Little Book Cliffs: Prologue

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Here’s one from the archives, a trip from last year that I missed documenting. Set the WayBack Machine to May 2006, destination: “Little Book Cliffs”

On the drive home after our river trip through the desert , I began to ponder the possibilities of returning- and soon. The opportunity came less than a month later, during Memorial Day weekend. Kevin and Dorinna were in, of course, but we were also joined by our friend Kim. And, of course, our trusty canine companion, Sky.

Not really willing to drive all the way to Utah, we looked for closer destinations, and found one in the Book Cliffs. The Book Cliffs are a gigantic 200-mile long escarpment of sandstone that stretches across western Colorado and into Utah. It forms the northern wall of the Grand Valley of the Colorado River. The area we chose to hike was the Little Book Cliffs Wild Horse Area, a wild section of desert behind the escarpment. The area is set aside to protect one of the last remaining herds of wild horses in the United States. We didn’t choose it for the wild horses, however. We chose it because of what the wild horses imply– namely, water. The guidebook promised “trickling desert streams… Plunge pools and waterfalls frequent the canyons”. That sounded great to us.

So, late on Friday afternoon, the five of us jammed ourselves and our backpacks into Kevin’s Pimp Daddy Mobile. Unfortunately, the doors wouldn’t shut, so we had to pile out and repack everything a few more times. Everybody inhaled at the same time, and we were able to fit inside. We drove that night to Avon, where the 5 of us, all fundamentally cheapskates*, unpacked ourselves from the car, and repositioned ourselves into a single shared hotel room.

The next morning we repeated the exercise in reverse. We spent a great deal of time looking for outdoor stores in Glenwood Springs. We were all a bit nervous about the number and quantity of water containers that we had. Although there would be water on the trip, it wasn’t clear exactly when and where we would find it. “Best to be safe,” we said, loading up our packs with water.

The trailhead itself was remarkably easy to find. Most of the way through De Beque canyon, across the Colorado River, hulks a monstrous coal-fired power plant. Get off at that exit, drive past the plant, and the trailhead is just beyond.

Feeling fresh and energetic, we tied up our boots, picked up our packs– and let the packs hit the ground with a grunt. We cursed the fact that water weighs eight pounds a gallon and that we each had much more than that, and tried again to pick up the packs. Staggering under the load, we climbed up the first steep ridge and were shocked to see…

(to be continued)

* When asked if she was a cheapskate, Sky merely panted in reply. I took that as a “yes.”

Kevin climbs the first hill. He will be disappointed if I don’t point out that there are power lines behind him.

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