From Desert to Mountains

Hello everyone from Colorado! Or, in comparison to Utah – Cooler-ado.

The last stop in Utah was Moab, where we visited Arches National Park. Twenty-four hours was plenty, as temperatures reached 47*C during the day. To beat the heat, we hiked at sunset and sunrise; though, to be honest, it was still really hot. At 8:00pm when we started the hike toward Delicate Arch, it was still above 30*C. When I saw the arch, I was in awe. I had seen Delicate Arch on thousands of license plates across the state, but seeing it live was incomparable. Tom also made it extra special with a surprise that he had been teasing me with for a week. He had saved a quarter from his trip to the states last year that had a picture of Delicate Arch on it. As we were sitting in awe of the arch, he pulled it out to give to me.

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The next morning we woke at 6am to start a hike called Devil’s Garden, which includes many iconic arches: Landscape Arch, Double O Arch, Tunnel Arch, Pine Tree Arch, and Private Arch. It is hard to believe that they were made by nature, especially Landscape Arch, which is the longest natural arch in the world. We learned that the difference between a natural bridge and an arch is that an arch is formed by natural erosion and a natural bridge is formed by water.

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A highlight for me was swimming in a small river that afternoon – so refreshing.

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Next stop was Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Colorado. It was way less touristy than other places we have been, yet ultra-beautiful. Standing on the edge of the canyon, looking 2250 feet down, you can see huge walls and cliffs running down to the white rapids of the Gunnison River. Streaks of lighter rock sweep across some of the cliffs, which is how Painted Wall got its name. I have much respect for the people who climbed it in the 60s.

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We did some bouldering and a little hike to see the canyon as close as possible. A permit is required to go down into the canyon, but those hikes and climbs were primitive and intimidating. Typically rock climbing involves approaching a wall and climbing up, but this area required rappelling down, meaning that you must finish your climb to get out: trad, crack climbing, off-width, and muti-pitch. We scouted out a route, but decided to move on to our next destination instead…

…Which was Independence Pass, near Aspen, CO. We laughed at the snow we saw in front of us, remembering that even Black Canyon of the Gunnison was in the 30s. Only a few hours away, Moab was probably still in the 40s, and here we were cooling off in the mountains, watching some people attempt to snowboard in the remaining patches of snow.

We spent two days exploring the area’s boulders and cliffs. We bouldered a bit and climbed a few cracks, which were all super fun. We climbed “Twin Cracks”, “Crytogenics”, and a two-pitch called “Zanzibar”; I am happy to say that I am now way more comfortable with hand jams.

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I will say bye for now. Still having lots of fun roughing it and exploring this beautiful state. I am missing my family and friends back home, especially as Canada Day approaches – also anxiously awaiting what it will be like on Independence Day this weekend. Much love to peeps back home!

Canyons and Quilts

“Well Bryce, it’s been a slice,” is what Tom and I said to each other as we left Bryce Canyon National Park. We enjoyed our two-day adventure in the canyon, hiking the Navajo/Queen’s Garden/Peekaboo Loop day one, and the Fairyland Loop day two. We explored the different viewpoints by car, and saw a double rainbow at Rainbow Point.

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The town of Panguitch got a visit from us because of the infamous Quilt-Walk Festival that takes place the second week of June. I was amused by the sound of this festival, even though I have no idea how to quilt; and, it was definitely an amusing experience.

Back in the late 1800s the town of Panguitch experienced a winter harsher than what they were prepared for, leaving them without enough food and supplies to get through the winter. Seven men were sent by foot to the next town to get supplies, but soon were helpless in the midst of the snow drifts and deep fields of snow. They stopped to pray on their quilts, and when they got up they noticed that they did not sink in the snow while they were on them. So, they walked to the next town on their quilts and saved Panguitch from starvation. Every year the town celebrates these heros with a 4-day festival.

The first thing we did was check out the Quilt Show at the local high school, where we saw beautiful hand-make quilts, and vendors who were selling all kinds of quilting equipment. We noticed very quickly that we were younger than most of the people there by about 40 years. We went on what was advertised as the Quilt Walk (hey, I thought I’d see people walking on quilts!), but it was a walking tour. The tour guide was a former mayor of Panguitch, now in his late 70s, and he knew a lot about the town. At first it was interesting to learn about the locally-made red bricks that were used as currency back in the day, which is why there are so may red-brick buildings in the town; but, the tour got boring when he described many details about every building in the downtown area. Tom and I left feeling perplexed by the experience. The next day we attended the pancake breakfast – all-you-can-eat for $6 – yum.

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Our next stop was Grande-Staircase Escalante National Park. Unfortunately, due to recent rains, one of the places we wanted to go was in poor condition. (We had already been faced with this a few days prior, in Kanab; we sadly had to forego hiking the Wave, and went to Bryce earlier than planned.) Rather than dwelling on the hikes we could not do in Escalante, we decided to hike Lower and Upper Calf Creek Falls. They were both easy and beautiful. I was hoping to swim beside the falls, but the water was very cold – around 50*F.

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The next day, we hiked Phipps Wash. There was no trail for the majority of it, but rather, we followed a mostly dry river, navigating around dry falls and water holes. We had to bushwhack in a swampy area, and at times unexpectedly sunk ankle-deep (and a couple times knee-deep) into wet sand. We got off-trail a few times and had to consult our GPS. The end result was incredible – Phipps Arch. After getting off-route for most of the way back to the car, we agreed that the hike had been fun, but less so because of the ambiguity of the trail described in our guidebook; a 3-4 hour hike turned into a 6-hour hike.

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Escalante NP is great – free camping, less touristy than other parks, and beautiful. Fingers crossed that the washed-out roads to Peek-a-boo and Spooky Gulch are better today. If we can’t hike there, we may move on to our next destination – Capital Reef National Park.

Thanks for reading!