GET OUT: Desert dose before the snow

By on November 18, 2014

Ben Blanton on Primrose Dihedral. ELIZABETH KOUTRELAKOS

Jackson Hole, Wyoming – It was dark. My friends were gone. I felt frozen while not in my home. Sometimes, a break from the Hole will help dig me out of stagnancy. Although the recent storm has been a tempting reason to dust off my snowboard, a classic desert trip was already in the making.

I planned, concocted foods, convinced someone to go with me, and soon enough, Ben and I were on our way. We explored and camped on some spectacular BLM land outside of Canyonlands National Park. The sun felt warm on our skin, and though the days were short, there were times I forgot winter was on its way. The majestic background of Canyonlands prompted us to venture into the park’s terrain.

We arrived at Island in the Sky Visitor Center. Water access was shut down for the winter, but the place was fully staffed. We obtained a permit for Taylor Canyon and made our way to the White Rim Trail via Mineral Bottom Road. They warned us not to use two-wheel drive; I concluded they underestimated the Nissan Frontier.

After 13 miles of washboard, the road suddenly dropped 2,000 feet to the Green River. I unbuckled and put my hand on the door. Jumping out was my sole chance of survival should this car flip off the road. After another few miles, we reached the Green River, made a left up a sandy wash, and drove about five miles up Taylor Canyon.


Easy access to spectacular photo opportunities in Canyonlands. ELIZABETH KOUTRELAKOS

Darkness came early and our dinner feast preparation was in full tilt. A Coleman two-burner, large table and chairs comprised the best makeshift kitchen I could imagine. Dinner consisted of homemade cornbread and beans and rice on a bed of homegrown arugula. Even our dinnerware was made by hand, compliments of Ben Blanton Pottery. As we enjoyed our meal, the sky quickly faded and pitter-pattering rapidly replaced the silence of our camp.

I flashed my headlamp into the back of the truck to see at least seven mice the size of small kangaroos running around. I continued eating my meal, but almost lost it when I felt tiny mouse nails running up my leg. I leapt out of my chair and opted to pace and observe them as they attempted to jump onto the cooler, running and jumping, getting closer with each leap. Eventually, I grew tired of Mouse Olympics and headed toward my tent.

We awoke to some Europeans parked disturbingly close to our camp, staring at our bacon and eggs. They inquired about our climbing plans. Grey-bird skies made the future appear rainy or clear, but coffee was ultimately needed to make that decision. The two men kept staring at our breakfast then asked us for water. I didn’t feel like we had much to spare, as we were 20+ miles in on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere, but we gave them a few drops and continued our extensive breakfast on fancy plates.

Last rays shine on Moses Tower. ELIZABETH KOUTRELAKOS

Last rays shine on Moses Tower. ELIZABETH KOUTRELAKOS

After much coffee, trips to the outhouse, and debate, we ventured up to the base of Moses Tower. It was a beautiful climb, but I was simply along for the ride. My partner crushed the entire thing. In the registrar at the top, I see a love message written months ago to a rising Jackson-native female climber. “To the girl that passed me on the climb, you are really hot and badass. Here is my number in case you are ever up here again. Love, the guy with brown hair.”

We laughed about the note, then rappelled down and soaked in the sunset. The simplicity of a quick trip to the desert made for a few days of perfect flow. We drove out of Canyonlands just before a big rain. The downpour served as a good excuse to leave Utah. I felt happy to be headed home, back to the icy streets. I’ve had my fill of the desert sun, and am ready for winter in the Tetons.

About Elizabeth Koutrelakos

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