Friday, June 26, 2015

Trip Report: Canyonlands National Park, UT

   Southern Utah has always been a place near and dear to my heart. Growing up in Salt Lake City, outdoors destinations like Moab, Torrey, and Escalante were just a short drive away and made for the perfect weekend getaway. This past May, I went back to my happy place for the first time since moving to Ann Arbor. Upon arriving in Salt Lake City, I packed up my car with various gear and hit the road. Four hours later, I arrived at my campsite outside of Canyonlands National Park ready to relive my favorite Utah memories and make some new ones along the way.

Clouds moving in near Canyonlands National Park, UT.

    First: the weather. The state of Utah consists of mostly high altitude deserts where rain is rare, even in the spring. That doesn't mean you shouldn't pack for the unexpected: the moment I pulled into Canyonlands to do some trail running on the afternoon of Day 1, the sky opened up and a torrential downpour nearly washed me out. Luckily, I packed my Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic Jacket. The Stretch Ozonic jacket features a durable waterproof laminate membrane with high-mobility stretch paneling that makes it my first choice for any high-output activity like running or climbing. Forget the rain - I was ready to run! No matter how prepared I was, the trails were another story. Every line had become a gully, a sandy river of former trail now racing to the end of the plateau and plunging over the edge. It was quite a sight, and an unforgettable experience to move through!

    When I got back to my car at the end of the rainy run, I was caked in red, sandy mud from my knees down. Honestly, I was really surprised I hadn’t rolled an ankle considering the unsteady ground conditions. Even though my trail shoes were old, my tried-and-tested Brooks TrueGrit 2 held up like champs. Plus, my Icebreaker socks kept my feet warm and dry even as the rain and mud evaporated. I normally run in synthetic socks, so the Merino was a nice and welcome change.

Scenic Byway 128, Moab, UT.

    One of the most amazing things about Canyon Lands is how overwhelmingly expansive it all is. The entire park is situated on top of a massive red rock plateau, sitting a whole 2,000 ft above the desert floor below. From the edge, you can see for miles across the vastness of southern Utah.

    After attempting to clean up by the Visitor Center, I headed back to my campsite, where it promptly proceeded to rain even more. The instant I threw on my tent's rainfly, the downpour restarted and I hunkered down for shelter until morning. The rain continued all night, but my Mountain Hardwear tent kept me nice and dry. Even after 15 years of heavy use, their gear (specifically their tents) just improves with age. I can also tell you that the Cat’s Meow sleeping bag by The North Face is a wonderful investment. I'm the proud second owner of this family hand-me-down, and just like the decades-old tent, it's still going strong. Because it's a synthetic bag, the Cat's Meow was perfect for the out-of-season humid and rainy weather I was experiencing. Its breathable coating kept me both warm and dry without roasting me alive like a down bag would.

Fisher Towers, Moab, UT.

    The next day, I dried of all my waterlogged belongings and met up with a couple of friends to hike Fisher Tower and the Onion Creek Slot Canyon, two of Moab's most famous sights. I brought my Nalgene backpack and insulated bladder to keep my water - and my lunch - cold. The hike started out looking a little questionable weather wise, but by 11am it was absolutely gorgeous outside. We spent the day hiking, taking pictures, and attempting to catch geckos (key word: attempting. They’re really fast!)

Morning Glory Arch, Moab, UT.

    We ended the day with a short evening hike: the Negro Bill Canyon trail to see Morning Glory Arch. Rain clouds cut our sightseeing time short, so we went back to our campsite to make dinner and stargaze for the rest of the night.

    A note about stargazing: if you ever get the chance to spend a night in southern Utah, just look up. The Midwest has some stars, but the population density of the Detroit suburbs means there are enough lights to just spoil the splendor. Canyonlands is another story. The same uninhabited deserts that make the landscape so beautiful during the day don't just magically fill with cars and strip malls at night. Outside of Moab, there is absolutely no light pollution. As a result, the sky is absolutely brilliant. You can see everything - stars, planets, galaxies, constellations, all of it. It's an incredible sight to see.

 Canyonlands National Park, UT.

    For my last day in Moab, I went back to Canyon Lands and headed out to Upheaval Dome. The Dome is a geological anomaly: a circular crater structure 3 miles across, circumscribed around the remains of an eroded dome structure. The area is considered something of a geological mystery, with no certain explanations as to why the crater formed. If you like geology, topography, or even just a good 'ol meteor impact theory, you can read all about Upheaval Dome here.

    After my lunch on top of a very large boulder on the wall of the Dome, I headed back to my car to continue my journey across Southern Utah. Even though I was only in Moab and Canyonlands for three full days, it was well worth the trip! For me, coming back after so many years away felt like a pilgrimage back to my outdoors home. For any first time visitors, well - you'll just have to see it to believe it. If you ever travel out West, you have to go to Moab and Canyonlands!

~Alexa W. -Women's Technical Apparel


Bivouac: Where Outdoor Passion Meets Indoor Passion.

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