During the Utah winter, Joan and I like to backpack in areas that generally see jeep traffic.
And further, remind ourselves of why we choose the lifestyle we live.
The jeep roads typically run through washes, much like singletrack. And the hoodoos, buttes, mesas, and red rock of the Colorado Plateau don’t look too far different from what is just over the BLM and NPS boundary.
The difference? In winter, we have the place to ourselves. The cold keeps most people away, and the muddy conditions with patches of snow mean most people sensibly don’t drive these roads rather than bog down in the desert sand.
We started in BLM land and hiked into Canyonlands National Park.
A good amount of walking for this time of the year.
In addition to the canyon country scenic delights, we, of course, saw signs of the ancient ones.
Granaries dotted the walls along the canyon.
We even found lithics (remnants of stone tools) within the granaries.
Often located in south-facing alcoves, the warm sun broke through the clouds and offered a place to take in the landscape for a while.
And we, of course, saw the ancient rock art that even faded with time makes for a striking spectacle.
Perhaps just as impressive, an astute observer can see where the Ancestral Puebloan crafted their artistry.
The daylight hours grew short not long after gazing at the old gallery. Joan marked a site from a previous visit. Twin juniper trees made for a secluded and sheltered camp.
Some hot drinks while nestled in layers of down proved to be about the best way to both end and start a winters day on the Colorado Plateau.
But we still had more to see; an ancestral cliff dwelling not far away. Perched on a cliff and not legally accessible, we can only admire it at a distance.
We packed up most of our gear and walked below the cliff dwelling.
A person who patiently watches can see an old ladder propped against the cliff. Alas, I forgot my good zoom-lens camera at home. But even a cropped photo tantalizes.
We hiked back and hoisted our packs. At a junction, we explored a side canyon. Technically trailless, the granaries spotted along the wall on this side canyon indicates, as usual, the ancient origins of these canyons as travel paths.
We exited the park proper and walked along the lonely jeep track. In over twenty-fours, we have not seen anyone. No campers, no hikers, no jeepers.
Just the red rock, the snow, and enjoying the expanse of the Colorado Plateau in winter.