A weekend in Bears Ears

You’d be hard-pressed to find anybody in the Western US today who hasn’t heard of Bears Ears. It’s become a rallying cry for conservation and recreation and generally not letting public lands disappear. (If you need a refresher on Bears Ears’ contemporary history, here’s a good primer from a Native perspective.)

I’d driven through parts of the Monument, but never spent any significant time there. So when we started making plans to spend a holiday weekend in the desert with friends, I jumped at Bix’s suggestion to make for Cedar Mesa.

Continue reading “A weekend in Bears Ears”


Smoke ’em if you got ’em

I’ve always had champagne taste and a beer budget, though that’s rarely stopped me from doing what I want—borrowed gear, nights spent in the back of my car, and a healthy relationship with Top Ramen have gotten me to plenty of summits. When it comes to adventure planning, I tend to shoot first and ask questions later.

A few weeks ago, Bix and I got an exciting invitation: a ten-day trip to Hawaii, where we’d run a few legs of a 200-mile relay and backpack in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

We instantly went into trip planning mode. How much would airfare be? Could we get the time off work? Would TSA confiscate our JetBoil? What’s the likelihood of my being eaten by a shark when Bix talks me into taking a crack at surfing? Continue reading “Smoke ’em if you got ’em”

Best laid plans

I take considerable pleasure from meticulously planning my next outing—I’ve more than once been called anal-retentive—but you don’t need a fancy headquarters to do it. Some of my best arrangements have been made at dive bars, discussed in vacant classrooms, sussed out around a friend’s kitchen table, daydreamed from my desk at work, or, on occasions that required it, reworked from a soggy tent as Plan A fell to pieces.

When I was in junior high, my school had a thirty-minute period after lunch each day earmarked for reading quietly. As a general rule, I struggled at this point in my life (and also now) to be quiet or sit still, but this wasn’t an issue for me during Charles O. Moore Middle School’s dedicated “Read & Relax” time. Most days, I’d settle in at my desk and pull out the same book I’d read cover to cover untold dozens of times. Continue reading “Best laid plans”

It’s hard out here for a plant: A (very tentative) guide to surviving harsh and hostile lands

“The living organism stands out bold and brave and vivid against the lifeless sand and barren rock. The extreme clarity of the desert light is equaled by the extreme individuation of desert life-forms. Love flowers best in openness and freedom.”

—Edward Abbey, 1968

A fine layer of red dust covers everything in the tent. It’s the same scene I imagine would greet campers waking up in the vast red desert on the surface of Mars, were they lucky enough to survive a windstorm there.

I unzip the door and thrust my head into the landscape outside the tent. The vista from here is similarly Martian: gargantuan red cliffs tower overhead; craters two, three, four thousand feet across fall away from the red dunes of fine sand across the mesa. It is eerily silent.

The only distinguishing factor—all that stands between us and the Mars rover, it seems—is the series of scrappy juniper and sage bushes dotting the landscape as far as the eye can see. Squatty, hardy, and with a low center of gravity, they appear to have withstood last night’s dust bowl better than we have. Then again, it’s taken them untold generations to get it right.

Continue reading “It’s hard out here for a plant: A (very tentative) guide to surviving harsh and hostile lands”