While huffing through the rough day of yesterday I was trying to figure out why it hit me so particularly hard. I was physically well rested after three great days with Liz in Moab. I've been riding through some adverse conditions before and always [well, 99% the time] been able to keep my spirits up. Two rough days in over 9000km is still a damn good average [remember the last one at Kluane Lake?] and there is really nothing to worry about. Still, it left me puzzled.
I realize that without vocalizing it - neither here nor to myself - I've been on an "escaping winter mission 2.0" in the last couple of weeks. Apart from my little off-road retreat in Nevada it has been a lot of kilometer crushing since I left Boise. Too much riding in the dark [which proved to be very draining], too much squeezing ride time out of the short days...
While staying in the cozy homes of my generous hosts is usually a great rest, it's time again to realize that there is another type of rest needed, a rest for the mind, a rest in nature. Hence, the idea is hatched to make my way to the Valley of the Gods today [just 80km away] and camp there for at least two nights. It was recommend to me by a friend of Kira in Provo and is supposed to be very beautiful.
I stock up on three days of food [nice comfort food], fill up three days worth of water and off I go towards my destination. Despite a fairly late start at 10AM and again tough winds I immediately feel the difference.
In the distance I can already see the landscape crumbling, what gets me very excited. I am headed towards a place that to me is one of the most iconic images when I think about an American road trip [I wonder which image would come to your mind first?]. It's cheesy, it's Monument Valley.
Through a beautiful canyon of red rock formations I make it down to Bluff and on towards Mexican Hat. After taking a sharp corner not far from Bluff it's simply one of these moments again... Red earth, red rock, a landscape that I would expect from Mars but not on earth. I freak out! This is exactly what I was looking for.
Riding through these landscapes is always quite a surprise box. For the most part you stay on top in a somewhat desert like landscape. You don't see much. But whenever you drop down somewhere [usually where a river cuts through and forms beautiful canyons or exposes the rock to errossion] it's pure magic. Since I still don't do much research, these surprises are tenfold to me.
By 4PM I reach the gravel road through the Valley of the Gods. The excitement skyrockets. It's something like a mini Monument Valley with the distinction that I have it all to myself. No car, no people, apart from a few eagles above me and the green plants in the wash outs I don't see any signs of life. Dramatic, monoltic rock formations and red desert all around me. The sun and the clouds perform a fascinating light show on the barren red rock.
However, I am a bit late. Some nasty weather [wind and rain] is forecasted for the night and in this landscape it's crucial to choose your spot wisely [neither want to be caught in a flash flood or get stuck in the mud in one of the wind protected wash outs nor want to be blown away by the wind]. After 10km and some walking around in the landscape I find a spot that I deem okay-ish.
The moon shines bright when I go to bed and the wind slowly picks up. Good night.