimate Moab ride.
I hadn’t realized what kind of trails these were and didn’t really care at that point, I was feeling confident and just wanted to ride! Getting my gear and bike ready, there were a lot of people staring, not that it’s anything new to me, but there was some grumbling I overheard about how the fat bike was not going to make it on these trails. I rode over to the signage at the trail start and immediately noticed that all the trails were black diamond or expert only. Perfect, I was feeling it today, reading the map some more I found a set of trails that would take me on a 10 mile loop and back to the parking lot without doing any out and backs. The initial climb and 80 percent of the single track was set on slick rock. The difficulty was an intermediate to advanced, crossing slick rock that dipped at 45 degrees or greater, my 5 inch tires stuck nicely to the sandstone while I tried to focus on what was upcoming. There were lots of sharp turns, dry creek crossings, and steep climbs, all demanding full attention by my mind and body. The time and trail passed by quickly. I followed another rider for quite some time on the south section of the trails, she was really fast and on her game as well. We met briefly on the top a a hill, before i took off on a huge descent of switchbacks, I had to slow down to a crawl making it around the hairpin turns without falling. At this point I was only a few miles from the parking lot, feeling fatigued I pushed on and took an easy route back instead of adding in another 5 mile loop at the end. Overall the trail was both amazing and terrifying, keeping me in flow almost the entire time but scaring the crap out of me as I was clipped into my pedals and couldn’t bail on some steep slick rock sections. Getting back to my truck, more people stared but this time in wonder instead of disbelief. There were a lot of locals that didn’t want to talk, but eventually a guy from South Dakota came over and a few people followed. We had a good conversation about the Blackborow, Moab trail system, and life in general.
That night was my last in the Moab region, the next morning I woke up to a hot air balloon rising from behind the blue cliffs, it was cool! Then I started the long drive north, driving highways for 12 hours through 3 states and 3 mountain passes each with their own type of wintery mix, through a beautiful canyon along the wind river, to eventually find a serene camping spot in the Big Horn Mountains. One of the prettiest drives I’ve ever done in my life. I was one of 3 vehicles camping along Leigh Creek, its babbling water was soothing and overwhelmed most of the other sounds nearby. The babbling could be made out for a loud bar, conference, or concert with the right imagination. Maybe the camp neighbors area having a great conversation or a small bbq and 3 guys drinking beers, but walking over to find no one just my imagination turing sounds into hallucinations. The possibilities are endless with an imagination, that’s why movies don’t do it for me, there is no imagination needed, just stare and consume. What’s the fun in that, go outside or grab a book and let your mind be free!
Camping in the Bighorn Mountains
I made it back to Montana the following day and hung out with family for the week. I built some raised gardens for Mother’s day before moving on to eastern North Dakota for an adventure race at Turtle River State Park, held by my favorite racing group Extreme North Dakota Racing. It was great to see all the friendly faces and comradery as we made our way through the race course. Running, biking and paddling through Turtle River State Park and surrounding area, we also were challenged with an orienteering course using a compass. The race was a blast, my partner and I finished in 7 or so hours, it was a day packed with fun! I went backpacking on the north shore of Lake Superior the weekend after, and then flew back to Maui for another 2 months. Reflecting on this now, it seems like I’m always on the go, living the good life, cheers!!