Nicolai and I have returned from our latest adventure in the desert and we are already preparing for the next, just weeks away. We had a great time, despite winds every day, clouds, cool temperatures, and a few light rain showers now and then. Happily, we were spared from torrential downpours, and flash floods. Overall the weather was strange for this time of year. We expected temperatures of 90 degrees and above, especially in the canyons, but the warmest days we experienced were right around 80 degrees.
The winds were the worst part for both of us, but my resourceful and prepared four year old son made me find his ski goggles for him just before we left saying something about the wind always blowing in Moab. I grudgingly dug them out and put them in his gear box, thinking it would be another item that would be unpacked without being touched. I was wrong and he was very happy that he had them. Windstorms didn’t keep him from having fun, or eating his dinner.
We camped at a few of our favorite sites along our route, and found a few new favorites, especially in the Moab area. One of our long-time favorite camps we call Camp 158, after the number of the BLM road leading to it. It is right on the border of Canyonlands National Park. We spent two nights there, enjoying the long views west across Canyonlands and the Abajo Mountains and south to Navajoland, the sunsets, coyotes, and the near- full moon when it managed to emerge from behind the clouds.
We had some fun hikes including one in Moab in Courthouse Wash- we did this on a hot afternoon and took advantage of the cool water running through slickrock pools. We also hiked near Canyonlands in Hatch Ranch Canyon, and on Cedar Mesa in Step Canyon. The Step Canyon hike was an overnight. We ended up walking about 7 hours each day, a lot of walking for a four year old. But he did great and was excited throughout the entire walk. We visited many ruins and looked at even more rock art panels on our hikes and around the Moab area. I will discuss them more in an upcoming post.
As usual Nicolai spotted lithic artifacts everywhere- cores, scrapers, choppers, and lots of flakes. On our overnight his eyes were open for potsherds. They were easy to spot in the bottom of the wash, and when their frequency increased, it told us there was a ruin close by. We studied them thoroughly- the different forms of corrugated wares, the polychromes, and the painted black on white sherds that are his favorite. He made some sketches of the linear designs to paint on his own pots at home. We have been working on learning handbuilding techniques and firing our pots in the firepit in our backyard.
We did lots of exploration on dirt roads. We managed to find our way to River House ruin and the main Butler Wash petroglyph panel via Comb Wash and the Mormon Trail.It was a fun drive in the Landcruiser and felt very different from the approach we are used to- by boat floating down the San Juan River. For those interested- if you do the drive you need a four wheel drive- the rocks and sand and wash driving demand it.
We studied and photographed a number of plants that we plan to post on the Desert Explorer website. We have been trying to add a new plant or mammal or lizard when we have the time, with the eventual goal of covering the more common flora and fauna of the Southwest desert. We will soon add Prince’s Plume, Golden Currant, Mountain Mahogany, and Saltbush.
After our backpack on Cedar Mesa we drove down to Mexican Hat for breakfast, as we often do. The Olde Bridge Grille has excellent American breakfasts- eggs, potatoes, toast, pancakes, and many forms of breakfast meat.
After breakfast we headed south to Monument Valley. We had every intention of finding some mutton stew, but were unsuccessful. Next time we’ll drive on to Kayenta to be sure we find it. We resupplied at Gouldings Market, and sat up near the park visitor’s center watching the mesas while we ate our lunch. We walked around the new hotel and visitor’s center there- I always find them, and the visitors we encounter, nearly as interesting as the natural features we have come to visit. Busloads of French and Russian tourists were visiting that afternoon.
Finally we headed back towards Moab and on towards I-70 for the drive home over the mountains. And now we are cleaning up and repacking for the next journey.