We had an adventure in the Canyonlands. I kept going back to misquoting some form of Yvon Chouinard's - "The whole purpose of climbing something like Everest is to effect some sort of spiritual and physical gain. But if you compromise the process you’re an asshole when you start out and an asshole when you get back.” I look at his message as, "If you try to take the easy route and not have a true adventure, you'll be the same asshole when you finish as when you started."
We wanted an adventure away from crowds and we got one.
We talked to a backcountry ranger while checking in and she mentioned a route out of the Red Lake area that would allow us to see new territory and not backtrack any of the route we did on the first day. We were excited about this. We'd get to see some other areas, like the Joint Trail (a 3/4 mile slot canyon) and perhaps another arch. We decided to take her advice and do it. There was a problem with this advice however. It led us up a canyon that had a dead end.
The dead end forced us into a much longer day than planned and being very short on water. It was mentally exhausting to have the issue of water in our heads all day, but we made some good decisions and stayed positive for the most part.
Our second night in the park was spent below a campsite that others were willing to share with us. We just couldn't safely make it to our intended spot. That evening it was great to look out on the orange spires, drink some wine, eat some super tasty food, and put our feet in the sand and laugh about it all.
Some lessons learned
- If you want to backcountry camp in a national park, get reservations way early so you have your pick. Or if not, be ready for some off-trail adventures to get where you want to go.
- Deserts are no joke, and carrying a lot of water sucks. Colorado has a lot water and Utah doesn't... backpack in Colorado :) Seriously, areas like the Canyonlands aren't to be messed with. Going off trail is fun, but without a super detailed topo you might get stuck, lost, or worse
- Like a good backpacker, ensure you setup camp in the most beautiful spot... even if that spot is below a massive boulder that could crush you in your sleep.
- Always have a back up plan. We did and it would have sucked to employ it, but it helped us stay positive
- Go with awesome people. Positive people like Henning and Leslie made it easier to push on and have fun while in a pickle.
- It's ok to not reach your goal. If it were me, I would have made it to our intended camping spot come dark, twisted ankles, or no water. This is a character flaw that at some points in my life doesn't help me. Having some reasonable people around to chill me out about silly goals always helps.
- Crappy, light beer is awesome when parched.