It still amazes me that I agreed to go on a road trip to a desert location in the summertime. I am notorious for not liking the heat or road trips: as a child, my parents dragged me all over the country visiting family and friends, packed into the back of a VW Vanagon (horrible) or Eurovan (slightly better), sometimes with young brothers, to exotic locations such as Iowa and Wisconsin. My favorite pastime on these trips was to check the road signs for the miles to our destination, and calculate in my head how many hours or minutes it would take to get to the next town at whatever speed we were currently driving. It was a small thrill to beat the calculation, and a crushing disappointment to run up against traffic or construction and arrive at the planned city a few minutes behind schedule.
Well, I find I still do the calculations, and it is still a bit of a thrill to beat your time, and also very easy to do so when Melissa Petersen is driving. My future roommate/home co-owner and I hit the road with our friend David Owen (aka the Biochemist) and headed to Arches National Park in Moab, Utah. We left Seattle on Friday night and drove straight through, stopping only for gas, snacks, and a brief perusal of the Mormon Temple in Salt Lake City, arriving in Moab Saturday afternoon. We had a nice shady campsite next to a creek a couple of miles outside of town, made better by the provision of real bathrooms and showers (cold showers being a must when you have been hiking in hot weather).
After the first night, when we walked around Moab and took it easy, we developed a kind of rhythm: get up, eat/shower, hike (and thereby get sweaty and exhausted), go back to camp, collapse into the showers, go into town and hang at the internet cafe so David could get work done and Melissa and I could read or shop in air conditioning, head to the grocery store for food and figure out where to eat dinner and watch the sunset, then head back to camp for a fire and tea.
Our first hike was both the best and the worst: on Sunday we did Devil's Garden, the full 9 or 10 miles with the "primitive loop" and all the side trails. The pictures are incredible-the arches, the views from the top of the rocks we climbed up on-the entire park was amazing. However, being as it has been a long time since I did a 10 mile hike, and we were a mile high in the sky, and we started a bit later than we should have for such a long hike, I ended up with a combination of altitude sickness and/or heat exhaustion for the last mile or so. I don't think I had enough water, and I know my body was not happy that we were hiking in 100-degree heat, and my lungs started to rebel. We would climb up the trail for as far as I could go, and then stop in a bit of shade until I could breathe normally, and then start again. At one point, David actually left us in a shady spot and went on ahead to get more water from the trailhead, and Melissa slowly but surely kept me moving until we got back (David met us when we still had about a third of a mile left, and the water helped). I think Melissa started to get a little scared for me, especially when I said that I felt like throwing up (a definite bad sign) but she did a good job staying calm and keeping me going so I didn't just curl up under a rock and beg for Jesus to take me home. Although I did feel like that a couple of times. But we made it back, and I stuck my head under the water spigot for a good long time and then passed out in the car on the way back to camp. After a couple hours of rest, food, and shower, I felt a lot better.
After that little drama, we took it pretty easy for the rest of the day, hanging out at the internet cafe and then heading over to the Delicate Arch viewpoint for an attempt at viewing the sunset. We missed the sunset but shared a bottle of wine and ate salads and sandwiches. The next day we went for an easier hike through Morning Glory Canyon (traditionally but horribly called "Negro Bill Wilderness Area", someone needs to change that). We hiked for a long time but never saw the "bridge" we were supposed to see. We are not sure if we missed it or didn't go far enough or what, but we did lots of exploring, and climbed up a rockface. Melissa and I had teased David for bringing along a bunch of rope and climbing equipment that we were uncertain would actually be put to use, so he was pretty excited to break out the rope and help us climb up on the ledge and then back down. Not being a rope or rockclimber myself, I was a little nervous, but had fun tackling my fear and joining the fun. We hiked back through the creek for awhile, which was super fun but resulted in a lot of bug bites. However, I have discovered that I am most certainly a water creature and not a desert creature, because I had way more fun in the creek than in the sand!
We had been missing the sunsets but finally got a good one Monday night when we hiked Delicate Arch and then came down and found a spot on the side of the road to park and took the Coleman propane stove out to a rock and made grilled cheese sandwiches while watching the sun go down. It was probably not entirely legal to go off trail and use a coleman stove in the middle of nowhere and enjoy some Tecate while doing so, but it was incredible. Delicate Arch was an amazing site-hard to get to, what with my body's aversion to steep climbs, but so worth it. The funniest part was sitting up on the top, gazing out at the view for miles, and hearing my cell phone ring! Reception was fine, but it was a little windy, so I had to put off talking to my best friend Tenae, who was calling from Hawaii to schedule her brief time at home as she moves from Honolulu to North Carolina. But then as we were laughing about the cell reception and sending evil text messages of beautiful pictures designed to create envy in all of our friends, we discovered that all of our watches/phones had different times, so we had no idea what time it was and thought we might miss the sunset AGAIN. We practically ran down the trail and found that we really weren't as late as we thought we were and then went and found our spot for grilled cheese.
Tuesday morning we went on the guided hike through Fiery Furnace, which was actually a little slow even for me, what with all the stopping and talking about plants and such. But the guides were nice and there were funny fellow-hikers with us and we got done with plenty of time to go into town, get frozen yogurt/shakes/smoothies and then pack up the campsite and hit the road. We left at 1:30 Seattle time and got back around 7am Wednesday morning, a bit of a faster trip back, since we didn't stop and hang with the mormons.
I was so tired. And sore. And not even ready to do another trip like this anytime soon. But definitely glad that we went. We had a fabulous time with good conversations, and only one minor argument in the car about how to get back onto the interstate after getting turned around, in which, according to Melissa, David and I were stereotypical examples of classic male/female communication differences. I was giving verbal directions, he was thinking spatially, and um, I was right. I mean, he could have been right, but I preferred to go with the more certain route. Of course, I had also made the same mistake at the beginning of the trip about getting on a horribly marked onramp going the wrong direction, but I got us back on the freeway going the correct way in no time, without major argument about the spatial orientation of the road. Either way, we got back, and we now know that stopping for burgers means you will end up going the wrong direction on the freeway when you try to head out of town.
It was a great trip overall, and now I have to try to get all of my pictures loaded and labeled and categorized. But of course, I went right back to work, so I am busy and tired, and not too much is getting crossed off my to-do list. But that is okay-it's summer! Time to relax! Time to have fun while not being in charge!
This weekend I am headed to Portland with some friends and the band for shopping and a concert. More summer fun, but the temps will be in the nineties. I thought I had left those behind in Utah!
More photos on facebook