Fun is Awesome: Cedar Mesa, UT Part 5

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Fun Is Awesome: Cedar Mesa Part 5

As I awaken from my desert slumber, I realize now, that my decision is clear.  Rather than hike out the way that I came, I will continue down an unknown canyon, which should lead, hopefully leads, must lead out to the main road where I can hitch a ride 30 miles back to my truck.  Certainly the more adventurous route.  Certainly the one with more scenery.  And more scenery equals more fun.  Besides, I’m already 2 miles into this side canyon and turning around has never been a great option for me.  As I hike on, I realize that this side canyon is perhaps even more beautiful, more remote, more exquisite than the main one.  But I’ve seen more than I can possibly remember.  My dreams will surely be filled with swirling sandstone, cliff dwellings, and petroglyphs.  It all resides in my memory banks somewhere.  Memories like these are the ones that make up my life.  And the more I step out of my routine, the more memories I get.

I love creating my life.  A work of art in progress.  I have no regrets.  If I regret anything, it’s not doing more.  But I’m not done yet.  I’m 41 years old, almost 42, and I’ve lived a life beyond any dream or expectation I ever had as a child.  Perhaps this is because I never really had any expectations.  Except simply to have fun.  And fun is awesome!  Any time I have a decision to make, I base my decision on what would be the most fun.  He who has the most fun wins!  When I die, I want my eulogy to be this. . .”This guy knew how to have fun!  Here is what he did. . .”  The list would take over an hour to recite.  People would be smiling and laughing.  I hope it inspires them to go out and have some fun of their own.

Why should we ever stop having fun?  I plan to have fun until fun is no longer possible.  Then I will be ready to move on.  Turn in this body and see what is next.  How can it not be great?  Perhaps even greater than this life.  But until then, I plan to have as much fun as humanly possible.

See ya on down the trail. . .

 

 

The Canyon Speaks: Cedar Mesa Part 4

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The Canyon Speaks: Cedar Mesa Part 4

I move slowly, careful not to move a piece of pottery out of place.  I realize now, that I’m walking in a museum.  Everything is in its perfect place.  I, too, am part of the exhibit.  Modern day man.  We leave our footprints in the sand.  Our paths on the land.  Everything has its story.  Some millions of years old.  Some hundreds of years old.  Others just minutes.  More stories than could ever be told.  I keep coming back for more.

Saturday and Sunday were busy days on the trail.  I passed at least one person each day.  But today is Monday and the crowds are gone.  I have the place to myself once again.  It feels like the first day of true solo.  The typical longings and cravings have arrived.  It is getting dark.  A full moon on the rise.  The cravings subside and I feel nothing but calmness.  I’m lucky to be here.

“Don’t be one way, wishing for another.  Only to arrive at the new way, wishing for the first.”

These are the things that wash over my mind in places such as this.  Where do they come from?

Morning.  The sun creeps over the east canyon wall and wakes me from my slumber.  It’s late morning and I’ve slept in.  Instantly, I’m famished.  I move to the shade of my juniper, make tea and oatmeal, and listen to the sounds of the morning.  It is the sweetest time of day.

I’m three days into this canyon.  Middle of the trip.  Today I must decide whether  to head back the way I came or attempt to hike out a different canyon.  One that would require some route finding and a hitchhike 15 miles back to my car.  I most likely won’t decide this until my pack is strapped to my shoulders and take the first step.  A method that has served me well up until this point.  But first, I have more important things to do.  Like testing the walls for echoes.

I could stay out here for weeks, I tell myself.  If it weren’t for the allure of things such as cold draft beer in frosted pint glasses, burgers and fries, tacos.  I know these to be false promises.  Always leaving me longing for the next indulgement,.  The next fix.  An endless, maddening process.  But I allow them to lead me back to civilization anyhow.  There is no other way to be who I am.

In three days, I will leave this paradise of beauty and simplicity for a world of desire and temptation.  Perhaps because each world makes the other that much sweeter.

“Without work, can you really enjoy the play?”

“Without clouds, can you really enjoy the sun?”

“Without sound, can you really enjoy the silence?”

More profound thoughts.  Childlike, yet true.

Could I travel forever without longing for the comforts of home?

Doesn’t our mind always want something else?  We’re sad and we wish we were happy.  We’re hot and we wish we were cold.  We’re in one place and we wish we were in another.  Does our pain really come from our life situation, or does it come from our desire for something else?  Something else surely comes along soon enough, does it not?  Are we not running in circles, chasing our own tails?  Must we always be chasing the next “better moment”,  just around the corner?”  As fast as we try to run, can we ever get to the future?  Does it even exist?  Perhaps now is it.  Our lives unfolding right before our eyes.  Perhaps we just need to change focus.

 

No words: Cedar Mesa Part 3

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No Words: Cedar Mesa Part 3

Camp 2:37pm

This is the Utah of my dreams.  Everywhere I look is blue sky and orange sandstone.  Tonight, my camp is purely on slickrock.  I’m surrounded on all sides by enormous cliffs, hundreds of feet high.  A cool, clear stream flows just outside my camp.  Now I have the rest of the day to sit and contemplate the cliffs with plenty of tea to drink.  I’m sitting in the shade of a juniper.  The tea tastes extraordinary.  It feels blazing hot in the sun, but in the shade it is perfect.  A raven croaks above.  The breeze blows the hair on my arms and legs.  Clouds on the horizon now.  Big puffy white clouds.  They’re the first clouds I’ve seen.  A lizard sits on a rock nearby.  He’s eyeing me with caution.  Oddly enough, he’s now coming toward me.  I can now see that his sides are red.  His underside is green.  I suppose he’s hunting.  I don’t make a move.  Then, for no apparent reason, he darts off across the rock.

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To be bathed in this much silence all at once is pure indulgence.  This type of pure silence is so rare elsewhere.  Silence amplifies sound.  When there is no sound to amplify, silence amplifies everything.  When there is a sound, let me just say WOW!  I think I hear a gunshot, only to find it is just my cooking pot ticking in the heat of the sun.  I think I hear a whole family coming up the canyon, only to find it’s only a small flea buzzing by.  I hear laughing and it’s the distant crying of a raven floating on the wind.  But it’s mostly the lack of sound that’s so loud.  One must experience this to understand what I mean.  The mind can naturally sit still, because this type of silence is so captivating, that the mind focuses on it.  Yet it is simultaneously focusing on nothing.  Source is let in.  Now it is all I feel.  Life force energy surrounds me as well as everything around me.  The air buzzes.  This buzz can actually be felt through the body.  The light becomes intensified.  Colors more vivid.  But instead of harshness, I feel love.  Love that is difficult to contain.  Can I love too much?  What will happen?  And so I turn down the volume just a bit, more out of instinct than fear.

When the breeze picks up, I move out into the sun and sit on a rock.  The sun feels exhilarating on my back.  Clouds getting thicker on the horizon now.  Gratitude.  “You’ve waited all your life for this,” I tell myself.  Nothing else I know of is as dramatically beautiful as the Utah Desert.  The Greater Canyonlands.  No words.  No words.  No words.  No words. . .

To be continued. . .

Stepping into the mystery: Cedar Mesa, UT Part 2

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Stepping into the mystery: Cedar Mesa, UT

Night 2

The frogs are even louder tonight.  They sound like chanting.  To me, this seems fitting since I’m camped in a canyon surrounded by ancient Indian ruins.  Today brings more ruins and petroglyphs than imaginable.  This place was a village.  Around every corner, more cliff dwellings come into view.  Each more elaborate than the last.  But it’s the petroglyphs and pictographs that I find most interesting.  What are these strange animals, figures, and spirals about?  A flying camel?  A man with a frog head?  More arrows, hand prints, centipedes.  Visions from dreams, or just elaborate doodling?  Figures to ward off evil spirits, or to appease the gods?  We’ll never know.  But this is what makes them so fascinating.  I’m irresistibly drawn to them.  They seem to have a life of their own.  Like guardians of the canyons.

The frogs have finally stopped for the moment, but I can still hear the bats, sounding their sonar as they hunt for mosquitos.  Very few this time of year.  The air feels cooler than last night.  I think I’ll sleep in my tent tonight.

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Morning.

Nothing but the sounds of birds, and pristine desert silence.  The air is a still 45 degrees.  I make tea and oatmeal and sit for a while.  Looking at my map, I realize I’m camped directly beneath a large ruin.  No camping at the ruin or the surrounding bench my map clearly states.  Whoops.  Although I’ve seen no one, I pack up tent and sleeping bag anyway.  Now I’m no longer camping.  The morning ensues.  No one comes by.  The huge sandstone wall behind me is completely lit up in sunshine but my “camp” is still in the shade.  I should go and inspect the ruins.  But instead I continue to sit in silence.  Plenty of time for poking around old cliff dwellings.  For now, the morning silence is thrilling enough.  I think of the cliff dwellers.  Waking up each morning with the sun.  A symphony of birdsong.  I think of their breathing.  How it must have been slow and deep.  I think of their eyes.  Peaceful, yet alert.  Their hearing as sharp as cats.  Perhaps even with the threat of attack at any moment, peace of mind must have prevailed in a place like this.  Predator and prey have always been the natural order of things.  Like the birds, who wake up each morning with song, yet build their nests high up in the trees.  Far from danger.  They live in the present moment, yet have the common sense to protect themselves from harm.  Is it for the fear of fire that we do not put our hand in the flame, or is it simply because we do not want to get burned?  We don’t live our lives in constant fear of fire.   We just have the common sense not to put our hand in it.   Perhaps these cliff dwellers simply had the common sense to build their homes high up on the cliff walls, away from danger.  Like the birds.  Living peacefully and happily in this place of immense beauty and solitude.

What purpose does fear really have?  People have fear in times of war and depression and in times of peace and prosperity.  What purpose does it really serve?  Is fear really ever based on reality, or on some imagined future situation that never arrives?  Is fear simply a disease (dis-ease) of the mind?   We fear losing our jobs.  Losing our money.  Losing our possessions.  Losing our loved ones.  Our friends.  We fear our own annihilation.  But do we need fear to survive in this world?  Do we need fear to keep us safe, or just common sense?  Is fear serving us, or is it sabotaging our lives?  Did these Indians leave their cliff dwellings due to real threats, or did their own fear finally drive them to madness and mass exodus, leaving these pristine desert canyons for a fear that was only in their heads?  Much has been written about this.  All theories.  The truth remains a mystery.

The sunlight has finally reached me.  The air turns from cool to suddenly, exhilleratingly warm.  Perhaps it’s time to go poke around some old Indian ruins.

To be continued . . .

The ancient people: Cedar Mesa Part 1

Cedar Mesa 1

The Ancient People: Cedar Mesa, UT

The cottonwood trees have barely started to bud.  It’s early spring in canyon country, but the weather is warm.  Sitting in the shade of a cottonwood, I prop up my tired feet, recline in my camp chair, and sip tea.  I took the first campsite I could find near water.  This canyon, which I have decided to not name to protect the many sensitive artifacts and archaeological sites contained herein, started out with abundant water, large pools, and waterfalls.  But after several miles, the water disappeared.  For 2 hours I walked with a quarter cup of water sloshing around at the bottom of my bottle.  But I knew there would be water.  HAD to be water.  Thanking mother nature once again for always taking such good care of me, I drank heartily from a clear, deep spring coming right up from the ground.  The sweetest water imaginable.  No filtering required.  This water traveled through miles of sandstone to get here.  Purified by Mother Nature herself.

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This is a special place.  A canyon 50 miles long consisting of extra thick walls of sandstone and more Anasazi cliff dwellings, petroglyphs, pictographs, kivas, potsherds, and other artifacts than anywhere else on in Utah.  But the beauty of this place is that you have to seek out these ruins yourself, hiking many miles and sometimes many days to find them.  There are no signs, no guided tours, no roped off viewpoints, and no crowds here.  Here you discover the ruins on your own.  Many times off trail.  Hidden among alcoves and down unnamed canyons.  The early people thrived here for hundreds, perhaps thousands of years.  I can see why.  Here, I suppose, they felt protected from their enemies, living high up the canyon walls.  They chose south facing walls providing the warmth of the sun in the winter and shade in the summer.  Living in this place of undeniable beauty, they raised children, hunted for food, and did their daily chores.  Passing the time They made beautiful pottery and adorned their walls with artwork that still exists today.  These petroglyphs (etchings) and pictographs (paintings), decorate the orange sandstone walls around their houses and throughout their canyons.  How fitting is it that along with their cliff dwellings, which blend into the surroundings so well they are often overlooked, their artwork is the only surviving mark of their existence in these canyons.  They are gone, but their ART survives.

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Archaeologists say these ancient cliff dwellers seemingly left all at once.  Perhaps these enemies, real or imagined, finally got the best of them and drove them out.  Or perhaps they were driven out by drought or famine.  For whatever reason, they moved on.  Now here I am.  Poking around their little stone houses, many still intact after thousands of years.  Here I am camping in their canyons they used to call home.  But instead of fear, I feel safety.  I have no enemies to fear deep inside these canyons.  I carry no weapons and camp on the canyon floor.  I feel only peace as another couple walks by my camp this morning.  A friendly hello is all that is exchanged.  But we live in different times.  Safer times.  How often it is that I think to myself, if I could pick any time to be alive on this planet, I choose now.  Now is the best time.  This of course works well, now being my only available option.  But we live in a time of relative safety and abundance.  Of course I am speaking only of my country of residence, the only one I know.  For those of you who don’t agree, I simply invite you to turn off the evening news.  Better yet, turn off the TV entirely.  Get rid of it.  The way I see it, there has never been a better time to be alive than right now.  And since now is all you have anyway, why not enjoy it to the fullest.  Sure, there is poverty, theft, violence, hatred, greed, and so on.  But these things have always existed.  These things are not new.  The media is new.  The Anasazi didn’t need the media to tell them there were enemies lurking around every corner.  This was their reality.  Fighting was a way of life.

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After dinner, I walk up a side canyon and discover, almost immediately, a large area of ruins on a south facing cliff.  In fading light, I climb as high as I can and reach several lower structures.  Potsherds and corn cobs are scattered about.  Petroglyphs and pictographs adorn the walls.  Some resemble bighorn sheep.  Deer.  Others are more otherworldly.  Visions from dreams perhaps, or gods, or demons.  Then there are three arrows.  Arranged vertically.  All pointing down.  Down towards what, I do not know.  Several handprints.  Small like a childs.  Over a dozen structures can be seen from where I sit.  The highest ones cannot be reached.  It’s likely these are the best preserved.  Sitting high on this sandstone cliff, I feel close to these people.  A sort of empathy for them.  That the love in my heart is the same as the love in theirs, if that makes sense.

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As it gets dark, I walk back down the canyon.  To my camp.  Frogs are now croaking loudly as I pass by a stream.  If you are ever in need of water, just wait until dark and listen for the frogs.  There you will find water.  Their sounds echo off the canyon walls, filling our canyon with a symphony of sound.  A lullaby I imagine will sing me peacefully to sleep.  Tomorrow I feel should be a very good day.

To be continued . . .