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  • hannahbbelles

Moab, You Have My Whole Heart

Updated: Apr 5, 2021

The first time Nick and I visited Moab, UT was in 2017. I was just about to start physical therapy school at the University of Florida. We decided to fly into Vegas, rent a car and do the southern Utah national park circuit. To be honest, I wasn't that excited for this trip. Even though I had never been to the desert, nothing from what I saw online or in videos stirred up any inspiration in me. I wish I could say my feelings changed when we approached Moab and I got my first glimpse of the La Sals, but...nothing. I was completely underwhelmed. I still enjoyed the trip. Arches and Canyonlands were otherworldly, seeing the Colorado River was stunning, and the town seemed cute and scenic, but I would say my mood at the end of the trip felt more, glad I saw it, but probably won't be going back. Edward Abbey described in Desert Solitare three types of people: mountain people, desert people, and river rats. I just wasn't a desert person.

Over the past year, we have since made many return trips to Moab, initially for some of Nick's races, but lately for the pure stoke that accompanies a couple of days in this town. And each time, I kick myself for not recognizing Moab's epic beauty years ago. Everything from the junipers and dramatic canyon cliffs to the slab smearing fun, I can't get enough. The more time I give to this place, the more it gives back.

Last weekend, Nick and I headed down yet again. Nick currently has his eye on running Rim to Rim to Rim (R2R2R) in the Grand Canyon in April, which will be a ~43 mile route in which he will descend from the South Rim via South Kaibab Trailhead, ascend to the North Rim via North Kaibab and return to the top of South Rim via Bright Angel. He decided that Canyonlands was the perfect place to get a long training run in that would sort of simulate R2R2R conditions. Luckily some of our friends agreed to join him this weekend. I settled for watching the dogs, since in no way could I handle a 20 mile run through the desert.

Trail runner
Ready to run the Lathrop Trail down to the Colorado River
Trail dog
Saying bye to the pups
Trail runners
And...they're off!

While the group took off running, I took the pups to Dead Horse Point State Park (dogs are not allowed on trail in Canyonlands National Park). However, that attempted outing is a story perhaps for another time. *Spoiler: Nias is a little maniac.* The dogs and I still managed to have an lovely time driving around in the van and grabbing some lunch. About 4.5 hours later, I went back to meet everyone at Lathrop Trailhead. The run had been successful, minus a little cramping for Nick in the last 3 miles. I always am so happy to see Nick when he finishes a lengthy run out on the trail. He seems like a real superhero for a few moments and has a big grin stretching across his face. But usually when I ask him how things went, I get his typical non-emotional answers, Good. The trail was really pretty. And this time was no different.

After the run, we all drove back to our campsite on some BLM land outside of the national park. Nick and I didn't know about these sites beforehand and were greeted with killer views of the La Sals. We all settled in for a windy (and surprisingly wet) night, but I still managed to snap a few shots of the camp area before the clouds settled in fully.

Watching the rain fall across the high desert.
A break in the clouds just big enough to put a spotlight on Arches National Park as seen from our campsite.

As the rain picked up, Nick and I were pleased to find out that 5 humans and 2 dogs can actually fit *somewhat* comfortably in our small van. We ended up spending the rest of the evening playing The Voting Game, laughing and learning about one another. It's always hard to make new friends, but I think Moab helps bring people together.

Though the rest of the night was cold, Nick and I stayed warm and cozy in our little van (can't say I miss the days of tent camping all that much). We woke up to a beautiful Moab morning, sun shining and bright, blue skies above us. Our initial plan going into the weekend was to climb this morning before heading back to Salt Lake City, but I was worried overnight rain would have made conditions unsuitable. Luckily, Mother Nature came through and we were able to have a fantastic session at a crag just off of 313. As I headed back home and watched the La Sals fade away in the rearview mirror, I couldn't help but think back to 2017. So much in my life had changed; I had changed too, and I'm glad Moab was there to remind me of that.


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