As I lay in my down bag a few yards from the canyon edge, the full moon chased away sleep. Its calm light bathed every nook of the White Rim as far as the eye could see, highlighting the light sandstone layer several hundred feet below. Intricate pinnacles and eroded pillars stood down there, every surface shimmering in the blue-black October night. Shooting stars swept in fast arcs across heaven. Jupiter was rising in tandem with the moon, only a hand-width away. And I was there, my soul soaking up light and life.
It was my weekend. I had thrown my gear* into a backpack and grabbed my trekking poles to commence the ten-mile Murphy Loop from the mesa top: five miles down in the afternoon, meet friends camping at the trail bottom, hike out in the morning. I tried not to think about the switchbacks that would enable the 1300-foot elevation change.
I am at a loss to find adjectives to describe the vastness, the immensity, the agoraphobic distances, the layers upon layers of texture and color that define Canyonlands National Park. As I stood on the mesa top ready to drop down through the Wingate sandstone, deep breaths of clear air replenished parts of me that were thirsty and hungry for backcountry — away from footprints and the people who make them. Only three humans crossed my path on my ten-mile trek. Folks, that’s a mighty fine day.
*Gear list: sleeping bag and pad and small pillow; fleece vest and pullover and warm knitted hat; one gallon water; two peanut-butter bagels, a banana, an apple, and energy bars; camera; headlamp; topographic map, GPS, whistle; toothbrush and paste; contact lens stuff; toilet paper and small disposal bags.