Winter Journey – Horsethief to Big Bend – November 2016

Friday November 11th, after a long layover in Salt Lake City in the wee hours of the morning, it is with great relief that I board an uncrowded bus that takes me to Moab, where Clifford is waiting. We get propane and a few groceries, before going to the Moab Brewery for a good lunch. Then on out to Horsethief campground just outside Canyonlands NP where Clifford camped while I was gone.

Clifford’s campsite at Horsethief Campground

It is a big campground with roomy sites and views of the mesas; it would be nice to stay here for awhile, but the 14-day limit has been reached. I unpack my bags as Clifford and I catch up the news. I am exhausted, feeling caught between two worlds.

Sunset at Horsethief Campground

Saturday November 12th Since I am up before Clifford, I go for a walk on the trail near our campsite, getting photos of the sunrise. I like it here; too bad we have to move.

Sunrise at Horsethief Campground

As soon as Clifford is up, we pack up and head toward Moab and east on Highway 128. We are fortunate to find an available site at the Big Bend Campground along the Colorado River, about six miles out from Moab.

Colorado River upstream from our campsite at Big Bend Campground
Getting set up. Notice Clifford putting up his ham radio antenna.
Colorado River downstream from near our campsite

After we get set up, we realize that we left the sensor for the weather station at the Horsethief campground, so we have to drive all the way back out there to get it.

Autumn colors along the road back to Horsethief Campground
An interesting formation along the road to Horsethief Campground
Canyonland vista

Returning to our new campsite, we take naps, only I can’t sleep, the words of Dave van Ronk’s song “Motherless Children” going through my head. I get up and write a short blog about the void in my life created by Mom’s passing. Dinner is late; I am too tired to do dishes tonight, so leave them for Clifford and go to bed.

Winter Journey – Dead Horse State Park – October 2016

View of Green River Overlook from our campsite

Sunday October 23rd, I read “Dances With Wolves” with my morning tea instead of writing in my journal – not sure that is legal! After breakfast we go to Moab to run errands and have a picnic sitting on big rocks under the trees at Lion’s Park.

Roadside view driving to Moab

On the way back to our campground, we check out the BLM campgrounds along the way: Lone Mesa is a bit too far off the highway on a washboard road; Horsethief is a future possibility. Too late to play cello by time we get back to camp and I’m feeling like I might be coming down with whatever Clifford had, so have a cup of tea and early to bed.


Monday October 24th, I finish reading “Dances With Wolves.” I don’t feel great today, but we go for a picnic at Upheaval Dome anyway. We find a picnic table with a nice view, but the wind has come up and probably not the best thing for me to be outdoors today. I am not up for the hike uphill to see the dome itself, so will have to save that for another trip.

Drive to Upheaval Dome

Back at camp, I rest, while Clifford plays with his ham radio. After dinner, Clifford does the dishes so I can go to bed. Heavy rain in the night.

Tuesday October 25th, we just have vege juice for breakfast, as we need to pack up and head on down the road to nearby Dead Horse State Park, where we are meeting friends from Colorado.

Crossing the mesa from Canyonlands NP to Dead Horse State Park


View of the canyon from Dead Horse State Park

One of my sisters calls; Mom is in the hospital again, and it could be more serious this time. I start looking into bus fares in case I need to head back to Montana; automated systems are not helpful – please give me a human being!

Clifford and I go for a hike with our friends along the West Rim Trail out to the Rim Overlook. Because of the rain last night, the depressions in the rocks are filled with rain water, which provides interesting photo opportunities.

Rock puddles and a mesa on the West Rim Trail


At Rim Overlook with the canyons in shadow

Rock puddles and junipers at Rim Overlook


Even though the canyon is in shadow, the views are spectacular.

Spectacular Views

Our friend finds a vantage point for canyon gazing

Shadows in the canyon

As we walk back to the campground, the last light of the setting sun bring warmth of color to the westward-facing mesas and our immediate surroundings. 

Last rays bring warm color to the mesa

Immediate surroundings brightened by the last light of the sun

Though I am surrounded by the scenic beauty of the area and the company of our friends, I am preoccupied with trying to figure out bus schedules and decisions about when (not if) to head to Montana. The word from my siblings is that Mom is stable and plans are being made for rehab to see if she will be able to return home or not. Maybe I don’t need to rush the bus decision yet, but I am uneasy as the day ends. 

At the day’s end

Winter Journey – Mesa Arch, Utah – October 2016

Mesa Arch, Canyonlands NP, at dawn.

Thursday, October 20th, I get up early and head out in the pre-dawn to Mesa Arch, as I want to get there in time for sunrise photos. By time I get to the parking lot, the sky is already becoming light and the parking lot is nearly full. Guess I should have come earlier! I hike to the arch and am dismayed to see the arch opening lined with photographers, shoulder to shoulder, with their fancy cameras and huge lenses on hefty tripods. There is literally no place for me to stand to get a shot of the arch that will soon reflect the glow of the rising sun. Finally some guy kneels down behind his tripod and I can shoot over his shoulder, but I still get the camera of the photographer next to us in my photo. After the sunrise glow on the underside of the arch comes and goes, several photographers move off. An interesting thing happens: after a short period of no glow, the rocks below the arch begin to reflect the sunlight up to the underside of the arch and the lovely famous glow returns.

Mesa Arch at sunrise

Now I am able to move around a bit and get several shots of the arch and the Washer Woman formation in the background.

Mesa Arch with Washer Woman formation in the background

Close-up of Washer Woman Formation

Although I am reluctant to leave, eventually I start the hike back to camp. My cell phone chirps at me; I am surprised and pleased to see that there is enough cell reception here that I am able to see that I have a phone message. I climb up a rock incline away from the trail to listen to the message and then send texts with a cell pic of the arch to my brother and my daughters. After I return the phone call, I call my mom. We have a nice visit until I lose the connection as I’m returning to the parking lot. I decide to explore another trail heading uphill away from the parking lot, hoping for a better cell connection so I can call her back. I discover that this trail leads around to the arch, coming in from a higher vantage point. Not many people are there now, so I go on down to the arch once again. Amazingly, for a few minutes, I am the only person there!

Mesa Arch – I am the only person there!

The early morning glow is fading, but to be there in the silence and the beauty of the landscape is priceless. Back at camp, Clifford is feeling worse and spends most of the day in bed. I walk down to the Green River Overlook in the afternoon, and once again, I am the only person witnessing the silence and the beauty of the landscape at this particular point on the planet.

The Green River at sunset

Friday October 21st, Clifford spends the day in bed, while I drive to the visitor’s center for water; mail a postcard of Mesa Arch to Mom so she can see where I was when I called her yesterday. Stop at the Shafter Trail Overview again and Mesa Arch, which is not nearly as dramatic as it is at sunrise.

Shafer Trail Overlook

Back at camp, I download photos and begin editing them. Walk down to the Green River Overlook in time for the sunset. 

Sunset at the Green River Overlook

Make soup for dinner, as that is something that Clifford can eat.

Saturday October 22nd, I make a campfire this morning and write in my journal. Clifford is feeling a bit better and up much of the day. We work on projects and tidy up Terry. In the afternoon, I sit outside to play the cello, and later walk down to the Green River Overlook.

Near sunset at the Green River Overlook

We have nachos for dinner and I begin reading “Dances With Wolves.” I saw the movie many years ago, but the book is better.