In late-January 2009 I self-diagnosed a severe case of cabin-fever—which I blame on having spent too much time with my computer and “only” getting out for 3 months in 2008—and concluded that I had to get out soon. My condition would not get better with another 20-mile run through Boulder’s foothills, or another full day of skiing at one of the resorts, or a weekend hut trip. Instead, I really had to get “out”—on a trip that would be long enough to temporarily become the extent of my entire existence. Hike, eat, sleep. Keep repeating.
But where can I go in February? And, of those places, where do I want to go?
Sorry, Florida, but I decided to head to the Colorado Plateau, a relatively uncelebrated and untapped backcountry locale that I had seen very little of prior to this trip. I had been to the Grand Canyon a few times; I had hiked “The Narrows” in Zion on a family vacation in 1993; and I took a weekend road-trip to Moab in 2004. So this was going to be a novel experience for me.
When I started this 800-mile trek at the northern boundary of Arches National Park in mid-February, I hoped to get just two things out of it. First, I wanted to cure my case of cabin-fever, which I figured would happen with enough nights of sleeping on the ground under a radiant sky of stars, with enough miles through spectacular backcountry terrain, and with enough nature-induced suffering: cold hands, sunburned ears, burning quads, an unhappy GI due to cattle-contaminated water, etc. And, second, I wanted to experience the Colorado Plateau—to see both its famous and non-famous landmarks, to understand why there’s always too little or too much water, and to learn first-hand its unique geology, ecology, and history.
This was not a trip about firsts, or records, or checkboxes. Rather, it went to the heart of why I hike: to feel fulfilled and fresh, and to learn about the world around me.