The Most Candy-Ass Rappel Ever

Sometime around the middle of last week, the San Rafael Swell called my name again. I headed out with my friends Courtney and Steve to run Eardley Canyon, which is very near to Zero Gravity (see previous post). It was one of those days where I think that life can’t really get much better and I am really able to realize what a great life I lead and how happy I am living and working in Moab.

The approach took us the better part of three hours. We hiked about an hour up a large canyon wash, which been bone dry a week ago when we were searching for petroglyphs before Zero Gravity. This week, however, it was essentially a river, as it had large amounts of water flowing down and we leapt over rocks and slippery mud, paying close attention to each and every step we took. We then began our ascent along the rim of Eardley. This is a somewhat punishing approach due to how much elevation you gain, and we timed it so that we began the uphill battle at about noon. All the aches and pains that my body was going through, however, were paid off in the incredibly rewarding views of Eardley, the rest of the Swell and as far off in the distance as the La Sal Mountains, which loom over the Moab Valley.

By the time we sat down for lunch, the three of us were convinced that we had never sweated so much in our lives and were thankful for some food. There was some concern about mounting cloud cover, and as the canyon was already nearly a river, we didn’t want to get caught in a flash flood. Steve hiked up a ways more to be able to see and scout out the clouds a little bit better, while Courtney and I cowered in what little shade was available and told jokes. Eventually, we decided the weather was not a big concern, and the reward was much greater than the risk. We dropped in through a super steep gully and were instantly rewarded by shade and the cooling effect of the water running through the canyon.

Eardley was a radically different canyon from Zero Gravity, which was really interesting because they are so near each other. Whereas ZG was incredibly narrow and allowed for lots of stemming, Eardley was quite wide and most of our trek through was similar to our hike up the wash, with Steve leaping gracefully from rock to rock and Courtney and I slipping, sliding and falling in the mud. With so much water in the canyon, we ended up doing a lot of swimming through the potholes, which was really fun.

There were supposed to be 5 rappels in the canyon, but we ended up only doing 4. They were all in the last 500 or so meters of the canyon. The first rappel was described in the canyon info Steve had brought as being the most candy-ass rappel, whatever that means. We laughed about it almost the whole time, and when we arrived at that rappel, it proved to be a one-hundred percent accurate description. Instead of going through the trouble of setting up the rappel, we just used a hand-line and did some sketchy down-climbing. The rock face led straight down into what I will refer to as the Mank Tank, a large pothole, full of water and debris that had collected as a result of the flash (think sticks, dirt, more sticks and potentially some dead animals, although we didn’t see any). It was so deep I couldn’t touch the bottom, but that was pretty typical for most of the potholes we went through. I think I’m still picking small pieces of juniper branches out of my hair (kidding).

The next four rappels were mildly terrifying, as we were basically rappelling through waterfalls, which made the normally grippy sandstone incredibly slippery and hard to brace yourself. We were all soaked from all the swimming, and by this time, the sun had faded from the canyon, meaning that Steve and I were both shivering uncontrollably. The last rappel was a fifty footer, into a huge pothole, and I slipped going down, cutting my knuckles a bit with the rope. We had to cut the rope after that one, because we couldn’t get it out of the bolts due to the angle of where we were at the bottom and where the bolts were located.

We exited the canyon and came out into the wash at about 8:30 pm. The sun was still up, and it felt great to strip off wet cotton clothes and put on a long-sleeve quick dry layer. Unfortunately, our hike back down the wash led us toward the east, because the sunset over the Swell was absolutely incredible whenever we looked back. We barely made it back to the truck before the sun went down and ended our epic adventure with a few celebratory PBRs. Unfortunately, we had ended our day too late to make it back to Ray’s in Green River or Milt’s in Moab for some greasy chow and more malted beverages.

Zero Gravity

Over the weekend, I put out my first course as a Logistics Coordinator. It was exhilarating and exhausting, and I was thankful to have one day off before I had to start prepping for their transfer to a different section of the Green River. A few instructors, other LC’s, a woman from town and one of our admin were all headed out adventuring to a canyon called Zero Gravity, located about two hours away in the San Rafael Swell. Naturally, I decided to join them.

Although it was really hot outside, the canyon was full of water due to all the recent rainfall we’ve had so there were lots of potholes full of cool water and a lot of places where it was chest deep or over my head. The canyon itself was beautiful, and the fact that I got to hang out and laugh all day with beautiful fun people just added to the fun. There was one larger swimming hole that we stopped at halfway through to jump in. We even played categories, a game I haven’t played since my high school lifeguard days.  There was lots of stemming and squeezing involved in the day in addition to swimming, and my body definitely feels it today.

Naturally, we ended the adventure with a few desert temperature brews and a dare to eat a large piece of bread with cheese on it by shoving the entire thing in my mouth at once. Of course, I accepted the dare and successfully completed it. We ended with a dinner of burgers and fries at Ray’s Tavern in Green River, which is about an hour northwest of Moab. 

Pritchett Canyon Galavant

Yesterday, I had a great urge to go on an adventure that was a little longer and more intense than just a hike up Mill Creek. I knew that once Thursday came around and I started working again, I didn’t want to feel like I had wasted my days off by not going on at least one adventure that was a little more intense than a hike up Mill Creek.

Thus, I rallied one of the instructors who had just gotten back from a course and is always up for a grand adventure, and we headed out west of Moab to go canyoneering at Pritchett Canyon. Neither of us had done the canyon before, but a few instructors had done it over the weekend and said it was really great. We scrambled up and out of the canyon wash for an hour or so, and the view overlooking the valley when we got to the top was incredible. On the way, we passed a small arch called Chimney Arch.

We got a little misguided when we had to start descending, as the main arch, Pool Arch, was supposed to be on our left, but ended up being on our right. Sometimes its hard to follow the exact route in canyons as there are not really ‘trails’, you just walk over slickrock and sand, and they are definitely not marked. We managed to get around that small mistake with a bit more hiking, but what is a great adventure without getting a little bit lost?

After squeezing between some narrow walls and wading through waist deep, disgusting water, we finally found the first rappel. It was a straightforward fifty-footer. On this canyoneering trip, I think I recovered mostly from my fear of rappelling. It definitely still makes my heart race a bit, but that rush of adrenaline is what makes it fun. After that rappel, we twisted along a wash for awhile longer before arriving at the second rappel. This one was a 100 foot rappel that was overhung for the second fifty feet, meaning that there is no canyon wall to place your feet on and you basically dangle in mid-air. The bolts for the rope were also set up on a terrifyingly sketchy edge, so Curtis had to clip himself in to another bolt in order to be able to safely set up this rappel. This rappel looked out onto an open canyon that was really beautiful. It was a really fun rappel, mostly because it was so long. Once we descended that, we had only about 45 minutes left of hiking out to do on an easy four wheel drive road.

Like all successful Moab adventures, ours ended at Milt’s, the local burger and shake place that has deliciously cheap and greasy food. Post adventure dinner was a chocolate malt milkshake and a shared basket of tater tots dipped in Utah’s famous fry sauce.

Cowboy Jacuzzis

 

Mill Creek is one of the best spots to get out of the heat in Moab, as it is just a 5 minute drive, and a nice hike in (mostly) the shade to great swimming pools full of cool water. Monday was one of those days in Moab where the heat just seems to seep into the house through every crack available and you feel as though you can’t escape it even if you have five fans all pointed directly at you and on the highest setting possible. Thus, one of instructors and I decided to head up to Mill Creek around mid-morning.

According to the staff that have been around for awhile, Mill Creek used to be one of those great local spots in Moab where tourists rarely went and the locals had it virtually all to themselves, so it was never heavily crowded. Sometime in the past year, however, someone decided to publish Mill Creek as one of Moab’s hidden gems, and it is now packed if you go during the weekend or anytime after two in the afternoon. Luckily for Zak and I, only one other car was in the parking lot when we showed up around eleven am on Monday. Mill Creek has two forks to it, the left hand, which is much more popular and where the bigger swimming pools are, and the right hand, which is less traveled and takes further to get to, but offers a great natural waterslide and small waterfalls spilling over into shallow pools that are perfect for sitting in, giving it the name the Cowboy Jacuzzis.

We headed up the Cowboy Jacuzzi’s and wandered from small pool to small pool, letting tiny fish bite our legs and feeling the rush of the waterfall on our shoulders. It was almost like sitting in my hot tub at home with the jets on high, but the water temperature of Mill Creek was much more suitable for the Moab weather. The Cowboy Jacuzzis provided the perfect amount of hiking time in and a wonderfully easy way to escape from the heat.

 

 

Independence Week

As a whole, last week was hands down one of the most fun weeks of my time so far in Moab. A ton of instructors came back from the field and a few who work elsewhere while not on an OB course also came in to town. Obviously, with 4th of July being on Wednesday, celebrations started happening on Sunday. That was an evening of hilarity as beverages flowed and great people reunited with each other for the first time in a few weeks. It can get pretty quiet around here when lots of instructors are gone in the field, so I always have lots of energy for all rowdiness by the time they come back.

On Monday I enjoyed a short hike to a waterfall up by Ken’s Lake, just a few miles away. There are some pretty cool views of the Moab Valley from there, and the water is freezing cold, but incredibly refreshing. With so many people in town, our weekly Monday pick-up ultimate game turned into two simultaneous and very competitive games, which was fun, yet slightly overwhelming and exhuasting.

On Tuesday, we all celebrated my boss, Courtney’s, birthday. It was a pot-luck style party and a bunch of people from town came too, which was really fun to throw some new, non-OB people into the mix. The night started out pretty tame but I think all I have to say is that a very epic cake fight occurred that not only involved cake, but also ice cream, peach cobbler, cupcakes and tomatoes. I was still picking cake out of my ears three days later, but it was definitely worth it, as I had never before been in a full-blown food fight, and I have to say it was definitely one of the top ten most fun things I’ve done in my life. There are rumors that someone took a video, so once I have that I may post it.

On Independence Day itself, five of us decided to escape the heat and head up to the La Sal Mountains for a day hike to the top of Laurel Peak. It was really nice to get up there. We found a few wild strawberries to taste and had a really great time just chatting and walking through the aspens and over the talus to the top. Once we reached the peak, at 12, 271 feet, we each consumed a Pabst Blue Ribbon, which we felt was a necessary move to celebrate America. We returned in plenty of time to join the rest of the crew on the roof of the Bunkhouse to watch the fireworks show and the moonrise over the La Sal Mountains.

I went back to work again on Thursday, but I drove early in the morning and thus had the afternoon off to enjoy reading, napping, running and yoga. Thursday was sort of a weird day, because it rained all day. Someone said it rained more that day in Moab than it has rained collectively since 1984 or something like that. I’m not sure if I believe it or not, but it doesn’t seem completely out of the question. It was really nice to relish in the cool weather the rain brought, to wear a hoodie and drink tea and lounge around.

Most of the instructors went back into the field this weekend, so life at Spanish Valley (our nickname for the staff housing complex) has returned to the quiet, calm character it takes on when just the LC’s are in town.