Over the years, Whitney and I had both spent a decent amount of time in the Moab area. But with a place like Moab, you can never really get enough. So when a cold front pushed us south out of Idaho and away from Wyoming (which was the original plan), we were happy to set our sights on Moab for more exploring.
Moab and the surrounding country is located on the ancestral lands of the Anasazi. It is a very interesting place. It is a Mecca, a pilgrimage site for a lot of different outdoor activities. ‘Jeepers’ and the off-highway community love Moab for the thousands of miles of 4×4 off-road trails. Mountain bikers and road cyclists love it for the same reason. White water enthusiasts enjoy the warmer temperatures and rapid rivers. And of course, climbers love the place also for its excellent crack climbing and sandstone towers.
And as nature would have it, all of these different user groups tend to coalesce onto Moab at similar times. With the Spring being the most popular season. So as Whitney and I turned off Interstate 70 and headed south, we readied ourselves for a rambunctious week. We had no idea what we were in for.
Within a few hours of being there, Whitney and I headed for a climbing area called Wall Street. The crag gets its namesake from the fact that the road tucks itself directly beneath massive towering sandstone cliffs. The climbs are so close that you can quite literally pull up, open your car doors and get to climbing. It’s not uncommon to see people belaying out of the beds of their trucks or from beach chairs that they unloaded from their trunks (along with coolers of beer).
Because of the close proximity of the routes, Wall Street is a very social-climbing scene. Everyone is chit-chatting, sharing gear, and enjoying the climbs. It feels very much like climbing in an indoor gym. Except you have the Colorado River at your back and speeding truckers barreling down the road as you hunker down in the shoulder of the road.
Whitney and I quickly made friends with a pair of climbers. Shortly after, the rest of their large crew joined us. We were introduced to everyone and invited to park our van in the group site they had formed north of town. Before we knew it, our quiet trip to Moab for two exploded into a lively social scene (and party) that would last a week.
The group we were brought into was filled with full-time van lifers. Some were college professors, school teachers, hydrologists, ski patrollers, artists, and traveling musicians. There were also a ton of dogs so Dottie could make friends. The selection of vans was wildly unique. Everything from multi-thousand dollar units, to ramshackle school buses and towable tear-drop trailers. We fit in perfectly amongst our new friends.
A few days in, a plan was crafted to go rafting and paddle boarding on the Colorado River. Afterward got out that it was also my birthday, Whitney and I had little to no choice but to join them. Despite all the group logistics of making it work, which was stressing me out, we decided that it sounded super fun. We rented a pair of paddleboards, found a shady parking spot for Dot, and piled into someone else’s van to get shuttled up the river.
Five, maybe six hours later we were back in town just as the sun was setting over the desert. The realization of what had just transpired began to kick in, along with a slight headache hangover, and Whitney and I were so grateful to have said yes to the opportunity.
In total, we paddle boarded about 12 miles. There were 21 people. Four dogs. Two inflatable dragons and llama-corn floats. One giant yellow raft. Hundreds of beers and ciders. Serenading ukulele songs. Bubbles. Swimming, splashing, and laughing. Excellent conversations. Lots of cannabis (duh, it’s 4/20). A mermaid suit. Sand bar photo shoots. Wonderful vistas. Tall canyon walls. And an Infinite amount of good vibes. It was so incredibly fun.
The day after the rafting trip, as you can imagine, most everyone was moving pretty slow in the morning. Between the raging winds at the campsite and our headaches, we didn’t really want to leave. But eventually, at around midday, a group rallied to go climbing in an area called Day Canyon.
Whitney was psyched to pawn me off to climb with friends as she rested in the van at the trailhead. We made some lunch, packed our bags, and headed off into the canyon. Soon the canyon swallowed us, and what we found was very unexpected.
The early-spring moisture meant there was a ton of greenery. The trail zigzagged through jungle-like foliage with towering red cliffs all around us. The tributary still had water in it. The small water crossings felt refreshing to our hot and filthy feet. The canyon was much larger than we expected. We could have walked for days. So we picked the closest climb and enjoyed a few laps. After, we decided to backtrack and try a climb closer to the car.
On our way down, Dottie popped out of nowhere from behind the bushes. Shortly behind her came Whitney with a big ‘ole smile on her face. And behind Whitney was a friend from camp. We were excited to be reunited and go look for the last remaining climb.
It did not take long for us to find it. What we found first was astounding. At the base of climb we were welcomed by blooming wildflowers of many sorts and perfect sitting rocks for lounging and watching your friend send. As we looked up to preview the climb, we were equally excited.
The climb stuck out from the rest of the wall. Unlike the featureless slabs of sandstone to its right and left, the climb was wanted to climb was littered with attractive pockets called huecos (which is Spanish for holes). The huecos were massive and fit perfectly in your hands. Time, water, and the wind had carved the hand and footholds to ergonomic perfection.
The crux came low on the route. In climbing, the crux is the hardest section. Typically, after the crux, a climb becomes easier. Unless there is another crux of similar difficulty higher on the route. After the steep and overhung crux moves, the route backed off in difficulty. It was glory climbing to the top. A jungle gym of fantastic holds and playful movement. Whitney caught a glance at my face while climbing and said I looked so happy. I was!
Our other days in Moab were much less epic. We worked in the public library and coffee shops. Went to see some live music. Took dog walks around the cute little town. Did laundry. Went grocery shopping. And visited some of the shops and bookstores.
Overall, my birthday week in Moab was spectacular. It was so nice to return to the area and explore it with Dottie and Whitney. It was also amazing to connect with new people and make friends, if only for the week. that being said, we hope to stay in touch with our new friends. We have already invited them to visit us in Estes Park during the summer.
So with Moab under wraps and our road trip coming to an end, we began the scenic route to Denver. We had a few stops planned along the way to break up the driving. We were excited to hit the road and melt back into our little quiet family of three.
Friggen happy friggen birthday bud!!! Sounds epic
Thanks Drake! Some of the other best times I had in that desert were with you!