Life: Canyonlands Camps

One of my favorite things about being in the Utah desert is hanging out in camp. Yes—the climbing/biking/backpacking is all great the desert, but there’s something about being in so much wide-open space that calms the soul. I get this sense more in camp, especially at night, and especially when there’s a campfire burning.

On Night One of the recent Canyonlands backpacking trip, we camped for free in a (mostly) climbers’ campground near Bridger Jack Mesa in Indian Creek (pictured above). Memories of my time here learning to crack climb came flooding back, and I stayed up after the sun went down to watch the nightlife come alive. Mice darted around while the Spaniards next to us got louder, and the campsite across from us became animated with singing and guitar playing.

We camped at Bridger Jack so that we were close to Beef Basin Road, which we drove down the next morning to access our trailhead at Cathedral Butte. On Night Two, we set up camp and watched the storms roll in. We woke up the next morning wind-worn and decided to hang out in camp while it hailed. Cathy laughed out loud as she read Bill Bryson’s Thunderbolt Kid

…I wrote in my journal and re-read underlined sections from my copy of Edward Abbey’s Desert Solitaire.

We took a leisurely pace the next day and spent most of the afternoon hanging out by the watering hole near Kirk Cabin before retiring to our Night Three campsite in the cliffs. We had to get a backcountry permit to camp in this area, and this campsite—known as SC1—was available by reservation only.

We were the only ones at SC1, and I felt like it was a place from another time. On this trip, I was in charge of all details related to the route/routefinding, and Cathy was in charge of food. She and her husband are known for spectacular hut trip culinary displays, and I wasn’t disappointed with our fare on this trip, quite colorful here, eh?

On Day Three, we hiked back to our car at the Cathedral Butte trailhead. After two nights of scrambling to set up the tent in wind, sleet, and rain, we opted to do the ultimate car camp on Night Four. Really—we camped in the car. I believe that vehicles are useless unless you can sleep in them, and this night reminded me how comfy sleeping in my Subaru can be.

(BTW—what am I wearing there? It’s like a combo dress-pants-winter-spring-hiker-climber ensemble.)

Even car camping like this in the desert is fun. With red rock cliffs and golden evening light as the backdrop, I’m perfectly content to sleep in a car, or a tent, or right out there in the open on sandy ground.


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