Sunday, August 23, 2015

A Trip to the Southwestern Wonderland

We are back from an amazing vacation in my former home, the canyons and wilderness of the Southwest.

We thought of driving and taking the dogs, but the limited time we had and the thought of the hot sun, hot rocks, and Dahlia's pale skin made us choose the more rational course of a flight instead. 

I've wanted to take Florian to Utah for a while, to see where I lived when I was a wacky 20-something following my heart. We flew into Denver and spent one night camping at nearly 11,000 feet on public lands in Colorado with only a sheet and a sarong for warmth--chilly! 

Then it was a long drive through spooky, vast desert lands to Moab, with stops in Vail and Glenwood Springs along the way.

We arrived in Moab after driving through the canyon that contains the Colorado River, where we found a nice campsite the first night. 

Then the first day I wanted to bring Florian on a hike in the canyon that I love most in Moab, the Left Hand of Mill Creek Canyon where I lived in a cave for a summer when I was 20. That trail starts out on a flat plain that goes through the sagebrush, so already your senses are alive with that evocative smell that is so essential to the Southwest.

I love this trail because you can go along the stream and enjoy the cool sparking swimming holes, 

and then climb up on the rocks and walk above the canyon where you have absolutely spectacular views. 

And then of course there's the cave--really, an alcove or just a rock overhang--I lived in, which looks much the same. 
Except there were some Anasazi petroglyphs on the wall, which I couldn't see this time

Can't believe I used to sleep there in my sleeping bag on the sand, the bats flitting in and out of the alcove, no tent no comfy inflatable mattress, and no Ambien or valerian or Benadryl either. Youth!

Beyond the cave, there are some more caves to explore and then you come to another swimming hole, which I remember was the only way deeper in to the canyon as the walls formed a corner above the pool that you couldn't get around. I know I climbed the waterfall years ago, but even as he did his best sea lion impersonation, neither Florian nor I could scale it. 

So we turned around and hiked back, enjoying the views on the way, 

and the rock art, including the petroglyphs on the black rock in the center of the picture, 

and more sage and desert wildflowers.

And that was just the first day! 

The second day, I wanted to go back to another favorite hike from when I lived in Moab. 

Dragonfly Canyon is off the road that runs along the Colorado River. What I remember about it is these amazing flat, smooth expanses of white rock that held pools of water in most seasons. 

On the way up the canyon, there was a lot of climbing up and over rocks

so it took us a long time. 

It was fun hiking with Florian because due to who he is, it was not possible at any point to just say Wow, I'm tired! We can turn around any time now. 

Instead, when we got to what looked like the end of the canyon, we turned the corner and found a nifty box canyon, 

then climbed up on the upper level 

kept going back, and discovered an arch, 

then kept hiking back until we came to the end!

Fortunately it was a relatively cool and rainy day, which was all the more magical because Florian got to see and feel and smell what it's like to sit at the end of a box canyon, 

under an overhang, below a vegetative seep, with rain trickling down over his head. 

On the way back, Florian's ingenuity and spontaneity once again came through as he spotted a trail up high above the canyon, 

which was a much faster way back to the car and had the added bonus of affording a view I had never seen before.

That night we slept in a campground pretty much across the Colorado River from Dragonfly Canyon, next to Moonflower Canyon whose name I love. So we could get up the next morning and go on another hike--stay tuned!


  1. So cool and amazing! As a native midwesterner, I'm fascinated by the landscapes of the southwest.

  2. You lived in a cave! How cool is that lady
    Lily & Edward


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