Quick Trip to Kane Creek and Monument Valley

I’m sure I’m not alone when I’m floored by the vast scenery found in red rock county throughout the Southwest. I grew up mostly in Tennessee and went to school on the east coast, so I was accustomed to green grass and massive canopies of oak, sycamore and maple trees. Humidity was this so we usually had thick hazy days in the summer and gray winters. With my stint in the Navy, first in Annapolis followed by New Port, Long Beach, and San Diego my subsequent view of the world was that of extensive coast lines and open ocean.

Fast forward to my first job after military service working for and business consulting firm, I found myself in Utah where my project team made a weekend road trip to Moab, Utah. It was in early May where the sun burned long and warm and after sunset the temperatures rapidly cooled. The skies were dark and pure, free of the light pollution we unconscientiously accept in our cities and towns that over-light our streets, businesses, and neighborhoods. As this project wound down, I was faced with a few choices where I decided to make a permanent move from San Francisco to Utah. Shortly after the move I made several more trips to Moab mostly with mountain biking as my focus.

As it has been to do, life just got busy. Years passed, and eventually a decade or more passed since my last trip to southern Utah. But, I got an itch! Last year we purchased Louise, 1966 Airstream Caravel, and made our first real trip a memorable one to Grand Staircase Escalante and then Torrey Utah, and a few other trips. This got me thinking about how long it had been since my last trip to Moab. I was also curious about the surrounding areas and wanted to explore.

At home in Summit County near Park City, it was getting late in the fall with the shorter days and night time temps falling well below freezing, it was time to winterize Louise and put her into storage. I was feeling sad and anxious. In years past we received enough snow fall that made shifting the mindset to winter sports easy and natural. However, this year we had only received nuisance snow, enough to prompt me to test the snow blower, mark the perimeter of the driveway and wax skis. But, then nothing…not enough to enough actually ski or snowshoe. So, I began checking the temps in Moab. I had to scratch the itch. They were still looked promising…warm day with cool nights.

We had just purchased a HD truck for my wife’s gooseneck horse trailer, so I began exploring some adventure options. After some online research, I quickly found a high quality canvas style tent that covers the bed of the truck. I liked the idea of canvas for this purpose. Canvas tents tend to fair better in windy environments and breath well enough that you don’t wake up to condensation build up on the side walls. Duck Canvas is proven material, though too heavy for back packing but perfect for the likes of the bed of a Silverado 3500 HD. Set up, is still easy for one person. This tent was made. During this trip, I used Compendium to find a spot close to Moab but this time it did not have to be camper friendly. I packed my tent, Cabelas cot, memory foam, wool blankets, thermarest pillow, Mr Buddy Propane heater, two burner stove and Bora propane fire pit. I’ll be honest, I can’t decide which is better or worse for the environment, efficient propane use or burning wood. While the smell of some wood fires add to a camping experience, it quickly goes south when everything starts to smell like smoke, babysitting the fire so it is safely out so you can safely go to sleep (especially if winds pickup), and the poor aesthetic when leaving the site for the next camper. In some areas, they prohibit the collection of wood. So, I’ve decided using propane appliances to be safe, insanely convenient, and leave no trace whether the emissions are better or worse that wood, I frankly don’t know so I reserve the right to revisit should I discover compelling new information.

So, by and large most of this trip was a success. The scenery was epic. The temps dropped overnight into the low 30s! My new tent and cot were great. The propane appliances were awesome and a life or at least a comport saver. What I would do differently….. While luxurious in civilized temperatures, memory foam matresses and pillows suck in cold weather! They transform into cold rigid ice blocks. Open cell foam is the way to go in these conditions, though a down pillow might be a nice add. Next time I’ll use the wool blanks, to sleep on top of and use my cold weather sleeping bag with sheet liner to for a more comfortable nights rest. I did wake up a few times to start the Mr. Buddy propane heater. I unzipped window and made sure it was a safe distance from anything flammable. After a minute or two the tent was comfortable to move around and reorganize just a bit. After ten minutes it’s rather toasty so I could turn it off so it was no longer hot to the touch and fall back to sleep (albeit restless).

I packed up and drove 9 miles on a well maintained dirt road back to town where I turned south. I stopped by an espresso kiosk before hitting 191 I passed Bears Ears before turning on 163 en route for Monument Valley. Of course, I “stole” a few photos along the way. I say “stole”, there was no premeditation nor calculation to it. I saw a turn out and click…there it was. I do feel guilty using this tactic. When driving these long stretches of back roads, I think of the efforts and commitment Ansel Adams and other pioneers of the craft must have endured. I look forward to returning for an extended stay to absorb the rare radiant beauty this part of the country has to offer and to redeem my guilt.

The gear I most appreciated for this trip:  Mr Heater litte buddy, bond fire pit, Kodiak Canvas Truck Tent, and of course the Chevy Silverado 3500 HD

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