Monthly Archives: March 2017

cliffs and fallen rock in upper ute canyon

All the Way Up Upper Ute Canyon

“She made beauty all round her. When she trod on mud, the mud was beautiful; when she ran in the rain, the rain was silver. When she picked up a toad – she had the strangest and, I thought, unchanciest love for all manner of brutes – the toad became beautiful.”
C.S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces

“Whenever you should doubt your self-worth, remember the lotus flower. Even though it plunges to life from beneath the mud, it does not allow the dirt that surrounds it to affect its growth or beauty.”
Suzy Kassem, Rise Up and Salute the Sun: The Writings of Suzy Kassem

Ever since we found the waterfall pouring its self over the edge of Upper Ute Canyon we have been wanting to explore these upper reaches.

On this early Spring day we did just that.

Down…down…down into the canyon we went, the elder children in the lead. Wizened they are from past experience, and thus waited for the parental figures at the faintest depiction of a trail junction.

Oh wise ones.

From thence, we drifted north, not knowing which path was the one to lead us, but knowing that all paths headed in this general direction would lead us true.

Overgrown and yet just in blossom, the unimproved trail only slightly bewildered us, leading us to question our route forward. Yet onward we travailed. Up and over the overgrowth we worked our way.

Matt explored an upper valley. Connor and I watched a squirrel playing in a tree. Timothy climbed a rocky slope, a challenge.

When we eventually came to the alcove we knew would be the indication of the end of our route, we did not discover a spring run-off waterfall as we had hoped.

Those hopes found a swift demise.

Yet, we did find mud.

Thick, varied, layers of mud in all its glory…awaiting a pummeling from rocks that we would throw with gusto upon its surface.

Rock were thence vaulted from our grips and plunged into the murky depths…their wasting excrement then leaping forth to spot our clothing.

Trinity, eldest and bravest daughter ever known, circumvented the muddy pool only to become bespectacled by the cast offs of rocks Matt, Timothy, and myself tossed into the pond for the very purpose of soiling her beautiful, gentle demeanor.

No one can tell what time we spent in thorough enjoyment of exercising filth in the epicenter of this canyon. Yet when we departed, no cloth remained unspoiled, no soul remained weary or dejected. Only happiness pervaded our countenance. Only camaraderie and love filled our every emotion.

On the return journey, I held back for a time, appreciating and soaking in the moment. I heard a rustling in the willows and stopped to watch and listen. I assumed…deer. When nothing presented its self, I moved on.

At the junction, our stalwart children pressed on, climbing the 700+ft ascent. I went a bit slower, accompanied by my lovely fiance.

Half way up we crossed paths with another couple. They were staring down into the canyon and asked us…had we seen the bear?

No. We had not seen a bear.

They said a small black bear had exited the willows at the bottom of the canyon [the very same willows into which I had peered, anticipating the sighting of a deer], and had fled down the canyon.


Remarking that I had suspected a large animal in the reeds, Matt was duly impressed at our near miss sighting of a bear.

Upon reaching the the canyon rim we found 3 strong [if overheated] children, whom we promptly took home and nursed back to trail-readiness again. With ice cream. And movies.



Kodel's Canyon Colorado National Monument

Kodel’s Canyon

“Always somewhere there is fire or smoke, insistent reminders of the greed consuming the world”
Sy Montgomery, Journey of the Pink Dolphins: An Amazon Quest

My allergies have returned.

They always seem to pop out at the first hints of spring…the first cherry blossoms, the daffodils…the first warm days.

This is wholly inconvenient for me as I absolutely relish the first warm days…and yet am plagued by sneezing, runny and raw noses, and, when the medicine kicks in, profound drowsiness.

Our hike today was no exception…except that the allergies were joined by the smoke of dozens of fields burning.

Intentionally burning.

Probably without permits.

And the smoke likes to settle into the canyons, especially the upper canyons of the Colorado National Monument.

Of course, when we set out I had no idea that either allergens or smoke would be the causes of discomfort. Nay, twas the slight chill still remaining in the air and the boy walking alongside my daughter that caused me the first pangs of distress.

Nevertheless, we set out! The 5 of us, plus the boy, and our friends, Chris and Joy- whom we quite enjoy sharing adventures with.

We followed the route suggested by THIS SITE and were able to spot the ancient pithouse, cottonwoods just coming to bud, the trail cutting off to the Fruita Dugway [another one I am greatly anticipating], the gold mine, and the upper vales of the canyon.

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When we inevitably got to the dark, precambrian rock, my daughter went on ahead with her ‘boyfriend’ and got all excited! She just HAD to show off her climbing skills!

So up, up, up she went…without harness or sticky shoes or regard for her own safety, or any idea how she would get down from a way up there…or regard for her mother’s heart.

I didn’t realize there was a problem because I was still up the kill checking out the ‘gold mine’ with the littlest child….Until I heard Matt say, “Elisa…” with the kind of tone that immediately told me something was up.

So I hustled down there. I was calm. Composed.

I asked them how they were going to get down. Tim wasn’t up as high and he said, ‘no problem’ but my little heart was like, “!%&@*#^^@%$%&!!!! If he slipped from there we would be doing a carry-out”.

Look, I’ve tried to scale these same types of walls again and again and I know I’m a good climber, but I also know that these particular walls can be quite slippery when unexpected.

Slippery and/or pointy.

So the eldest child got up to a safer point and started looking for a way down. She yells, “Okay! I found a way” but her way was this tiny, very steep slot that she couldn’t see all the way down. Next thing I know, I see rocks falling from this crack. I run over, scramble up, wedge myself where I can see her and coach her down. She was, at times, holding on with just her grip…her feet were sliding, and when they did find purchase they were shaking uncontrollably.

Now I’ve seen my kids in situations before where a fall or accident could or is about to mess them up. Instead of freaking out and screaming, I find this deep feeling of calm. The calm of the inevitable. I could actually foresee her falling, my attempt to catch her, and both of us plummeting down hard. And it was all going to be okay. Because eventuality is always okay.

Her terror made my mind blaze. She couldn’t get back down, so I said, “Can you go up? If you can climb back up, just head toward the red rock walls and you’ll find a trail. When you find the trail, head back down and we’ll find you.”

This was the scary part. Because she didn’t obey me. She climbed up and then started looking for another way down to where we were. I had to raise my voice to her [something I do rarely because if you do it all the time then it means nothing…] and told her to stop trying to find a way this direction and go find the red dirt!!!

The scary part was trusting her.

Which I didn’t.

But I had to.

Once she was safely up, I turned and started climbing down. My sweet Matt spotted me and made sure I was down safely. I can’t imagine HIS anxiety knowing that if she fell, I would likely fall…

We rallied the kids and our friends and headed back out of the alcove and up to the sand.

Where, of course, my daughter was once again trying to find a way down into the black rock alcove! I had to yell at her again,”DON’T MOVE!”

Of course she thought I was being dramatic, but shit [forgive the expletive but it’s necessary] she hadn’t proven she could make a wise decision. I ran up the slope until I found her and watched her descend safely.

She wasn’t trying to find her mom who was scared for her.


She was trying to find her boyfriend.

They hugged and she cried and it was so much emotional BLAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

I can’t even write anymore.

I told her I was glad she made it safely, but that she shouldn’t climb something unless she either has protection or at least an idea of how to get down. That she could have really gotten hurt and that “I wasn’t going to fall” wasn’t an excuse or a reason and that everyone who DOES fall thinks “I wasn’t going to fall” and then guess what?!?! They fall.

She did eventually admit that she had been stupid.

But that’s what boys to do hormonal girls.

I hope she learned a lesson.

Here are some pics from the rock alcove. It was a super rad spot and I wish I could have enjoyed it more.

Maybe next time.

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It seems that these canyons that are now part of the Colorado National Monument have frequently been home to insane hermits. Heck, maybe when I grow up I’ll be one, too!

Here’s the story of Kodel and his attempts at gold mining in the canyon…in the hardest rock in the canyon…

The following is an excerpt about Kodel’s gold mine from the “Geological Survey Bulletin 1508“:

It was named after an earlyday stonemason turned prospector, a hermit, who came to the Fruita area before 1900 and prospected for gold until at least 1930 in the canyon that now bears his name. He seemingly built a cabin or house near the mouth of the canyon, spent most of the rest of his life in a vain quest for gold in the canyon, barricaded his house against would-be intruders, and took potshots at anyone approaching his home for fear they were after his “gold.” Some thought him only half crazy, but when he took repeated shots at an Indian named Henry Kadig, he was adjudged wholly insane and sent to the mental hospital at Pueblo, Colorado* for several years. When he got out he sold the grazing rights in his canyon to the late Irving Beard of Fruita, and seemingly was not heard from again. According to various estimates, Kodel dug an adit between 18 and 150 feet into the dark Proterozoic rock in the side of the canyon (shown in fig. 3), then sunk a shaft somewhere between 30 and 50 feet deep.

lost springs canyon sandstone formation panorama

Lost Springs Canyon

“You know you’re in love when you can’t fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams.”
Dr. Seuss

So I feel kind of bad that I talked Matt into sleeping in the car.

It was windy and cold, and the car would occasionally shake with the force of the wind, and if it weren’t for the weirdo dreams I had I would swear I didn’t sleep at all.

[Yeah. I have always had crazy vivid dreams. Sometimes I wake up and feel like the dream was more a memory. Often the dreams I have become reality.]

That aside aside, here’s what went down:

• We had a cold breakfast…cold except for the cocoa, which Matt put in our hydroflask and thence into a pack.

• I did some yoga and meditation on a cold, wide, flat rock, facing the La Sal Mountains. It was an immense moment…so calm, in spite of the wind, and so joyful!

• We hiked down into Lost Springs Canyon, following the old Jeep road. After about a mile we hit the border of Arches National Park, where all signs of trail disappeared… for good reason. The area had long been a grazing canyon, but almost 20 years ago was made part of the National Park and the grazing lease purchased by a nonprofit and donated back to the NPS. It’s not very accessible an area, there are no built or maintained trails, it is completely isolated wilderness but for the few two-legged wanderers like us who seek solitude and connection to the natural world.

• Here was our dilemma: there are so many little alcoves, intricately carved canyon walls, caves filled with secrets, hidden arches just wanting to be found… there was no way we were going to find them all!

• So we wandered up one particularly interesting canyon and discovered a myriad of treasures: tiny hoodoos, sandstone steps climbing two stories or more, and waterways carving steep and narrow slots hidden from view, and a mostly-complete deer skeleton hidden in a tree. Seriously creepy.

• At one point we just walked, hand in hand, following the winding curves of the meandering stream bed, cottonwood branches arching between us and the sky. We paused to watch an adolescent golden eagle circle above us for a few lazy moments. We picked up fascinating geologic specimens to share with each other. We were quite possibly the two most content people in the world.

• I had, of course, done enough research that I had coordinates for 3-4 arches in the area, but before we could seek them I was worn out. I’ve been battling chronic sinus infections recently and I was feeling a fever coming on. Plus, you know, lack of sleep.

Plus, you know, we just got engaged and home and bed were looking pretty amazing.

Plus, you know, recovery beer.

Plus, you know, Kang Masaman in the fridge at home…

So we hiked out and started driving.

We had another very close encounter with a full-grown golden eagle as well as a gorgeous redtail hawk. The birds were loving the wind!

The road out took us through a heavily mined area, with shafts closed off by fences

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warning you to ‘Stay Out. Stay Alive.’

We made our way home at last to showers, sleep, and all the comforts of home. We called our families and told them of our engagement, and before I could get to it, my excited fiance posted it to social media…

engagement announcement on Facebook

quote about love