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November/December 2005

From the Grand Canyon to Canyonlands: Hiking At The Speed Of Sound

Seven national parks in 7 days--starring a ragtop, Red Bull, and one scary rabbit.
Backpacker_Magazine_Zion_NPZion National Park, Nick Driggs/Utah Office of Tourism

And then I drove Jackie through Moab, its shiny strip of weathertight motels flashing vacancy signs. What happened next is one of those unspoken secrets that fellow adventurers agree to tuck away in a sacred place, but let’s just say that I was struck with this feeling that my journey would be incomplete without a solo night. As I pulled out my raingear at the trailhead, thunder clapped in the distance and tourists scurried to their RVs. For a very long moment, I stood there with rain dripping down the back of my neck, laughing at my own kooky compulsiveness. Yet once I starting walking, everything fell into place. Sure, the weather was dicey and the trail did trace an old pipeline, but I had Broken Arch to my left and a misty rainbow to my right. I could only hear my breathing and my footfall. A couple of miles later, I was standing atop a box canyon filled with leafy trees and songbirds punctuating the darkening sky. The ground was littered with chert, a quartzlike rock that the area’s original inhabitants used for arrowheads. A thick spout of water curled over a nearby wash and dropped 200 feet to the canyon floor. Fighting a gusty wind, I pitched my tent on the slickrock and clambered inside. I felt spooked and edgy and alive.

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