I am now two weeks into my journey across Southern Utah.
The effect that the cross country routes, scrambling, gritty sand, and stream crossings on my gear in a short period versus traditional longer hikes are noticeable.
My socks, shirt, and pants have to be mended. The pack’s water bottle pocket was taped. And my previously brand new shoes after two weeks? Well…
But the gear was mended, and a new pair of shoes was waiting for me at the post office.
More importantly, my body and mind are doing well. To be out on the journey is still felt to be a gift. Where every day brings something new to see and a new experience to be treasured.
After the red rock country of Zion, I again entered sagebrush country for a bit.
The Utah desert is austere at times. A slim trickle of water is often my only source for the day.
And no one is around. It is just me with my thoughts.
As others have noted, it is no surprise that three of the world’s major religions started in an austere environment such as the one I’ve been walking through. And no surprise that same environment has shaped the LDS faith.
It is an environment that lends itself to contemplation. And wonder.
I’ve mentioned before how my Catholic roots have affected my view of the outdoors. Traveling solo through a desert environment, with only intermittent contact with people, seems to put these thoughts in the forefront.
From the time I left Bryce Canyon until yesterday, I did not see or talk to anyone for three days.
I wandered the canyons, crossed low mountains, walked the canyon rims, and journeyed through the sagebrush with only an occasional footprint indicating people were in the area.
The highlight was the Sheep’s Creek, Paria, Hogeye, Hackberry, and Round Valley system of canyons. I’ve been there before with my friend Chris back in 2009.
And it was just as I remembered with sheer red walls climbing up high. And each twist and turn of the canyon leading to yet another delightful interplay of red rock, light, water, and sky.
My solitude came to an end as I joined a jeep track for a bit. A BLM ranger on patrol stopped to chat with me. She was very knowledgeable about the area and provided some helpful information both for myself and a couple that stopped to ask questions as well.
I soon made my way to Grosvenor Arch a bit up the jeep road.
A vacationing couple from Indiana were enjoying the picnic area and the view of the arch as well. After chatting a bit, they offered me a beer. For some reason, an ice cold beer sounded better than my tepid water. 🙂
The beer tasted damn good. Cold, refreshing, and a bit of a boost after walking the dusty road. They also offered to take my trash.
True trail (route?) magic! Spontaneous, and unexpected, acts of kindness that add to the journey.
This morning I followed the jeep track east into the morning light.
I am now in Escalante. A town that is a bit different than when I was here last in 2012. Outfitters, coffee shops, and shifting to a newer version of the Western economy.
Escalante makes a convenient and compact location for a layover day. I have permits to acquire, calls to make, shopping to do, and think the midpoint of Escalante makes a good place to rest up for the second half of the jaunt.
Onward to the second half of the journey!