May 23 2014

Moab Trilogy Book 3: The Trip Back to Toronto

 When I was trying to decide how to write this final book of the trilogy, I started by thinking that it would be the least interesting to readers. It’s certainly just as full of adventure as the previous two books, in different ways though. So I’ll just keep writing and you can make of it what you will…

The first book was filled with anticipation. Getting to a destination. And really it was a bunch of adventures wrapped up in the idea of getting to a new (to me) place called Moab. The second was time shared with Andrea and the people we met as we got to experience Moab. This one starts with me dropping Andrea off at the airport in Las Vegas for her flight home and me then making my way back home.

At this point in the trip, “home” had been Babe for the past 2 1/2 weeks. I was really in a comfortable Westy groove… so my thought was to camp all the way home. That didn’t quite work out but I did spend most nights nestled in the lower bunk.

I had hoped to explore the area around Las Vegas and I did set out on a few side trips that day. None of them amounted to anything though and I was less than inspired. I’ll blame that on a combination of the weather (crappy) and having seen Andrea off at the airport so I was now solo again. Being on my own headed west was exciting, this was something else. Anyhow, I gave up trying and just settled into a motel near the Arizona/Nevada border that night having learned a little more about myself and having accomplished very little. I was determined not to spend the next few nights in motels but for this first night I was content to be somewhere warm.

Dry and dusty desert with snow-covered mountains. St. George, UT

It had rained overnight, and with the cold everything above 6000 feet or so had a dusting of snow. Higher elevations got more than a dusting. Fortunately I wasn’t planning on getting up to any high places so I got to enjoy the effect without being affected. As I drove back into Utah and headed east toward Zion it was stunning. I don’t think any of the photos I took during that part of the drive do it justice though.

And then Zion.
Moab was busy and crowded and vibrant. Zion was crazy. As you get near, the signs warn you that there will be nowhere to stop and park once you get in so you better take a shuttle. There’s a lot I didn’t like about getting to and into Zion. I’m glad I pushed on though… it’s stunning! And I had no problem finding places to pull over, park, hike, whatever. So here are a couple of photos I took as I stopped along the way.

Babe blending into the Utah colour scheme

Sculpted landscape, Zion

I hope to get back there some time, to hike into places I only saw from a distance. I guess I could say that about almost everywhere I went in the four corners, far too much to take in as I passed through. It will require a few more visits to really get my fill. I only had a bit of time to look around though and then it was back in Babe and on to the next spot to catch my interest. That turned out to be Paria, the set location for the movie Pahreah.

There are some remains from the movie set, there are notes about the original settlement, there are cows that own the space. None of that really appealed to me, it was the amazing landscape (which I’m sure is why they used it for the movie). Stunning.

Paria

I drove in as far as I was comfortable, the road went further but I suspect it was 4×4 territory. Along the way I stopped to chat with the folks from the only other vehicle there. Turns out they were German, we spent a little time chatting and I offered to take a group photo on one of their cameras, which they were happy to accept. Then it was on to hiking and exploring… with a limit on how much time I could stay, this wasn’t my destination so as much as I would have loved to see the sun set on those rocks I knew I had to move on. Still… I think I got a good picture or two.

Before getting to the spot I thought I might camp, I saw a sign that intrigued me and so I pulled off the highway to check it out. “Toadstool rocks”… I’d seen lots of impressive rock formations, nothing called toadstools though. And I’m glad I did stop!

Toadstool rocks along the Paria River area

And before I forget to mention it… the same German family had stopped here too, we chatted a bit but this was the end of where our paths crossed. I have no doubt they had a great trip… for future trips like this I’ll have to make a point of gathering contact info, it’s nice to be able to link to other people’s tales as they travel.

I looked at these rocks, as I had other rocks and thought: Millions of years went into creating the sediment and bedrock. Hundreds of millions of years. And then something changed (I’m no scientist, so don’t expect me to explain!) and what was wet became dry. And erosion over millions of years sculpted the landscape yet again. Mother Nature is a very talented artist!

I enjoyed seeing what the various groups of people were interested in… some appreciated the obvious things, some were there to climb on the rocks, some were looking into nooks and crannies for the less obvious. In all cases there was something to satisfy!

This was a short stop though, only an hour or two before I got back into Babe and headed toward a potential camp site. My aim was somewhere on Powell Lake and I took the first opportunity. I still like that decision!

Navajo Mountain

Lone Rock campground is awesome. From the layout I can see it gets really crowded, this early in the season it’s got room to spare (in fact, they had just opened up the vault toilets for all of the upper sites away from the lake… which was a treat!)

Lone Rock Campground

That said, it was my last night around the four corners and near the deserts. It’s now about a month later and I am still digesting all the beauty I was able to enjoy as I go through my photos.

 From here, it became a trip across America with very few destination other than “home”.

Which is not to say it was a boring trip, far from it! Yes, there were lots of miles to cover. Yes, many of those miles were boring. There were still lots of adventures though!

I refuse to pay to see a marker… ‘nuf said
Somewhere along the road in Arizona

 From camping in that beautiful spot I went east and through the southern part of Colorado. Beautiful! And at the high plains elevations, still very cold and white. My plans to camp in Babe didn’t pan out… as I went east from Durango I thought I’d camp around Pagosa Springs. Seems I was a little ahead of the season, the places I thought I’d camp were still closed so I kept driving, thinking I’d find something. And the road kept going up… the signs for Wolf Creek Pass weren’t encouraging.

Wolf Creek Pass

The summit was close to 11,000 feet, almost as high as I’ve ever been (which was on a bike over Hoosier Pass). Babe was up to it and we went up and over without a problem. Thoughts of camping vanished though, it was getting late and dark and cold. I had a bundle of firewood I’d picked up and it wasn’t looking like I’d get to use it. Down the other side and back to some sense of civilization… South Fork and a motel with heat. So much for my “camping every night”.

It was below zero in the morning, Babe (being the diesel she is) wasn’t thrilled with that and was reluctant to fire up. It was the only time the entire trip she complained like that. But she did start up and we headed east across the high plains until we got to that part of Colorado and then Kansas that blend together. The cold front I’d been in had been causing all kinds of problems through much of the southern states and I was lucky to not have had more troubles as I made my way east. The newscasts told me about floods, tornadoes, lives lost and property destroyed. The worst I had was a mix of cross winds and sand. Sand storms are something new to me, I kept a close eye on the horizon though, assuming what I was seeing could turn into something else.  And the amount of tumbleweeds was amazing! I should have stopped to take a photo but I was too intent on getting out of the storm.

Sand ahead
Crosswinds and sandstorms

 Eventually I did make my way out of the storm, when I looked back it was a very surreal scene and it felt like I was barely outrunning it. I didn’t linger to take photos. Perhaps I should have. And perhaps I should have taken the time to follow the storms and photograph the trail of carnage I knew was happening. I didn’t though… I’ve been an “ambulance chaser” (newspaper journalist) before, as important as it is to capture moments like that it’s never a pleasure. The nature of this trip was in stark contrast with that journalistic instinct and so I didn’t even consider chasing down those images. The ones I have are only because I was in the middle of it.

The mid-west just blended together… eastern Colorado led to Kansas which led to Missouri which led to Illinois. The weather improved, a little, and I was able to get back into camping mode. Nothing as dramatic as I’d gotten used to though… guess I’m spoiled now! Canoe camping let me enjoy some beautiful places, Westy camping has done the same. I enjoyed the trip across the mid west, for the most part it just paled by comparison to all the spots I settled in for the night further west. Perhaps I just need to actually take the time to explore middle America to appreciate it more…

Empty campground all to myself

And then it was the realization that I was on my last night of the trip, my last campsite. I have camped at Metamora-Hadley before on previous trips and like the spot. I had a good stockpile of firewood, and some tasty beer. I also had rain so I didn’t enjoy the campfire as much as I would have liked. I did enjoy the beer though!  A spot on the side of a lake, no-one nearby, and the sound of soft rain on the pop-top all made for a quiet night, lots of time reflecting on the trip, and then a good sleep.

The last of the Titan IPA I bought in Colorado

 I wasn’t feeling rushed in the morning, I knew I was only an hour from the border to Canada and a few hours more to home. An uneventful end to an eventful trip is a good thing though… it felt great to get home. And it’s now about 3 weeks since I got home and I’m still digesting it all. And still smiling!

Next up… a few more videos. But for today, I’m finally going to clean off the red dust from my bike and take it out for a ride.

1 Comment

  1. Now THAT’S what I call camping!

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