Moabites create their own wonderful brand of fun, which I discovered last night.
You like Anglo-Celtic music? Jigs and reels are performed by a happy group of old hippies an accomplished live band, and a caller teaches steps similar to square dance steps, only more aerobic and lively. Two long lines, gents on one side, ladies on the other, are the form for these English country dances. They are alcohol-free, happen monthly, and last about three hours. Now all I need is a twirly skirt from the thrift shop.
[Will remember camera for next month’s dance.]
South Window at moonrise
Drove up to the Windows section; the arches run north-south and are therefore lovely at both sunrise and sunset. Having never experienced the desert in wet conditions, I must report that OSHA would not be happy. Trails are ice- and snow-covered, with intermittent muddy spots. (Note: “muddy” is different from Minnesota mud. This is red gritty mud.) Only Kathryn a fool would try climbing on icy slickrock.
After two bear hugs in the Vis Center, Ranger Victoria asked me if I had brought my skis. My ‘no’ did not deter her, as she had snowshoes in her trunk that I could borrow. “As soon as I’m off work, let’s go up to Salt Valley road and work our muscles a bit in that time between sunset and total darkness!” Ooooooh! I’m never one to turn down an adventure, and I was itching to get into the park and see my precious formations again. (“My” formations. Of course.)
As Vic drove the 18 miles, she commented that it has been overcast here for a very long time and that the sun came out upon my arrival. I grabbed my camera out of my waist pack and began shooting out the window at 45 mph. The alpenglow lit the sandstone afire… and my heart afire.
Sandstone at sunset
Can rock get any more beautiful?
Balanced Rock, one of my favorite subjects
Such detail at 45 mph!
That is one happy ranger.
I dare you to click on this one!!
Who'd have thought I'd be snowshoeing on my first day back?
formations near Castle Valley, UT
The drive down the winding, dangerous, twisty, no-shoulders Hwy 128 along the Colorado River (what we affectionately call “the back way”) had me leaning forward as I navigated, trying to take everything in while staying on the pavement. I shared the road with few other drivers on this February afternoon. For the previous four hours I had no radio on, no CD, nothing but my thoughts as I addressed my own anticipation and drank in the extreme whiteness. Utah has, along with the rest of the country, experienced “the winter that won’t end” and has broken nearly five decades of records for cold and snow.
Colorado River along Hwy 128 nearing Moab
As I paralleled the Colorado River, the red rocks began to rise more and more sharply alongside it. Powdered-sugar snow remained heavily on north-facing slopes, while south-facing hillsides steamed as the sun’s heat penetrated the exposed ground. These cliffs were ones I had rafted past twice last summer; memories flooded in.
“Arches National Park, 2 miles” became “Arches National Park, 1 mile,” which became the familiar right turn at the uranium tailings pile. The requisite photo at the park sign always affords opportunity to meet someone while handing them your camera.
The hugs from visitor center staff who hadn’t seen me in half a year were delectable, but the best gift was yet to come…
Austerity is a word that doesn’t seem much used in upscale ski resorts. In this small filthy rich prosperous enclave of Beaver Creek, one would never know the Dow lost 101 points yesterday, or that one in ten Americans is jobless. I am blessed to have beloved friends who offered me the second bedroom of the mountainside penthouse condo they were given for two days. As I, a flat-lander with increasingly minimalist leanings, take in the experience, I wonder if this is reality or illusion. Oh, the terrain is certainly real, and in an epic way. The pretend world that has been built up around it, however, leaves me shaking my head. I’m a fish out of water. The quaint village shops offer me a things like a pair of jeans for $236, or a special purse for $525. Skiing is $98 per day for a lift ticket. Time to go find a national park. (Entrance fee: $10/week.)
Leave a comment: What is the worst sticker shock you’ve had? And, how can the uber-privileged and the Zen minimalists co-exist joyfully?
Only a few days remain before my Minnesota address becomes a Utah address once again. I am headed back to a place that captured my heart as I worked there last year; its magic is as soft as unicorn dreams but as strong as titanium alloy. Moab, Utah — jumping-off point for both Arches and Canyonlands National Parks — is the place I’ll call home for a significant portion of 2010. The biggest hurdle, however, is my To Do list that has far more on it than the remaining four days allow. Brain synapses seem overfull, stuffed as if with a shoehorn — people to contact, taxes to file, last-minute shopping, deciding what items must come with me and what may be safely left behind, and ultimately a home to prepare for seasonal renters while I’m absent. Sleep is elusive and interrupted. It is difficult to complete tasks without distraction. Every cell of my body quivers with anticipation. Moab, land of flaming red rocks! Moab, gathering place of aged hippies! Moab, mecca for rock climbers! Moab, gateway to scenic vistas and all manner of outdoor adventures! You welcome me with open arms! I merely need to extricate myself from all that has a hold on me here, and begin the 1300 mile approach. Off, tentacles! Come forth, minimalist tendencies!