As I stepped out onto my deck on Monday night, the moon held high in the sky above Moab, lighting the cliffs to the west of town in an aura of deep burnt umber and grey and white, with the snow left over from the storm that walloped us in December.
All my life I have been an avid outdoorsman. From the forest to the ocean, the foothills of Tennessee to the sands of the Gulf of Mexico (where the alligators and many a snake lives in earnest), I have grown accustomed to being in nature and living off the land. The best part about living this kind of life, one where excursions are bereft of wi-fi connections, radio station commercial breaks and four bars on a cell phone, is that everything you need to survive is usually out there. If you’re on the water, you can sustain yourself with minimal preparation to kill bacteria and other pathogens. There are fish as well, and you can bet that all those wildlife trails leading down the mountain or the canyon will feature deer, bear, rabbit or other delicious wildlife, which can keep you alive in a pinch.
Moving to Moab presented me with an extreme challenge. The beautiful and vast isolation can be a deceptive guilty pleasure. Part of me wants to run out to the desert, taking State Route 313 to the west and heading to Horsethief Campground before strapping on my pack and heading due southwest to the nearest canyon entrance, which I believe is Mineral Canyon, near the Fruit Bowl. I know I could make the trek — I’ve done farther walks in the desert near Gabbs, Nev., close to my parent’s home. The difference in my Silver State explorations and the environs of southeastern Utah is one of sheer magnitude. I could walk 25 miles, provided I had an ample supply of water on my back, in any direction and find humanity in Nevada. That isn’t so here. In Canyonlands it seems to me someone can get lost and end up forcing the Grand County Search and Rescue posse to come find you.
For that reason, I think I will stick to the river, at least this year.
I get my first vacation time in May, right around my 44th birthday, and I am intent on spending five or six quality days on the Colorado, preferably close to shore so I can take a sunny swim — and make a hasty escape if need be. Plus, I adore isolation and, while I don’t kid myself that the river will be full of tourists and locals unwinding on any given Wednesday afternoon, they will likely not make landfall near my camp. It will be sheer quiet, solitude and restful sleep under the stars. I’ll bring just some books, a guitar, a fish kit, my camping gear and a whole lot of food and water.
It’s a blessing that Zane Taylor, my publisher at The Times-Independent, is an expert river guide who is intimately familiar with nearly every stretch of navigable water in the region. I told him I want to go to Dead Horse Point, find a nice little shady spot to set up camp, and disappear for that stretch of days he has granted me to rest. He told me this week that it would be a tricky landing, but can be done by any number of outfitters or guides in the area. The daredevil in me also thinks I might be able to head out to Shafer Canyon and tube across at low water to the other side. I’m starting to plan this now and, along with Zane’s help, maybe readers can assist me too.
Since I am the newest of new guys to the region, I will openly admit I don’t know much of anything about the river and its awesome power. If anyone reading this knows of better places to camp, which are easy to get to by boat or hike and a tube trip, please email me and let me know. I’m looking forward to this in a big way and could use the advice.
Greg Knight is the editor of The Times-Independent. He can be reached by email at email@example.com or by calling 435-259-7525.