Back in December, Jim finished his masters degree in environmental humanities. He processed a huge set of records at work (he’s an archivist for the state) on a proposed missile system that would have taken up huge chunks of Utah and Nevada, and it ended up being the jumping point for all things atomic for him. His thesis (which he actually didn’t even NEED to write, but he’s an overachiever) ended up tying that failed system into the web of the nuclear west, while trying to grapple with how different groups of people view and treat the same spaces. Anyway, after two and a half years of him in grad school (while also working full-time for the state), we were both pretty stoked about the end being near. So when he successfully defended his thesis on a sunny Thursday afternoon, we immediately took off on Friday for the desert to celebrate. The destination: Canyonlands. We’d been to the Island in the Sky district before, but never the others (The Needles, The Maze, and the river). We want to tick each off, no matter how slowly.
We booked a yurt, yes a YURT, for two nights just north of Monticello and just south of the turn-off to The Needles. We arrived at night, so after warming the frigid yurt with the woodstove, we snuggled in to bed in comfort. Come morning, however, long after the embers had cooled, we woke up nearly frostbitten! But I suppose it was December, after all! With a big hike planned for the day, we would waste no time warming up the yurt, instead opting to hit the road for The Needles (and blast the car’s heater to warm ourselves up). The Needles is pretty remote, and not nearly as visited as the Island in the Sky district (which is just outside Moab). The drive was beautiful and we saw no one. That is how I like my desert. Lonely. Along the way, we stopped at Newspaper Rock to see some awesome rock art. It was neat.
Our trek for the day would be an 11-mile trail (roundtrip) through The Needles to Druid Arch. The trail was lonely and wonderful. We passed only a handful of people the entire day (most of whom were hiking other trails that happened to converge with ours).
Exhausted after the hike, we drove back to the yurt at sunset and proceeded to kick back next to the fire while reading, drinking wine, and listening to Nick Cave’s White Lunar. It was pretty much the greatest day ever.
Heading home the next day, we stopped at Arches to hike to Delicate Arch. It’s such an easy, fun hike that we simply must do it whenever we’re in the area… so we did.
Although the trip was wonderful, it was nice to get back to heat. We loved the yurt and would stay there again, just probably not quite so late in the year.