For over two decades, Thanksgiving typically means an extended weekend outdoors. A chance to backpack, hike, or camp in a place away from the usual bustle of the holidays.
And, even back when I lived in Colorado, it often meant time in the high desert.
We’d recreate in red rock country, savor the canyons and the smell of sage, and never cease marveling at one of the clearest night skies in the country.
And, invariably, it meant time with good friends.
And this year, they proved no different.
Over the years, the Zapin family has been some of my closest friends. I spent my initial forays into Utah with them, celebrated many life events with them, and saw their two sons grow into young men. They are family to me at this point.
Joan and I hosted them the weekend before Thanksgiving, and we got to show them our home in Moab. Our table was full of food for two nights, with lots of laughing, stories, and some much-needed catching up.
Due to the weather, they did stay that extra night. And it meant we got to show them a favorite gem in town – Dead Horse Point State Park.
This dog-friendly park has some of the best views in town, especially considering its accessibility.
They left our home Monday, and we joined them Tuesday in the Escalante National Monument for some camping and hiking. Joining us would be our friend Mike, who will complete the celebration.
The hike started on a bluebird day as we hiked across the desert and enjoyed the canyons that seemed slightly different from our particular place in the high desert.
The monument is well-known for its many slot canyons with narrow walls that let it light that reminded me, oddly enough, of light I’ve seen in old churches.
A mix of dark, light, and all brings out this unique area’s beauty.
The following morning, we walked around one of the more well-known places in the monument and made our way back to avoid the potential upcoming storm and the higher elevation of Boulder Mountain.
Some side trips included seeing a panel complete with holiday-appropriate turkey tracks.
Alas, the area also had some apparent potential looting (as confirmed by some literature in an ammo box) that showed many of the issues facing the protection and preservation of the history and culture of the area.
The land along a river corridor made us want to return for further immersion in the area.
The Zapins left for Thanksgiving elsewhere, leaving Mike, Joan, and me to make a Thanksgiving feast in the desert complete with turkey, cornbread, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, and veg. Mike made the cornbread in a Dutch oven…and we made our portion of the meal in the 1920s Dutch that Joan’s Dad used growing up for many family meals.
After leaving our dispersed site, we went to nearby Capitol Reef and visited some of the Fruita area’s well-known places.
It also reminded Joan and me that this gem, only 2.5 hours away from home, is a place we should venture into more often.
The weather started picking up, as predicted and validated our plans to head home a day earlier.
But not before some leftover pie!
Mike decided to stay another day. With the sleet and colder temps and Joan still not over her recent illness altogether, some hot showers and a warm bed seemed an advisable idea.
On the way home, we made a fuel stop in Green River, about an hour from home.
And proved again how small of a community we live in when the people we saw there were Maze rangers on their way back after a day in Moab.
And more signs Joan and I continue to make a community even while grateful for seeing people from our old ones.
That Saturday meant a day of cleaning gear, washing clothes, and hunkering down for the day.
The weather broke the following day, and we went to a scenic and striking place only minutes from home.
The images along the cliff walls and above the river, and in plain sight if someone looks up, add another layer to why we enjoy this place.
It is a two-hour or so hike and perfect for stretching your legs, enjoying exquisite scenery, and further appreciating the area we call home.