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14 DAYS IN BOULDER UTAH: a desert wonderlandTue, August 12, 2008 - 1:07 PM
first three days are without food of any kind, gear limited to one water bottle, water treatment (non-iodine/chlorine, yay!), clothes on your back, and some extra for nightfall, a knife, hat, bandana, band aids, and some sunblock if needed. fit it all in a haversack or maybe a cloth makeshift sack. half a sari worked for me.
day one bore the lesson about cryptobiotic soil, which still amazes me for many reasons, and ended with blind bushwhacking through pitch black brush, no moon over the canyon walls till late, and had to stay five feet from the person in front in order to still see them. blocking branches and trudging on to a small clearing where we were told "get some rest, see you in the morning". awesome. brian slept on an ant hill, which kept him awake all night- made good company for me, since i set up shop near a rat's nest. every time i closed my eyes for more than a minute, rats ran out and began tap dancing in semi-circles around my head. bethany kept us company while spending the night throwing up due to an unpleasant reaction to the desert's alkaline water.
ever try to sleep on sand in just some thermals and a coat, with an average night temp of 40 degrees? a futile battle with body heat.
in the morning i was too excited for exhaustion.
we found water. mosquito infested, globs of slime- orange and green....pushing the bugs away long enough to get your bottle in there.
yeah. that was a new one for me. i'm used to avoiding stagnant puddles on the streets of new york, but where there's life bobbing about in the worst puddle ever, there's drinkable water- usually.
my trusty bandana filter kept the creatures out, and well it was tasty! i was shocked, and my opinion changed forever.
day two was spent trekking through a creek. downside- wet feet ALL day. upside- the best drinking water ever!... and the most beautiful face mamma nature has to offer. brook trout sneaking by, slippery rock to test one's balance, shade, slinking through tender willows, and hummingbirds!
no rat's nest to sleep with, but still no sleep for the chilly. (i decided to skip the camp snuggle, thinking i was genius with my rat free sandy depression, adding a deeper depression to block more wind by digging myself somewhat of a grave- the deeper you dig, the warmer the sand gets. however, i fell asleep early, and awoke in a hole, surrounded by vastness, silent desert moonlight- forgot where i was! so, little chicken girl went and woke up new friends Brooks and Lloyd, to nestle up between the two like a 5 yr old recovering from a nightmare. ha!)
day three covered bright red slick rock- gorgeous natural sculpture, canyon colored dreamscape! littered with petrified wood, and occasional juniper. ravens. an arch like the awakened eye of a god, allowing passage and good tidings. headstands overlooking a few hundred feet of whoops potential and my first chance to be barefoot on sun warmed slick rock. female instructor, Susan, mentioned nearing a place where the cattail tubers were extraordinarily yummy. i score a bit of pertified wood and flint for tool making. still no cattails?? ....and into a small slot canyon!! oh my heart! ice cold, waist high, and stunning! zero footing for the first seven feet, so 6'7" Mike offered his tired hand to hoist everyone up to where they could get a grip. it's hard to trust your footing in the cupped hand of a near stranger, but you do what you have to, and then it's up over a big wedged boulder and onto a landing, passing sacks to people at the top. Brian the firefighter from Fresno pulling people up, and Shawn, the mountain goat/ lead instructor, with no Mike to help and a 60lb pack, up a canvas strap tied to the boulder with ease. spent a lot of energy- no cattails.
at dusk, we were called to a spot where a lone cattail stood. 15 minute lecture later by Susan, Brian was asked to dig for the tuberous root- if it were green, it was inedible, yellow and we had our first bit of food in three days. Green. but no, Brian, I saw yellow, so we dig together. it's so big! huh? wait.......i'm not allowed to tell the rest of the story online.
we got to sleep in a shallow cave that night, which made me so very happy.
day four after sharing shelter with bats, we got our packs (few more bits of clothes- socks, panties, a cup, baking soda and a toothbrush, some little stuff sacks, poncho, and the pack itself- a wool blanket, 550 cord, and some canvas webbing for shoulder/waist straps.
first group navigation day, split into teams of leaders, with minimal instructor guidance, zero corrections. our first real meal. oatmeal soaked in water with some powdered milk. best thing ever- using the spoons we carved on our second day.
Aine (Anya) and I- the only girls (Bethany was sick, and quit on day two) were the first team. topo maps are pretty cool. they look intimidating and can be tricky, but i did alright, and found it to be rather comfortable. second team- Mike and Andre, the videogame maker from San Diego. Towards the end of the day, in thick brush with no real land features to go on, we were a little lost- instructors were quiet moral support in the back. Andre got very dehydrated out of nowhere, and Brian took his pack for the rest of the day. He looked half dead. Scary. I sat behind him on a break, and did some stuff with some sagebrush, asked him to put it in his shirt pocket. he'd be ok. chewing on pine needles for electrolytes- luckily a fairly green patch of desert at times. it was dark, and we faced the option to set up camp or continue on in the dark with a very sick Andre. We chose the beach. not a beach, but looked like one, near a small creek (small- a river out there is like a regular creek).
all slept under a big juniper, with BLANKETS!! Shawn made us a fire after taking pity on me. heh heh, i wanted a fire so bad! so i cooked the night owls our first dinner. lentils and rice- complete protein stew, with some carrots, onion, and potato, veggie bullion. Andre got broth with onions, which put much needed water and salt in his system. Brian, Aine, Lloyd, and I got.....really sandy stew. i am a good cook. it tasted like heaven. cooked well- out of a big can dangling from a stick....but chopping veggies on a poncho, on the desert floor can be tricky. people walk by. sand is small. it travels well. right into your stew. crunch crunch crunch went the stew in our mouths. audible. ugh.
(from that day forth, we went to great lengths to protect our stew from the elements)
i went to refill my bottle, and returned to witness my first desert falling star. later that night, i awoke to the loud yipping and howling of a pack of coyote!!! the most beautiful song i've ever been allowed to hear! they must have been just on the other side of the creek, and i strained to listen till they were too far off in the distance to hear any longer. a high point of my life, and quite a blessing.
day five (i'm taking a break. i'll keep adding till the story's finished. asap)
***end note: Lloyd, Brooks, and I were asked to return as apprentice instructors!! we accepted! I'll be spending may through june in utah, learning all sorts of stuff- including a mandatory wilderness search and rescue certification! how sweet is that! it's all free. i am only responsible for getting to and from the place. i'll be camping there at their base camp when not on the trails, and they feed me. eventually, i'll be paid- not much but who cares!- to take people out to the desert, gently guiding them through hopefully life-changing experiences!
dream come true, and i never even knew i had such a dream til now!! i am a very happy girl!!!!***
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|dude, you would've loved it! ever been desert camping? soon enough i'll know the place like the back of my hand....which means a road trip. (well, by soon i mean another year....)|
CooOOoooOoool...dude, you're like the dude on the discovery channel that eats maggots in alaska...
but you're a helluva lot cuter and vegan.
i wanna be cool like YOU when i get cooler!!