July 21st – Canyonlands: Land of Canyons

Neither for the first or last time we woke up to the sounds of foreign children being loud. Some dogs across the park got noisily excited about the foreign children, and before too long it was fully impossible to sleep. I suppose sleep is an unnecessary luxury after all. After the usual breakfast of oatmeal and coffee, we packed up our laundry and brought it up to the main building to clean. The morning passed relatively uneventfully as we lounged about and did laundry. Gianna hooped about while I jotted down notes about the trip, intending to one day(read: today) expand them into something a little more substantial.

Feeling refreshed in our clean clothes, we ate lunch and headed back to Canyonlands. I’d had a very bad time there a few days ago, but I was sure today would be better. Though the sun shone down hotly, the 40 mile ride to the park entrance was delightful. I was getting pretty used to this particular road, having ridden it dozens of times now, and I began to ride it a bit more daringly. Without the hundreds of pounds of extra gear, the bike felt quite light and nimble as I leaned hard through the twisty switchbacks.

I passed the camera back to Gianna when we stopped to present our pass to the ranger operating the entrance booth. We were off. As it’s name implies, Canyonlands National Park features really epic canyons. The park roads wound about on the tops of the canyons, frequently running alongside dramatic sheer drops, or bridging over narrow gaps a hundred feet deep or more. The park was much more desolate than Arches, much less developed. The speed limit was quite a bit higher, too, which was nice in the heat.

We were both pretty tired from poor sleep the night before, and we hadn’t gotten to the park as early in the day as we’d hoped, so it was going to be mostly a day for riding around. We did do 2 relatively short hikes, a 1 mile loop, and I believe a 3 mile loop. The shorter loop took us along the very edge of a large canyon, and provided a really spectacular panoramic view of a landscape so grand my depth perception could barely make sense of it. The longer loop took us far out into a peninsula type of formation, jutting out into the middle of the canyon, high high above the floor. Dizzyingly high. Though the winds had been relatively mild along the park roads, here they blasted through the canyon with incredible speed and force. We moved slowly around our rocky vantage point, using three-point bouldering techniques.

I get a very specific feeling from looking over the edge of something high enough to instantly kill me. My heart leaps into my throat. My soul, unconstrained by the petty concerns of gravity, pushes every fiber of my being to just leap off and experience a few moments of glorious flight. My mind fights back, and I settle for just leaning way out over the edge. There’s something profound about staring into the abyss. It’s like passing death in the hallway and receiving the “what’s up” nod. Some part of me believes death, like any predator, can smell fear, and that if you remain fearless, it will continue to pass you by.

By the time we hiked back to the bike from what I will refer to as death-view point, we were out of the water we’d brought in with us. There was no water to be had in the park, so the 5 liters we brought in our camelbacks was as much as we were going to get. Thankfully, the sun was starting to come down, and temperatures began to drop. The ride back to camp was cool and comfortable. Overall, the time may have been better spent further exploring arches, but it was still a beautiful and fairly unique piece of geography that I’m glad I took the time to explore. There’s honestly so much to do in the Moab area, it’s hard to leave without feeling like you missed out on something good, no matter how much awesome you managed to cram into your stay.

We arrived back to camp just after dark, and set about our evening rituals. This would be our final night in Moab before heading west once more. It was common for us to suddenly become done with a place we were staying, and that had finally occurred here. By the end of our day in Canyonlands, we were both filled with a strong need to move on. Fortunately, this trip was all about going with the flow, and our lack of plans or reservations made sudden relocation a pretty easy and convenient thing to do. Though Gianna had some trouble easing into the total structureless freedom this style of traveling provides, I was really enjoying how uprooted we had become. Life is just a little simpler when everything you need to live fits on a motorcycle.

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