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Yes, this may be common sense, but sometimes it needs to be put in front of you so that you fully understand it. I’ll put it separately for you, though my editor may not like the style choice.
Deserts are so much better to visit in the winter.
I know, right? Common sense tells you that visiting a place like Death Valley becomes much more palatable when the temperature is not likely to hit triple digits. Hiking becomes much better when you don’t have to carry two gallons of water on your back to stay hydrated. Yes, you have to still drink your water, but at 50 to 70 degrees, it isn’t life threatening if you run out.
So, in that spirit, for the next few weeks I’m going to list the top five things by state that I would like to do in the upcoming winter and spring months when I visit the desert southwest.
1. Mountain Biking in Moab
When I lived relatively near Moab, Utah, I kept hearing about the mountain biking there. I ignored it a few times because I thought to myself, there are no mountains there, how can it be good? (That’s the same kind of thinking that has kept me from seeing “Friday Night Lights” so far, just substitute “I don’t like high school football” for “there are no mountains there.”) Well, I hadn’t seen slick rock before, and once I did, man, I was hooked. Atop these cool rock formations, not only is riding fun, it gets you to outlooks so much quicker. To get the feel of the area with a guide, you can try the Moab Adventure Center. If you want to just rent a bike and go crazy, or ship your own bike there to break it in on the slick rock, try Poison Spider Bicycles.
2. Hiking Slot Canyons in the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument
If you’re not familiar with slot canyons, just click on that hyperlink to go to the Wikipedia page for a couple cool pictures or check out brief glimpses of them in the early parts of 127 Hours before he gets stuck. Then you can turn it off and not even think about having to saw your own arm off with a pocketknife. Oops.
I don’t often hike sideways, so when I do, it sticks in my noggin. You squeeze around corners, you can’t see your hiking partners in front or behind you because of all the smooth twists and turns, and all the while you can look straight up and after about 100 feet of canyon walls, the crystal blue desert sky looks back down at you. Three different slot canyons you can try are the awesomely named Little Death Hollow, Peek-A-Boo Gulch and Spooky Gulch.
3. Night Snowshoeing in Bryce Canyon National Park
If you let your eyes get accustomed to the night, you can see quite a bit. If there’s a full moon and snow all over the ground, it can be almost like daytime, if daytime had hoodoos casting human-like shadows that could hide man-eating critters. (Really, the animals are more scared of you than you are of them. Really.) During the winter, the rangers lead a full-moon snowshoe hike once a month on the day of the full moon. If that sounds too cold, you can wait until April 6th and do it as a hike.
4. Driving Route 12 from Torrey to Escalante
I like to drive. I especially like to drive if the road has more twists and turns than a bad mystery television show. (I’m looking at you, “The Killing.”) The stretch of highway between Escalante and Boulder named “Hell’s Backbone” excites my love of driving at the same time it causes every hair on the back of my neck to stand on end. I drove it once at night when the land on both sides of the road seemed to be an interminable black abyss. I want to go back and drive it during the day and see if that makes my fear of heights worse or better. (I’m betting on worse.)
5. Boating on Lake Powell
Rent a houseboat for a week. Fish. Explore canyons from your boat and on foot. Find a secluded beach in a canyon at night, make a bonfire and watch the stars. Repeat. Is it a chance for a big party with all of your friends? Is it a romantic getaway? That’s for you to decide.
That’s my top five. Any suggestions for things that I missed? Any restaurant/greasy spoon recommendations for the area? I’m open to adding to these five adventure ideas.