Adventures in Abbeyland

After plans fell through for a long weekend in California campering, I decided to head up to my beloved Southern Utah and visit Abbeyland with the dogs.

Pugsly was an excellent navigator.

As we headed toward Thursday nights camping spot outside of Mormon Lake, Az, a downed tree blocked our way! Oh no!

I summoned my super-powers and moved the tree out of the way with brute strength! (Pugsly might have helped a little)

We found a nice spot to overnight and settled in.

Friday travels took us through John Wayne country: Monument Valley.

It’s pretty amazing area.

Fridays plan was to go up Moki Dugway (it was constructed in 1958 by Texas Zinc, a mining company, to transport uranium ore from the “Happy Jack” mine in Fry Canyon to the processing mill in Mexican Hat.) Instead, I decided to explore a bit. There is a road at the base of the climb up Moki Dugway called “Valley of the Gods Road”. How could I resist checking that out? The dirt road wound around and parallelish to a pretty major wash. Of course, I wouldn’t know about that until after I’d found a beautiful campsite.

It’s wonderfully isolated. This was a dirt road off of the dirt Valley of the Gods road.

I checked in with my mom, who mapped my location. She noticed a wash not far. I took Argos for a walk, and found it 100 feet away. After some consultation, and sky-watching, I decided to move camp lest I get washed away in a flash flood. Mom recommended I camp up top of Moki Dugway. That sounded pretty fantastic, so up the crazy, scary switch-backs I drove.

We took a pit-stop on the twisty-turny hair-piny road and Argos took survey of the land below.

Unfortunately, as I drove up the Moki Dugway (SR261), a storm was approaching. My mom who has been there before was helping me navigate via phone. She instructed me to turn left down the dirt road off the SR261 and drive on it for three miles, where it would open up to an amazing view.

The road did indeed open up to an amazing, and vertigo inducing, view. However, right after I got parked and camper set up, it started to rain. Then pour. The storm finally cleared, with enough daylight for me to enjoy the beautiful vista.

Set up for the night on top of Moki Dugway

That night, the wind blew something fierce, and I had imaginings of being blown right off of the cliff. It caused some pretty good anxiety. Luckily for me (not so much for my dear friend who was on the receiving end) I had cell service. We texted back and forth for a while and she sent me articles about how rare it was for a camper to actually blow over. And it would take some gale-force winds. Of course, in my mind, this was close to hurricane level, so I was only somewhat comforted. Finally, not long after midnight, the wind blew itself out and I was able to get to sleep. 

I woke up to a beautiful morning. After breakfast and walking the dogs, I left to head north to meet a friend of mine outside of Moab. Unfortunately, while I was getting camp broken down, a dense fog rolled in.

This weekend I had one job for this adventure up to southern Utah. It was to trek up one of the most dangerous roads in the U.S. and get a photo of the sign to Muley Point.

I left into the fog and kept watch for a sign for Mulay Point, but didn’t see any signs.

I had one job. One stinking job….

Saturday morning meant visiting with my friend Melissa! When my plans changed suddenly last week, I scrambled to make new plans. Melissa lives up in Logan, Utah, and I thought she might be crazy enough to drop everything and meet me halfway-ish, so I sent her a note on Wednesday (I planned to leave my cottage Thursday after work). She was up for the adventure! However, because of work, she couldn’t leave until Saturday. We arranged to meet at a rest stop about 30 miles south of Moab around 11am. That’s as far as our planning went.

I left the Moki Dugway and had a very uneventful drive down the backside – still SR261 and drove North, East, then North again back on 191 towards Monticello, past turn offs for Canyonlands. It was difficult to drive by, but Canyonalands was for another day.

Our meeting location was right next to Hole n” the Rock. Which isn’t near as interesting as I thought it would be. Well, it is pretty neat, but I thought there would be a hole. in a rock. Turns out, it was a home carved into the rock, and a tourist trap.

Fortuitously, I had actually missed the turn for our meetup rest area and had to drive an extra 2.3 miles before I found a turn-around spot. I turned right into what looked like a trailhead for horse riders. I did a u-turn in the parking area, and was getting ready to pull back on the highway when I saw a car with a camper trailer pulling out from a dirt road across the way. Curious….

It was early afternoon by the time Melissa arrived at the rest stop next to Hole N” The Rock. I made some lunch and we took a walk through the sagebrush to see what this rock hole was. When we got back to our vehicles, it was later afternoon and we talked about where to camp. I mentioned the dirt road and so we left her car at the rest stop, and piled into my truck for a scouting mission.

The dirt road was BLM land and appeared to be a popular OHV area. Kane Creek Canyon Rim. Past that “2 miles” of no camping, there were some nice camping areas!

We saw a number of four-wheelers and dirt bikes riding around. We also found a perfect camping spot with a gorgeous view of snow-capped mountains. Mount Peale?

We had to retrieve Melissa’s car. What happens when you put two Chicagoans in the woods? They save their camping spot with a chair, of course!

We got her car, and set up camp. I wish I had a picture that could capture how beautiful this spot was, but this is the best I got.

I’ve gotten to where when I pull the truck up, I can tell if it’s level – or close to it. This time, I was spot on!

There was enough daylight left for us to explore the area some. Argos and Pugsly enjoyed getting out of the truck!

After nightfall, it drizzled some, so we hung out in the camper, played cards, and enjoyed some single-malt scotch. We headed to our respective beds and slept soundly.

Today, Sunday, was a driving day. After a freakishly good breakfast at Eklecticafe in Moab, UT (seriously, if you go to Moab, eat at this place. Enormous, delicious portions and super nice staff even with a line going out the door) we said our good-byes and headed in opposite directions.

I didn’t make it to Arches, or to Canyonlands, but it’s foolish to try to jam that much into one long weekend. This was a fantastic trip, even with the night of insomnia due to fear of being thrown off a cliff by Mother Nature. There are so many places to boondock in these beautiful areas, I could easily spend weeks (or much more) exploring. One day….

 

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Tetris

I wrote this the other day about my last grandparent dying.
generational shift r.i.p.

I keep picturing a Tetris game, where you complete a row and it ker-thunks down and that row falls off into a digital void.

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The loss of the last of my grandparents feels like that row ker-thunking away. There is no bringing it back, and the game keeps pushing on. If you stop, everything piles up into a chaotic, frantic mess. But the loss of that row is a little scary. It implies that the next row, my parents, are next. Then I’m up.

And the game pushes inexorably on.

in contact

I now have two cell phones. One is for work, one is my personal phone, and I have them with me all the time. My friends make fun of me for having two phones and for having them with me 24/7. I keep them on, albeit low, at night. Since I’m a light sleeper, it works for me. People have asked me why I don’t turn them off at night. Why would I want to risk having my sleep interrupted?

My dad was in the hospital one day eight years ago. He was unresponsive, but still alive. I missed the call in the early evening from my grandma. When she finally got in contact with me a couple of hours later, it was past the time of the last flight out of O’Hare that would have brought me to him. To say goodbye.

Instead, I arrived in the morning, steps away after the moment of his death.

There is no such thing as control. It’s an illusion. I try to not make decisions based on fear, or let fear control my actions. As we all know, fear is the mind-killer….But we all have irrational things that we allow ourselves to believe, fears that we let rule. This is my concession. I feel like I have a modicum of control, even if it is just over receiving a call.

Now, I keep my phones close. It gives me a small comfort to know that people whom I love can find me if they need me.