In 2018 I was in Moab for a 100 mile run through the La Sal Mountains on an incredibly difficult course known as the Ute. On that trip, I saw enough of Moab to realize going there for a run was almost missing the point. So the dreams of the slick rock and unique desert landscape finally materialized into another trip, along with some serendipity to facilitate the journey.
June 19-28, 2021
A year of COVID lockdown was more than enough. It only incentivized our household to be outdoors more than usual, though, a sense of gloom was starting to take hold from having been penned up in the suburban doldrums we call home. With all of us fully vaccinated, we felt a trip somewhere “good” was in order and Utah is easily at the top of list of good places.
On the previous trip, I came away with the sense that Moab is a jumble of good things, like a sweet and salty curry soup you can never get enough of. It’s a place to begin and end outdoor adventures, it’s a desert oasis, the gateway to the La Sal Mountains, and it’s a place of cultural heritage and history.
While working on my thesis last year, I met Bob and Margie, who are an awesome couple of folks that made this trip really special. They are former race directors of an old-school ultra known as Run on the Sly 50 and their roots run deep in both the Western States 100 and the Tahoe Rim Trail 100, where they regularly volunteer their time. Aside from being involved in the ultradistance community, Margie is also a talented artist who donates all of the proceeds from her art to various groups involved with humanitarian and environmental causes.
When I met Margie, she didn’t know, but I was already dreaming about making another trip to Moab (for me, it’s always daydreams about the Eastern Sierras or Utah) so, when she extended an invitation to stay at her home in Moab, I couldn’t help but take her up on it.
Sanda and the kids were all in. We left early summer, hoping to avoid wildfires both in Utah and after returning when I had trips to the Sierra planned. We mostly dodged the smoke, but these days, that’s getting hard to do. My plan was to do this trip as a family and to be intentional not to build a race or any running into it. I’ve spent a disproportionate amount of time running around trails with friends and wanted this to be a trip that didn’t center around my thing for once.
Instead, we put some really fun stuff on the agenda including a jet boat ride on the Colorado River, an all-day zip-line tour above the slickrock, 4-wheeling, and mountain biking. Suffice to say, this trip was beyond awesome!
It was a change of pace for sure; the activities we would normally do tend to be quieter and slower-paced. While the adrenaline was wearing off, we did some hiking, browsing art at local shops, chilling at the parks and pool (which has a high dive – that was fun!), and taking in some sights.
Izze loved the fast and wild jet boat ride to the affect of “this is the best experience of my life!” Ziplining (on her b-day) was her second favorite. Matteo had a blast on the zip lines too. He and I both agreed the mountain biking was super fun, super challenging, and at times, scary — in a good way. We mostly hit up the trails around Sand Flats and Slickrock, but also checked out Navajo Rocks. Needless to say, we’re thinking about a spring trip already 🙂
At one point, we chatted with a local guide, then followed her and her client for a little while. She didn’t realize it, but she towed Matteo into one of the biggest ledge drops he’d ever done at the time. He thought she was taking the easy line, haha!
Arches was beyond crowded, so we focused on Canyonlands and WOW – my mind was blown. I’ve been to Arches a couple of times now, and honestly, I will definitely prioritize Canyonlands when I return. The views were amazing in every direction and we only had time to visit one district of the park (Island in the Sky). Apparently, rock formations and huge canyons in the Earth are my jam. The La Sal Mountains made a cool backdrop to the maze of orange rock.
Bob and Margie’s home was a relaxing haven, full of art and good energy, which made it the perfect place to kick back in and use as a base for jumping off to adventures in any direction, or just wandering into town to browse art and grab a cold drink. We are so grateful to them for sharing it with us while they were away. Utah is under my skin on a level that’s only matched by the High Sierra. The thoughts of returning started almost as soon as we left. – JD
Pass here and go on, you’re on the road to heaven. ~ Jack Kerouac