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Utah break: Trip to southeast corner of state evokes wonder, worry



Utah – With its dramatically deep canyons, towering red sandstone arches and far-off views of snowy mountains, southeastern Utah made me feel small. The country is seriously majestic.

My recent tour was frantically planned during subzero February nights, as if hopeful thinking could instantly project me to the warmer places. The weeks of waiting until departure seemed almost cruel as I revisited the route on maps, consulted guide books and websites, hungry for knowledge, anxious to leave. My packing list covered two pages.

I couldn’t wait to get to Utah, and in the end couldn’t leave fast enough. It wasn’t because of the weather. Unlike the bright sunny days I dreamed of, our party arrived in a snow flurry and drove back in white-out conditions — one of the perils of spring travel.

In between I felt humbled, exhilarated and refreshed while standing on the edge of sheer cliff faces, marveling at 2,000-year-old pictographs made by American Indians and hiking until my toes blistered and the region’s fine-grained sand settled into every nook and cranny.

One night the wind roared so hard across the high desert that we abandoned our tent out of fear the poles would snap. For the remainder of the night four of us crammed uncomfortably into the car as rain pounded the hood and gusts rocked the vehicle.

The trip started atop the San Rafael Swell and migrated south and then east to the bustling Arches National Park gateway community of Moab. There our vehicle decided its radiator was “shattered,” according to the mechanic, perhaps a victim of banging across bumpy backroads.

Moab offers activities for all types — the Las Vegas for outdoor visitors — from skydiving, boating and helicopter tours to hikes, mountain bike rides, sport UTV and Jeep four-wheeling expeditions. If you have the money, there’s an unending variety of opportunities.

The breakdown forced us into a two-night scramble to find hotel lodging that dampened our spirits. After initially looking forward to a hotel room and shower, by night three we couldn’t wait to be out of town, under the stars and next to a campfire.

Then we got kicked out of our campsite.

Turns out someone had reserved it online, unbeknownst to our weary group. So we packed up our tents, piled into the car and drove 12 miles farther down the road dejectedly looking for a flat spot in the dark.

Even in what seemed like the middle of nowhere campers were staked out at every wide spot in the road. Spring breakers had arrived in full force. We longed for remote Montana.

Thirteen hours down the highway home awaited — a place out of the weather and free of sand, yet also without adventure, uncertainty and the spontaneity travel brings. Despite our travails, I can’t wait to travel again.