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Wednesday, 16 October 2013

On The Road Again, Part 1 - 127 Hours in Utah

With 10 months of backpacking still freshly imprinted on my memory, my vacation meter seemed filled up, if not still bubbling over the top. I was perfectly content to continue reestablishing roots in Calgary.

This doesn't explain why I suddenly embarked on a 3 week road trip, looping down the western United States and up to Vancouver, my current location. The explanation is not in the brain but in the heart: my heart is fueled by adrenaline, beats to the rhythm of new footsteps, pumps with spontaneity and fills the arteries with a vigor for life and new experiences.
Quick pit stop in Butte, Montana - discovered she's a beaut 
A few opportunities came together, and so on the last Friday of September I found myself driving out of town, south for the border. Past the prairies of Alberta and Montana I sped, eventually into darkness. After car sleeping, I woke up to pretty rolling hills smiling down at me, renewing my vigor. I drove on through Montana's better half, past Idaho's lava rocks, and braved Salt Lake City's rush hour traffic.
Three and a half men - in a condo in Moab, Utah
Finally, after 18 hours on the long road, I arrived in Moab, Utah, joining three guys each around 60 years old, already asleep in our rented townhouse, preparing for the upcoming physically demanding week.

Utah is simply one of the most beautiful places in the world. Its rock formations are like nothing I have ever seen. The morning after our first sleep we tackled the Negro Bill Trail which took us to the Morning Glory Natural Bridge, then later on hiked up another trail to see the Corona Arch.
Morning Glory Natural Bridge - tough to see, but it actually
stands on its own, separate from the large wall behind it
Corona Arch - tallest of all the arches in Utah
On Day 2 we checked out one of the slot canyons, made famous by the movie 127 Hours, Wild Horse Canyon. Later on, we dropped in on the goblins (though more mushroom-like in my opinion) of Goblin Valley State Park.
In the slot canyon, wading through knee high muddy water
Goblin Valley State Park
On Day 3 we decided to tackle Mt. Peale, the second highest summit in Utah, nearly 13,000 ft, offering us an escape from the low heat into chilling alpine winds and breathtaking views of fall colours and vast expanses of desert red rock in the distance.
12,700 ft above sea level, it's a long way down from Mt. Peale
On Day 4 we awoke to an impotent US government and locked gates at our most anticipated attractions - Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. Undeterred, we found a wonderful alternative - one of the most impressive and imposing rock formations I'd ever seen, Fisher Towers.
Fisher Towers - jutting slivers of rock that are truly unbelievable
Looking straight up, we saw rock climbers taking on one of the many steep tower's faces
On Day 5 we went to Dead Horse Point State Park, with views down to the valley floor, breathtaking, and into the distance, endless.
The view of the famous bend in the Colorado River, and a big pointy rock
It's a good day to be alive
Moab is the self proclaimed mountain biking mecca of the world. After 5 days of amazing hiking, I decided to take on the famous Slickrock Trail.
Taking a break from a grueling 3.5 hour teeth-grinding mountain biking trail
Some mountain biking enthusiasts rumbling down the steep hills of Slickrock
Despite the national parks being closed as a result of the greatest blunder of democracy, and being stuck in a house with 3 old guys, I was still able to experience some breathtaking places unrestricted by quasi-martial law. Over 6 days, I hiked around 60 km, gained nearly 2 km of elevation and got my tail kicked mountain biking. I left Moab drained but feeling fantastic.

And on the drive out of Utah, I managed to dip my feet into the Great Salt Lake, then take my car off the highway onto the salt flats, which stretch into the jagged horizon.
Just off the interstate, salt flats seem to go on forever and ever. And ever
The west coast is up next, and it's time to trade in the comforts of a townhouse for my old school ways of hostels and Couchsurfing. The road will take me from the dry heat of magnificent red rocky deserts into wet and wondrous blue coastlines, snow capped grand vistas of volcanoes and vibrant cities teeming with down-to-earth people in the hip west.

Stay tuned for Part 2.

The rest of my Utah photos can be seen here:

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