Last week, after a 7-hour drive from central Arizona, I stopped about 30 miles south of Moab, Utah on the edge of Canyonlands National Park. The canyons were formed by the Colorado River over millions of years. I’ve been to this region many times before to camp, bike, or visit friends and family.
I drove up over a ridge and the view of miles upon miles of canyons spread out to the horizon took my breath away, even though it isn't new to me. There is just nothing like this place.
Whenever I’m here, I am always struck by a sense of deep time. The Colorado Plateau covers parts of Colorado, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico. This chunk of land wasn't squished and deformed and covered up the way that most of the mountain west was as it was created. Several oceans have come and gone, continents collided and parted, mountains formed and eroded and formed again... it's amazing. I mean, the sand in these sandstone rocks I'm standing on started out as part of a mountain which eroded and turned into sand on sea floors which became sedimentary rock which was eventually uplifted and formed into mountains again which eroded again. One little grain of sand! I'm a total geology nerd, sorry not sorry. I love rocks. Come on, who wouldn't be excited by this? There are frickin' rocks in the bottom of the Grand Canyon in Arizona that are almost 2 billion years old. That's about half of the Earth's lifetime!! You can touch those puppies with your bare hands. So when you stand on the rim of one of these canyons and look down, you are literally looking at layers of time. This is mind boggling. Beautifully, overwhelmingly mind blowing. At least once in your life, you gotta visit this part of the world, you'll never forget it.
Outside the boundaries of Canyonlands are miles and miles of BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land. So, unless otherwise posted, anyone can enjoy our public lands, which includes finding a sweet little spot to your liking and setting up a camp. Isn't that amazing? I found a beautiful rock (small mountain?) and had it all to myself. I walked all the way around it several times while I was there, and crawled part way up one edge. I was intensely curious about what was on top but I promised my Mom that I wouldn’t’ climb it while I was alone. They call this kind of sandstone slickrock. Its great for biking and hiking; feet and tires almost stick to it (so it should be called stickyrock). (Moab is one of the premier mountain biking spots in the world.) Climbing up is easy, but coming back down is always scary if its steep. Scooting down on my butt or belly feet first is the preferred method.
I didn't boondock alone in California or Arizona because it didn't feel safe. It does here. Most people in this area are tourists. When I chose my site, I parked where I had a clear view of the only road leading in, and I could see the main road in the distance. I dropped a pin and sent it to my mom so someone would know where I was. I feel safe camping alone because I pay attention to these kinds of details, and always have a strong sense of situational awareness.
Desert light is amazing, constantly changing throughout the day.
My daughter Ana and her tattooed clan took a vacation on a house boat on Lake Powell in southern Utah last week. On their way back to Colorado, they stopped and camped with me for one night. I hoped to see her longer, but they were understandably anxious to get home. I thoroughly enjoyed the short-lived company.
Phone and texts worked OK at my Big Orange Rock Camp, but internet didn’t. I got bored. I painted, I read a book, I played my mandolin, I went on several short walks. But I was bored. Without constant online distraction, I came to the realization that I was lonely. After spending a few days completely alone (other than Ana’s brief visit) and with no internet connection, it hit me hard that I'm tired of being alone. When Alec is around I don't feel lonely, but I do miss other people. I want to share my experiences with others. I want to squabble over playlists and podcasts while driving. I want to cook with people. I want to share the excitement of new discoveries, little observations, and awkward moments. It's been a great winter season, but definitely time to head back.
the girls' last adventure of the season
Making Bad Art
I was so enamored with the view at the Canyonlands overlook that I started a gouache painting. I was very dissatisfied, and decided to abandon it partway through. But I didn’t feel good about giving up. I don’t like quitting, even though I decided that even if I finished it, it wouldn’t be a good painting (because of the composition and such). It reminded me of how limited I am and how much I have to learn. Landscapes just bore me and I don’t know how to paint them. I came up with a new strategy to cut it into two pieces to reorganize the composition and make two smaller paintings. After taking that approach and continuing, I still wasn't happy with it. I broke out my brand new box of crayons and finished up with them. Even if I ended up not being happy with the art, I still had the satisfaction of opening a brand new box and using virgin crayons. That's always a satisfying experience.
Artist, homesteader, teacher and adventurer. Turning over every literal and figurative rock that I can find, living curiously and creatively outside of the conventions of the common world.
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