UTAH (or, High & Dry)

CrossCountry Bob knew that Utah was high.  Winnie found out the hard way, guzzling gas as she climbed this pass towards 9,600 feet…

As for dry, Utah was more than one kind of dry…

Desert dry

The other kind of dry caught CrossCountry Bob by surprise.  Turns out that Utah is the driest state in America – you want a bottle of gin to replenish supplies before venturing into the backcountry? – too bad, Mr. CrossCountry Bob with your not so bright assumptions; (but in his defence, CrossCountry Bob couldn’t have imagined a place (even a place thick with Mormons) that was so much like the days of WAC Bennett in British Columbia (say 1970 or so) when liquor was only sold in government liquor stores and cash only (WAC didn’t want anyone getting drunk on credit).  But, yes, in spite of that history lesson, Utah had stepped right up to the plate and knocked it out of the park with its “State Liquor Stores” and in smaller towns, “Package Agencies”, the relevant one of which CrossCountry Bob found was open noon to 6 pm, closed weekends

The sad result of all these control issues was that Winnie was forced to venture into National Park wilderness without the sustaining power of end-of-day gin and tonic.  A gruelling proposition to be sure, but CrossCountry Bob and Paintin’ Peggie were determined.  After all, there were scenic treats as consolation…

And so, CrossCountry Bob and Paintin’ Peggie managed without, and even thrived, with high trail desert hikes providing an endless supply of often stark beauty and, even though the weather was chilly, the cold beer (left over from hot Valley of Fire) provided a reasonable end of day substitute.  Not a perfect trade-off, but workable.  And the hiking was interesting after the parking lot…

Utah might limit gin access but the supply of natural beauty was unlimited. And not just the National Parks.  The Escalante region for example…

There were also high end state parks that CrossCountry Bob and Paintin’ Peggie explored (cleverly, early in the season before the crowds but maybe not so cleverly, as winter’s bite was still active).  At Coral Pink Sands State Park that bite was a swift wind over the dunes but your intrepid duo climbed the dunes anyway…

By now, CrossCountry Bob and Paintin’ Peggie had (thought CrossCountry Bob) developed a substantial immunity to cold and wind, so Bryce Canyon National Park was next up at an elevation of over 8,000 feet.  The campground in the Park wasn’t full (Clue one) and part of the campground was closed due to snow cover (Clue two).  But, paying full attention to those clues, CrossCountry Bob and Paintin’ Peggie donned long underwear, gloves and toques before hopping onto the mountain bikes to “feel” Bryce and allow its rocks to show off their true nature…

Next up was Kodachrome Basin State Park which was a lower elevation than Bryce.  Lots of optimism by CrossCountry Bob was not misplaced as there was enough warmth for CrossCountry Bob and Paintin’ Peggie to mountain bike over some miles of great trails, ending on a ridge that someone aptly named Panorama Point…

What a day!  Loving this, CrossCountry Bob was pleased that Paintin’ Peggie had wanted a four day stay here to have a patch of down time and paint.  Kodachrome didn’t really care about those plans and the next day provided a generous helping of wind blow snow to complement the multi-hued rocks (and remind CrossCountry Bob of who really runs the show in Kodachrome)…

And once again, Winnie proved herself the core of the campaign.  Warm and snug inside, Paintin’ Peggie got a lot of painting done (and CrossCountry Bob wasn’t idle, writing part of the time and reading part of the time, and wondering part of the time whether an undiscovered side effect of omicron was temporary insanity randomly dispersed across the globe with special concentrations in government). 

CrossCountry Bob could pause here and reflect on what happened to seventy years of relative peace in Europe but that brings on concern, sadness and a sense of disbelief.  A descent into old ways with sociopathic authoritarians creeping out from under their rocks.

So, for the moment, CrossCountry Bob dropped back into the Utah landscape and its sandstone brilliance…

And arches…

Hiking through this land was a pleasure of discovery (and by the way, for those of you surprised at CrossCountry Bob hiking, that was a surprise to CrossCountry Bob as well).  In his defence, CrossCountry Bob points out that every climbing trail in the Parks yields vistas and landforms and constant reminders of how temporary each of us are.

The land is too dry for a British Columbia type forest and so, as Paintin’ Peggie notes, this is different than hiking in the forest where all you see is trees).  And a bonus, no bears to worry about and too early and cold for rattlesnakes and scorpions.  Happy days for CrossCountry Bob who last hiked through forests way back (as in long, long ago) during his brief tenure as a forestry student (no laughter or sarcastic emails please).

The final National Park for CrossCountry Bob and Paintin’ Peggie, Zion National Park, had Winnie retracing our steps after we managed to snag three nights of a very hard to come by camping site.

First glimpse of Zion coming in through the eastern tunnel…

Tunnel built in the 1930’s. Winnie had to drive down the middle to fit!

Zion was a lower elevation than Bryce or Arches and the season was already underway with people swirling like ants about a honeypot.  But a cure for that was onto the mountain bikes and cycling up the road where cars were not permitted. And this is what we saw…

Still, starting early in the day, there were a minimum number of talkers (perhaps they need extra sleep to restore vocal cords energy?) and CrossCountry Bob and Paintin’ Peggie were able to hike in relative peace up the famous Angel’s Landing route which quickly turned into a candidate for best hike of the trip, tied overall with Valley of Fire (which was Paintin’ Peggie’s top choice).

What was left after Zion?    By then, Winnie was like a horse that smells home – no matter how much you work the reins to delay the inevitable, home is where you are going.  And Spring was creeping closer up north with CrossCountry Bob tiring of American news and looking forward to simpler things such as figuring out “what is the agenda of that guy Trudeau anyway??”.  But first, a Costco stop for some of the best priced wine in America and, of course, a final clip of Americana…

First item inside Costco

And with that, CrossCountry Bob and Paintin’ Peggie are ready to leave America, a unique and beautiful land, vibrant and flawed like any, a mixture perhaps like no other. It is where CrossCountry Bob would go if there were no Canada.

Canadian essence

This won’t be the last time CrossCountry Bob and Paintin’ Peggie go to America.  But with omicron backing off, other places beckon (and other places don’t).  The world is pushing an increased sense of urgency into CrossCountry Bob now.  Don’t wait it whispers, “I promise you nothing if you wait”.

Wishing everyone well…

Goodby, America and Hello Canada!

6 Replies to “UTAH (or, High & Dry)”

  1. A lot of beautiful photos and great adventures you have shared with us. Thank you. Also great writing.

  2. Thanks for sharing your trip! -the world truly is a beautiful place, despite mankind. I loved the light play in the canyons, especially Kodachrome!

  3. Thank you both for sharing your journey in pics & posts,
    beautiful! Very inspiring, maybe one day I will travel to some of these places.

  4. I have so enjoyed your posts, Robert, and your pics, Peggie. The land you have shared with us- so untouched by dumb human beings – is truly spectacular and does remind me of my smallness.

  5. Welcome home-and what an adventure you’ve had. Beautiful pictures and more beautiful paintings I’m sure
    Impressive hiking skills-had no idea you weren’t a hiker

    Spring is sort of here but some days I wonder!

    Xo
    Marg

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