26 ~ March 2023
The weather was bad most of the days the dogs and I camped up high on a mesa out in southeast Utah, but the solitude was perfect. In six days not another person or vehicle came by. Fortunately it never rained or snowed all day, so we got plenty of hiking in. The first day I never shedded my winter coat, it was so cold. Nights were cozy in my four season tent, even when it rained during the night. (I brought along a portable heater and fired it up occasionally).
I always leashed the dogs up when we were traveling near canyon rims, and grew more at ease next to the long drop offs. When there was a subcliff below the first one we lingered right on the edge. (so there would be something to catch us, instead of a long fall down to the bottom). Little Jess sat there and stared out at the gorgeous view, and made me wonder what she was thinking. I know that she loved the freedom and wide open spaces, and scurried around so light on her feet exploring that she reminded me of a coyote. And so I started calling her ‘Jessie Coyote,’which seemed to fit how she was out there.
Since I got back I have been reading about the history of the Ancient Pueblo People, the Anasazi. My favorite part of that whole timespan is how the early people, the basket makers, created beautiful anthropomorphic paintings on the canyon walls, like you see in the Grand Gallery of Horseshoe Canyon. David Roberts, in his excellent book ‘In Search of the Old Ones’, stated that there are so many Anasazi petroglyphs and pictographs on rocks and canyon walls in the Southwest that any person could only see a fraction of them in a lifetime.
One of my favorite pastimes while walking the cliff rims is to look for ancient juniper trees, which can be 1000 years old. It is amazing and beautiful how they twist during the slow growth, and how in periods of drought they will cut off some of their living tissue so the rest will survive. Whenever we came by one of the old magnificent ones, Hayley had this curious behavior of always finding a spot near the trunk, sheltered by the branches, and would dig out a bed to lay in. She did this again and again. Could she have been sensing the spirit of these ancient beings? Hayley is 12 now, and like Mollie last year, is starting to feel her age. Late in the day on our last day of hiking I could tell she didn’t want to go out again, so I let her sleep in the truck.
After six days camping, and with another storm coming in, I loaded up and headed into Green River to use the Motel6 as our basecamp for the remainder of the days. Me and the dogs had made it through enough bad weather camping for one trip.
Unfortunately several hikers were trapped in a slot canyon during the storms that passed over while I was down there. (in Buckskin Gulch). Read more about that here: https://www.foxweather.com/weather-news/buckskin-gulch-river-flooding-rescue-operations I hiked during the rainy days but stayed out of the slot canyons.
More March 2023 journal notes:March 17:
Made it back from canyon country with no incidents on the road. It is always great to return home to my house and chickens in the back. (they layed 24 eggs today!) But I am proud and glad to have gone out of my comfort zone and headed out to the wilds of Utah, even though the weather was unsettled for most of the time. Bad weather results in great photos. I am not sure where I first heard the idea that if you want to see nature at her finest, go out in the storm so you can be there for the clearing.
It always feels like soul time when I go out alone with the dogs like that. There is plenty of time for introspection, and invariably causes me to feel gratitude for how my life has gone. I come home with a determined resolve to appreciate each day ahead of me.
And as soon as I get home I am jotting down notes on where to camp next time - maybe a little higher in the Henry or Manti La Sal mountains, if it is closer to spring.
And you can be sure I will enjoy some social contact tomorrow night, dancing at the Rose. I will go prepared to try to dance early, and then take a break if the floor gets crowded later in the evening, then dance again as it starts to thin out.March 16:
Beau and Hayley are more than happy to rest after 8 days of hiking. Six month old Jess finds a stick to run and jump with. At 71, I am right there with Beau and Hayley. But what a joy it is to see how much pure happiness Jess takes in joining our adventures and in her new life.
Today it rained all day, but fortunately just a light rain up where the dogs and I were hiking. We got to see streams and pools develop in what is normally a dry landscape. The colors brought out by the moisture were something special. Little Jess was fascinated with all the water, and I caught her investigating and playing in the streamlets several times.
I had a perfect first date a couple of months ago, a long walk where we talked for hours, and then continued our conversation over dinner. She was pleasant and easy to talk to, and attractive, so much that it scared me. I haven't contacted her since then, because it would most likely be downhill from there. I am not much of a catch, being the kind of man who spends most of a week alone with border collies, in a place so remote neither a person or another vehicle came by. I didn't play any music the entire time, just let the sacred quiet and the sound of breeze through the junipers settle deep inside. I would just end up disappointing her.
It rained hard for a couple of hours yesterday evening, which was the third straight day there was rain or snow part of the day. It is going to be a glorious spring of wildflowers out here in canyon country. This morning there is a hard frost, and I had to sit my coffee pot in the fire to thaw out the frozen shut lid. My six month old border collie puppy sat on my lap while we warmed from the fire. She is not afraid of it like Hayley and Beau are. That is her personality, not fearful of hardly anything, but still smart enough to be safe. Mollie was not afraid of fire either, and used to sit by it on cold mornings. Another thing in common Jess has with .Mollie is when I was taking star photos two nights ago, Jess was out by my side, just like Mollie used to do. The similarities have got me thinking about the possibility of a spirit being reincarnated. But It is amazing how this little pup has brightened up me and Beau and Hayley's lives. She really is having the best time out here in the Utah desert, getting an education on what freedom and wide open spaces are all about
It was raining when I got into the tent last night and continued for half the night. At least that's what I think because I was sound asleep after all the hiking we did yesterday. In the morning it started raining again and instead of dealing with the cold and wet, I fired up my portable heater and the dogs and I slept late in our cozy warm tent. There was sun for a couple hours this morning but then clouds moved in and eventually it rained again, but only for about an hour. Late this afternoon I could see a line of clear sky down just above the horizon. So after dinner the dogs and I hiked up to be in the perfect spot in case the sun came out and lit up the red rock. And that is what happened. All of a sudden the sun spread out over the landscape and the wall of sandstone next to us turned a firey red!
Yesterday it rained and snowed for about five hours - a brutal day camping. Today is looking better, with the clouds shifting east and some patches of blue sky. I am going to stuff carrots and peanuts in my pockets and do some hiking before the weather changes again.
There is a special spot that I have hiked to three times now. It is a small sheltered basin protected on every side by sandstone hills.. There are shards from arrowhead making all over the area. It seems like it was a place where the native Americans liked to camp. Also they could have come there to collect pinion nuts. On my first trip there with Tricia, we found some oblong stones that could have been pestles, used to grind seeds or nuts on the sandstone slabs in that spot. These photos are from yesterday evening.
There's something about this country that touches me deep inside. I absolutely love it out here. The dogs are having a great time exploring on this cold day. Haley at over 12 years old now takes a chance to rest whenever she can.
We set up camp at 9 PM last night and then got a good night's sleep. Today is overcast with a chance of rain or snow but we're ready to go out exploring.
“Wherever you go, go with all your heart"