This was my first trip to southern Utah, one I wanted to make for years. With David Martin, who hiked with me at Chaco a year earlier, and Jamie Harrel, who had never been hiking in the desert, we set out on November 2, 2002.
• Driving to Gallup, New Mexico
I initially thought we might camp somewhere along Interstate 40 in New Mexico, but we didn’t make very good time, and it was dark by the time we reached Tucumcari, so we ended up driving through to a Super 8 Motel in Gallup, New Mexico.
• Four Corners, Making Camp at Canyonlands, and Hiking
We got up early and drove from Gallup through Shiprock, New Mexico, past Barber Peak, then through Four Corners, where we stopped and make some touristy photos of each other standing in four states at once.
Just north of the four corners monument was a wash with a handsome yellow cottonwood, which I wanted to photograph, and where Jamie wanted to collect a sample of sand.
We arrived at the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park in southeastern Utah at about 2 pm. After setting up camp, we hiked the short Squaw Flat trail.
We enjoyed a cold and silent night in the Squaw Flat Campground. As we had hoped there was no rain, few people, and absolutely fantastically beautiful skies and scenery.
We huddled together in our tent. Jamie was very cold as she slept in a borrowed sleeping bag between David and me; it was apparently a kid’s bag and was very thin and didn’t keep her warm. David woke up every couple of hours because he was too warm and took off a sweater or sweatshirt. Every time he woke up after that, he discovered that Jamie had put it on.
At some point during the night, David and Jamie say I sat upright and said, “Sand animals made of sand! No one ever gets that joke!” They say I then went back to sleep.
• Hiking to Chesler Park at Canyonlands
We hiked the Chesler Park trail in the Needles District of Canyonlands, hiking for almost all the daylight hours. We had a great time. Everything was beautiful; the light, the trails, the canyons, the sky. We totaled about 11 miles round trip.
Because Jamie was so cold during the night before, we decided to stay in Moab.
• Arches National Park
The light and sky continued to be perfect. We hiked to Delicate Arch in Arches National Park. Jamie’s knees were really hurting her, and at one point she thought she might not make it, but when we finally topped that last ridge and the arch with the snow-capped La Sals in the background, she realized it was worth it.
Jamie took a nap next to a boulder not far from Delicate Arch while David and I explored, including hiking down into a deep sandstone bowl below the ridge.
We saw several other excellent spots under a cerulean sky, and wished we could spend three weeks in the canyons.
After Delicate Arch, we hiked around in The Windows and The Garden of Eden.
The November skies were clear and deep blue.
• Island in the Sky at Canyonlands
Jamie dreamed a bear lived in a tree outside her house, and kept calling her on his cell phone to try to coax her up into the tree.
Our first stop was Dead Horse Point.
Our next stop for the day was the Island in the Sky district of Canyonlands. We visited Grand View Point, followed by David and me hiking the one mile long White Rim Overlook trail, while Jamie napped on a picnic table.
We drove south from Moab, stopping for dinner at Navajo Twin Rocks in Bluff. We continued into the night and finally stopped for the night in Grants, New Mexico.