When I moved to Utah back in 2005 I had one thing on my brains: 500 inches of powdery western snowfall. Without a question the #1 reason I uprooted from the east coast and started over in Utah was the chance to shred some of the best resorts in the world that were constantly graced with the “Best Snow on Earth.” It wasn’t until a year after my move that I got a proper introduction to the other amazing part of this state: canyon country.
A month or so after the move, my parents came out for their first visit. My old man wanted to see the sites, so he planned us a spur of the moment trip to Bryce Canyon. It was the first time I had ever been to red rock country. The drive down Route 12 was almost as scenic as anything we saw in Bryce… truly a memorable trip. Though it was a great trip, it wasn’t enough to sway my desires. A couple months later I forgot all about the beauty of Escalante as the snow began to stack up.
Fast forward to November, 2006. I had my first season under my belt and was eagerly awaiting #2. The resorts would open in just a week, but when my phone rang with offers of adventure it wasn’t hiking for early season tracks on the menu but disc golfing near Moab. My compadres Randy and Jeff decided that one year was far too long without properly experiencing fall in the desert.
I accepted the invite and ended up driving down Spanish Fork canyon under blue skies and chilly air. The planners of this trip assured me the weather would be much different down south. Three hours later we were pulling into a gas station in Moab, and as promised it was a balmy 65 degrees.
Randy produced a handwritten set of directions to “a very remote and strange disc golf course.” I am by no means an avid disc golfer, but the guys sold me on by saying it was really just a way to have something to do while drinking beers. Sold. We took off down Kane Creek Blvd, which I would later discover is just one of many gateways to the amazing landscape of southern Utah.
As I got used to the feel of driving on compressed sand and dirt, Randy kept shouting out directions from the back seat. “Go through this creek and make a left… Keep going straight up this slickrock.” It was a type of driving I had never experienced before, but have done many time since. Hurrah Pass Road was exciting for a first timer- precipitous falls just off the passenger door, slickrock steps to climb, and lots of sandy straightaways were fishtailing is the only way to really embrace the road. After about an hour of driving we arrived at a small ranch on the Colorado River. Not a soul in sight out here, just a sign asking to donate $5 for a round of disc. We obliged and began playing. The rancher’s property was gorgeous; the ideal place for three guys to enjoy some cold beer on a sunny November afternoon.
The course had us sail frisbees over tiny slot canyons, gaping divides and even though thick thorn bushes. By the time we finished our round it was twilight. We headed back the way we came, and ended up meeting the rancher as he returned. We chatted for a minute about the course and he told us to make sure and come back. His truck was loaded with supplies, no doubt getting set for a cold desert winter.
We shelled out $35 for a cramped room at a local hotel, and enjoyed beers and burgers at Moab Brewery. Again, this is an activity I have now enjoyed many times since, and it’s just as satisfying as my first time.
We decided that we needed to experience more of the desert splendor before heading home. Randy had me pull off to the side of the road near cattle fence surrounded by trees and bushes. He had discovered a small riparian canyon here last year and wanted to share it with us. We made our way through the marshy woody area and climbed up a slickrock bench to a large pool of water; the canyon was boxed out. Sheer red cliff walls loomed high overhead. We took a few hours to properly explore the place before heading back to the car. The experience of really getting into a hidden place, seeing firsthand the beauty that the desert holds, these are the memories that I take from that day. Three guys and a dog just wandering around the canyons somewhere outside Moab. It was a day that has helped shape my desire for adventure in this lonely landscape.
When we arrived back in the Wasatch we were not alone. Almost a foot of snow had fallen during our drive back. By nightfall the mountain totals were suggesting an early opening date than Thanksgiving. While my desire to strap on my board took center stage in my mind, I knew that the trip to that isolated ranch on the Colorado was something bigger than a weekend getaway. It was a turning point… maybe the first moment I began my love affair with the deserts of the Southwest.