I headed off on my 4-day/3-night backpacking trip to Moab, Utah last Wednesday. I got into beautiful and quaint (aka small) Grand Junction, Colorado around 1:30pm. The trip was not scheduled to start until the following morning at 9:00am, so I had some time to kill. I had a map of the wine country in Palisades (about 8 miles away), so I rented a car and headed to some wineries. I was pleasantly surprised! They had "normal" wine (Cab Sav, Chardonnay, Syrah) rather than the expected apple-berry wine and mead. And it was darn good, for the most part.
After three wineries, I decided that I needed to grab some dinner, so I headed to downtown Grand Junction. This was a 7-block strip of really neat little stores (most of which were unfortunately closed by 6:00m on a Wednesday) and some interested restaurants (French, Italian, New World). I picked a nice-looking Italian restaurant and feasted on Chicken Scallopino with sun-dried tomatoes, black olives, and spinach in a gongonzola cream sauce. It was delish! I was definitely going to need plenty of carbs for my upcoming energy expenditure! I headed back to the tidy Best Western and tucked in early, about 10:30pm.
We all gathered and headed out Thursday morning (7 participants and 2 guides - all women) for a 2-hour drive to the canyonlands of Moab, Utah. There we packed up our backpacks with gear and provisions until they were taller than us and headed down the trail.
We camped on an outcropping of slickrock the first night. It was a beautiful night and it seemed that there were no bugs to speak of in the area, so we camped out without tents, under the stars. Let me tell you - once you get away from metro areas, there are a hell of a lot of stars!
In the morning, we hiked down to the stream to get some water, learned how to treat it so it was drinkable and headed out for a day hike to the sixth largest arch in the country - Morning Glory Arch. It was spectacular! We also found some cacti with purple fruit and one of our guides D. showed us how to peel and eat the fruit. I ended up with tiny, annoying stickers in 8 of 10 fingers, the roof of my mouth and my lip. Where else can you have this much fun?
When we got back to camp, we packed up and headed to Camp #2, where we would stay for the next two nights. It was further into the canyon and we had to scramble up some large rocks to get to the top. Once we got there, we were greeted with an unbelievable view of the canyon below, rock outcroppings all around and the San Juan mountains in the far distance (with snow on the peaks!). Camp #2 was a very large plateau (probably about 1/4 mile across), with varying level of rock "shelves". Instead of sleeping all together in the same area, we were encouraged to venture out and find our own solo camping spot. Since we were still within sight of the main gathering area, this wasn't as intimidating as you might think.
I was slightly bummed that I didn't bring a book to read - almost everyone else did - but actually it was nice to just have time to think and stare at the stars. You don't realize how little time there is in our regular schedule to just stop and ponder life. It was a real treat.
The next morning, I awoke to a small platoon of ants, trying to figure out WTF I was doing on their rock. I blew them away, did some stretching and went down for some breakfast.
After breakfast, we packed up our daypacks (I had to use my sleeping bag's stuff sack, since I didn't bring a daypack...arg!) and headed further down the canyon to check out some "swimming holes". Since it was 75 - 80 degrees during the day, and very dry, that sounded good to all of us.
That morning, our second guide A. packed up a pack to hike out to get our van and drive it around to the other side of the canyon, so we could hike out the other end, and not have to backtrack to get out. She left around noon.
Around 4:00pm, some ominous clouds rolled in and we headed back to camp to brace for the storm. We set up tents and one kept blowing away, from the high winds. The pouring rain and lightning started and we scurried into our tents to escape. After about an hour of rain and high wind, it was over. We came back out and started wondering where our guide A. was. Since it was about 5:00pm, she had been gone for 5 hours for a trip that should have taken her about 2 hours. We all started getting concerned about what had happened to her...
Stay tuned for Part Two...