Forest Dwellers in the Canyonlands

We arrived in Moab after dark, no idea of where we would stay. Well, actually, I had used my Iphone to ferret out the Lazy Lizard Hostel while we were in Salt Lake City—but we must still ground-truth each location. In this case, that means that Specifically, Steve needs to hear the “old fashioned way” from people that this is a good choice, and that no other possibilities, preferably free, offer themselves. After checking into various dark alleys and cul-de-sacs, and stopping for a meal and beer at the Moab Brewery, I state I would really like the restful energy of the hostel and abruptly, it becomes the perfect choice, as though all along, it was waiting for us.

Thus, in our usual fashion, The Lazy Lizard becomes our home over Thanksgiving, offering free wifi, electricity, showers and kitchen and living room and lots of conversations with travelers. Anyone who has ever heard our stories about traveling knows how much we have loved hostels, all over the world. It is especially nice to continue to sleep in our own bed, while enjoying the companionable communal shared spaces. The Great Oracle (Google) also informed us of a free community dinner. Luckily, this was confirmed by many posters around town.

First, we took an amazingly wonderful Thanksgiving hike up Negro Bill Canyon, where Jack was one of many dogs who paraded with their owners (yep, dogs can go on BLM land), and mostly kept his feet dry from numerous stream crossings with astounding leaps from bank to bank, and followed that up by sitting down to eat turkey dinner with several hundred other people.

The next day, we took another wonderful hike on BLM land to Corona Arch. By now, we can see Jack slowing down a bit, and today his feet are sore from all the slippery sand. He had a few adventures, including nonchalantly jumping down a steep drop off, and then not being able to get back up until I helped by literally pulling him up by the skin after he got his front paws up.

The next day, he faced a slick rock incline with a nearly vertical angle. Luckily there was a metal chain for humans to hold onto from foothold to foothold, and once again, his loose skin became a handle as we half encouraged him, half dragged him up (and down) the perpendicular section of the trail. He has been an easy and happy companion, ever eager to go where humans go, and do what humans do, no matter how weird. He also waits in the van patiently for hours while we imbibe, visit, and sometimes sleep inside the homes of friends. And he is mostly a good sport about us digging into his paws to get out the thorns that find a home in his paws. All in all a darn good traveler, even though some of you might be surprised to hear it, if you have experienced Overly-Boisterous Jack, you’ll just have to take our words for it!


We reminisce as we drive on the top of the Canyonlands about our trip on the Green River last April. Those seven days in a canoe were a highlight for both of us. The oldest layer of rocks here—the Rico Formation—formed during the Permian-Pennsylvanian period: 275 million years. The youngest—Navajo Sandstone— formed during the Jurassic period, 175 million years ago. One of the things about the Canyonlands with that you can see all the layers in between: 100 million years of layers. That feels restful to me. It is as close to eternal as my little brain can grasp. By now, I have less trouble dismissing the high-strung modern human and seeing through Native eyes. I perceive the Rock Nations, and by doing so, make the rocks sentient, and suddenly I see the earth as alive in a real way and these ancient beings watching the flicker of human existence around them. There is much the Human Nations will do to injure the earth, but little will change in these silence-singing chasms For some reason I cannot fully articulate, this calms me.

After a night at Dead Horse State Park, overlooking the Colorado River, we continue to Escalante, in Capitol Reef section of Canyonlands, down lonely, heart-stopping gorgeous roads. By mid-day, the sun is warm; we strip down to tee-shirts and shorts. Sub-freezing nights demand down coats, gloves and wool hats. Traveling in Utah is a kinship with the Elementals. Away from our snug homes, we brush our teeth outside, pee outside, eat outside. Sky and sun, moon and stars lift our eyes. We become hypersensitive to every nuance of air and wind, subtle sage scents carried lightly, aware that a powerful gust would spiral sand and dust to damage cameras and upend camp gear. Water anywhere is the obvious miracle that we so easily take for granted.  We find a desert spring: and thirsty Jack is grateful.

We cross over and over the lonesome winding rivers of the American landscape, and suck in our breath as the highway tilts out over the big canyons and gulches they carve. The tracks of a destructive flash flood are eerily plain as we hike along a stunning dry gulch that is obviously not always dry; we listen closely to the radio weather report and (I) input different locations on the Iphone as we both scan the horizon for the possibility of rain.  The dual nature of Fire is always present; at night, we huddle close around the campfire and find comfort in the homey flicker of the candle while the threat and evidence of wildfire are ever present. Our feet pound seemingly solid earth on our daily hikes, while all around us, we see upheavals and cracked rock that are proof of the constantly moving terrain.

Our own lives become more elemental, taking things into our bodies, and discharging them back into the great cycles of energy that swirl around our planet. And we regard the things around us differently: a dropped rubber band is carefully saved for future need, a dented plastic water bottle vigilantly preserved and appreciated as it fills and refills with water. It is dark by 5:30, so if we have electricity, that is welcomed as a luxury, and if we don’t we make do with battery power. It is not surprising that by 7PM, we are very nearly ready for bed.

The three of us on a boat. That’s how it feels. Like we are on a very small boat. Steve listens to the radio as he drives. Jack forces his way through whatever we have on the floor so he can lie directly between us. I write when I can while we drive as the rest of the time is surprisingly full of activity. The nights in the van are comfy, if tight, with all three of us sleeping in it. If one of us is moving, the other must hold still. Jack keeps his talent as an Origami dog, folding up tight and small and hardly moving as we negotiate around him.

Sorry this is long. The stops to get to the internet are few and far between in this remote part of the country. Now approaching The Grand Canyon and still haven’t shared about Bryce and Zion!


One comment on “Forest Dwellers in the Canyonlands

  1. dear shann and steve, so wonderful to read your stories about such great people, places–and adventures. thank you! All blessings & safe travels. janet

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