Tricky Liquids

March 8, 2014

Lower Red Lake Canyon Trail (Canyonlands National Park)

 Partly Cloudy, Desert-Style

Partly Cloudy, Desert-Style

Our friends were preparing for a garage sale to lighten their move to Texas (for the love of god). We went over there to help. It felt right to drink a coupla high point IPAs while I arranged shoes, ammo cans and the The Free Bin on the driveway. It felt wrong when the coffee maker gurgled to life at 5:30 the next morning, indicating it was time to pack, shop and drive an hour and change to Canyonlands National Park's Needles District for a longish walk to the Big Riv.

I let the chickens out, ran the dog, filled up on water, kissed the slumbering fam, bought four donuts, and was on my way south, marveling at a 40-foot-tall saguaro made of pre-owned bowling balls. I drank dark creamed coffee, listened to cassette tapes and thought about really nothing much at all. Which was nice. Once at the trailhead, I finished my final donut and donned a hoody while carefully observing a soft pale man cover himself in high performance everything.

 Chubby

Chubby

Upon walking, I continued to have few thoughts requiring follow-up, which is the closest I get to vacation-mode. Being a self-employed artist requires near-constant speculation and scheming for new ideas, clients, projects. So just walking and taking the occasional photograph without making any commitments was quite relaxing. I zipped through the Elephant Hill 4WD section that serves (for those of us who prefer boot soles over tire tread) as the 4-mile approach to the Lower Red Lake hiking trail).

My body relaxes and works better when I transition from a constructed road onto a tight little path hugging the natural contours of a place. The trail usually aligns with my intuition, which makes it easier for me to hit my stride and feel like I belong there. I slipped into this type of groove handily as the route cut across The Grabens. As I entered the big beach sands of Red Lake Canyon, I felt a twitter of excitement for the upcoming river season. It also brought back a mishmash of memories from past Cataract river trips, including the threat a friend made about hiking out at Red Lake if the company or coffee were not to his liking. A dick statement at the time but hilarious in hindsight.

 Trailblazers

Trailblazers

I followed fresh deer tracks down canyon and onto Cat's river left bench to the always-appreciated sound of whitewater. As I approached Brown Betty (the first rapid in Cataract Canyon), I remembered helping our friends open up the (now defunct) Brown Betty Candy Shop in downtown Moab ten or so fuzzy years ago. I painted some colorful Hershey's kisses or something on the walls (now beneath several coats of paint). I also recalled how there's one spot on Brown Betty's river right mega-beach that I just love. It's on the upstream edge where the waves crash ocean-like among scattered boulders. I thought about the people I've hung out with at that place, including my wife on our tenth anniversary trip last year (we also spent our honeymoon in Cataract).

 Crash! Boom! Splash!

Crash! Boom! Splash!

I arrived at a nice little beach with a good view of the first crashing wave. I took off my shoes and soaked in the river and sighed. I unwrapped my pre-made City Market deli sandwich, chuckled about the bread-to-other-ingredients ratio and squoze on some condiments. I leaned against a big rock and stared at my favorite spot across the river. After a little post-lunch zoning, I unearthed my sketchbook, watercolors and pens and went to work on a loosey-goosey full-book spread. It was sloppy and not at all accurate and totally fun.

 The View From Here (Sort of)

The View From Here (Sort of)

My drinking water level was looking pretty good, but I had noticed only a coupla shallow potholes on the way down. I dipped my camelback bottle into the Big Muddy and gave it the UV treatment. This didn't feel right, but I also didn't want to suck my last drop halfway up the hill. I held the water and thought of Metamucil. Yikes.

The hike out was just plain enjoyable. I relish getting into a state of 'flow' when I'm walking or painting or weeding the garden. This hike gave me flow about 90% of the time. The tennish percent of no-flow was due to (1) my increasingly wobbly legs and (2) the bag of salt and vinegar chips I had the foresight to stash for the drive home.