“Life on Mars” in Moab, UT

Dustyn and I left Rifle Mountain at noon on Sunday to venture further West. We stopped in Grand Junction just before crossing the border into Utah to take some much needed showers at the last Planet Fitness we’d see for a while. A couple hours later we rolled into Moab.

‘Just Stand There’ taken in Moab

After exploring the town for a while, we hopped back into The White Buffalo to sink our toes into the surrounding desert. Five minutes from Main Street put us on Potash Road, the local sport climbing crag. We scoped out some routes, grateful for the convenience but also mildly unnerved by their literal roadside locale.  Down Potash a ways we found a trailhead for Corona Arch. Impulsively, we started down the trail hoping to reach the arch before the sunset.

‘Corona Arch’ taken in Moab

We made it just in time. The desert landscape was unworldly. So were the faces.

‘Okay I’m Done Posing’ taken in Moab

At this point in the day, we were on cloud nine. The stoke was at a fever pitch, especially when we found a Denny’s open 24/7 that offered unlimited orange juice refills to satisfy our acid cravings. Unfortunately, the rest of the night would only go downhill.

Denny’s didn’t have WiFi, so that mostly ruined our plans of getting in a late night work session. And the service was pretty horrible. Frustrated and eventually just tired, we left in search of somewhere to sleep. After some aimless wandering we found a spot, even though we probably weren’t supposed to park there. We weren’t caught but I paid the price nonetheless; that night was probably the most miserable of my life. It had been over 100º since we got here and the night temperatures weren’t much more forgiving. We cracked the windows to let some air flow, even though that meant letting the biting bugs swarm inside. Too hot and uncomfortable to sleep, I reached a point of delirium at some point in the night and proclaimed that I was just going to die. Dustyn ignored me and shrugged at my rare moment of melodrama.

But no freesoloing, 80 mph winds at 13,000 foot ridgelines, stalking mountain lions, or territorial cows had killed me thus far; neither would that heat or those bugs. Morning came at last and I couldn’t have been more thankful. Eager to hit reset and start my day right, I drove The Buffalo back to the Corona Arch trailhead while Dustyn remained asleep behind me. No other cars were there, which meant I had sunrise all to myself.

‘Might as Well Be Mars’ taken in Moab

I spent a few hours up there, appreciating the opportunities that allowed me to find myself alone in the silent beauty of this exotic world. In time, I returned to the trailhead to find Dustyn stretching outside The Buffalo and telling me he’d only woken up 15 minutes ago.

He and I, respectively well-rested and rejuvenated, then hit the crag. He had his eye set on a 5.12a called Knapping with the Alien, so we plopped our gear down on the side of the road and got to work. Progress was slow and difficult; Dustyn eventually made it to the crux but further exposure in the heat was unbearable so he clipped in a bail biner and returned to Earth. We found a great little coffee shop called Red Roof Bakery and worked away the hottest part of the day before driving into Canyonlands that night to catch the sunset.

I climbed up a rock feature to catch a good view of the changing colors of the evening sky. Dustyn joined me and broke out the guitar.

‘Sundown Shred Sesh’ taken in Canyonlands National Park

“Do you think one thing will just lead you to the next thing?” he asks me. “When you throw yourself at something, will more things will come of it?”

“In my experience that’s been universally true,” I respond. “I think being proactively dynamic will always open doors. Your path won’t be a straight line. It’ll be chaotic. But along the way you’ll touch so many different circles of thought, people, opportunities, and ideas. And any one of those could bring forth something new and worthwhile. Or maybe not, but that’s part of it.”

We talk well past sundown and finally head back to the car. Dustyn’s tired and puts himself to bed after deciding we’ll just stay there at the trailhead to Mesa Arch. Somehow I’m still going, though, and stay up for a while playing with the camera and the night sky. I bring out my pillow and lay down on the asphalt, surprisingly comfortable but honestly afraid of another night in the car (camping at Mesa is prohibited). Eventually I decide to call it and crawl into the belly of The Buffalo.

‘Mesa Sunrise’ taken in Canyonlands National Park

I actually sleep great but am up early again for another sunrise. The trail is not empty this time; I begin the short trek with literally a bus full of foreign tourists. Maneuvering around them to get a good shot was a successful challenge.

‘Red Rocks’ taken in Canyonlands National Park

Woke up in Rifle Mountain, CO.

Sleeping in Moab, UT.

188 miles.

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