A Desert Adventure: 3.000 Miles across Utah and Colorado.

October 19, 2019

Road trip Great Sand Dunes National Park, couplegoals
Road trip with the most wonderful man in the Universe

The neon light of the gas station gleams in total darkness. I bend over the car and scrape a monstrous insect from the windscreen while the warm wind messes around with my hair. A wall of black clouds slides over the sky on the horizon and an intergalactic lightning illuminates the loneliness of the desert for the blink of a second. We're in Green River, Utah. Just a stone's throw from Arches National Park. Means almost as far away as a trip to Alpha Centauri and back. We fill up quickly before we move to our ghost town overnight. Where the only living building actually is our motel. My boyfriend says something silly and funny and I push him gently against the car. We realize that we haven't bought any wine and have to get up at five o'clock tomorrow to watch a romantic sunrise. Life can be hard.

Then we shoot off into infinity. I put my feet on the dashboard and we listen to Bon Iver. This is the story of a fieryred rock gate, canyons that look like goose necks, and a fantastic road trip with my miraculous doppelganger.

The Flaming Gorge and the annoying Boat

Flaming Gorge, Utah and Wyoming, road trip
The Flaming Gorge - without an Annoying Boat
The Flaming Gorge looks like a dark blue velvet ribbon between brown rock teeth. I want to take a postcard-awesome photo. But then a motorboat is distrubing the mirror-like surface. "What is that annoying boat doing there?!" I say out loud. My boyfriend is laughing. We wait untill it is gone.
Then we hike through a sandy pine forest at the rim of the canyon. By the way, the surroundings are not completely natural. The Flaming Gorge belongs to a reservoir. Without the dam, this place would look much different. Luckily you can't see the ugly concrete wall from here. But there are enough other annoying things. I stare into the abyss and then at my camera. "How come every time I want to take a fucking picture, this stupid boat appears again?"
After it happened a third time, I start to believe in crop circles.
A young man who has set up a tripod is standing on an overlook. My boyfriend starts to walk towards him. He probably wants to explain something geological about granite and volcanic rock. He likes to do that and I love him for his great knowledge.
"You have to be careful," he says very seriously to the guy. "I've heard there are so-called Annyoing Boats floating around, driving photographers really nuts."
I almost run and hide behind the next tree because I have to laugh so hard.

 

The Park Avenue in Arches National Park

Park Avenue Trail, Arches National Park USA
The Park Avenue in Arches

On the next days we explore Arches and Canyonlands National Park. It's late in the evening when we arrive. Finally! I missed Arches National Park on my big solo trip in 2017 and regretted it since then. My boyfriend is parking on a spot of asphalt that looks as exciting as a rest area in Nebraska. Then we climb a few steps and my breath freezes. A huge red ravine opens up in front of my eyes. The rocks on the left and right look like thin, open books. The light is warm and mysterious and I feel as if I have suddenly stepped into the golden ruins of a cathedral. We walk down the gorge together. There is no noise but our footsteps and a magical wind that seems to sing. I know this is one of those moments in life which are as difficult to put into words as love into wrapping paper. It's overwhelming. The Arches National Park shoots immediately up to the second place of my personal list of National Parks in the USA (after Yellowstone). They can definitely go and fill the Grand Canyon with dirt!

The weird Feeling of having a Doppelganger

Canyonlands National Park, overlook, lonelyroadlover
Me exploring Canyonlands National Park

It's 5 am when the alarm goes off. Unfortunately, it not really going anywhere, otherwise it would be gone and wouldn't bother me in the middle of the night. We leave in the pitch black. We want to hike to Delicate Arch and watch the sunrise there. Arches National Park is certified as an International Dark Sky Park. This makes it a perfect place for observing stars. Forthermore they will try to protect it from light pollution in the future. I press my nose against the car window to find out if I can still see the Milky Way or if it is already too bright. A narrow stripe of blue is already shimmering on the horizon.

"I wonder if you can still see the Milky Way," my fiance says.

 

We keep thinking the same things. Sometimes we even start saying the same things at the same time. We compared our bucket lists and found almost the same places ("Taj Mahal") and things ("Skydiving") we want to see and do. We have the same attitude towards traveling, life and even to the way we want to die and be buried. Sometimes we look at each other for a long time. A very long time. Then there's this silence. Like the stars are falling from the sky.

He sometimes says: "You're my female doppelganger." I know he's right and I've never felt anything so wonderful and nuts in my life.

Sunrise at Delicate Arch

Delicate Arch at sunrise, Arches National Park, Road Trip Utah
Delicate Arch at sunrise

We run like lunatics for about 1.5 miles over rocks and dusty paths in the twilight . The sun is rising soon and we're late. I'm wearing 30 jackets because I thought it would be cold in the morning. It is cold in the morning. But my boyfriend climbs up the hills like a mountain goat and I chase his shadow asthmatically while I try to take off one jacket after another without stopping or looking like I was running out of breath.

 

We end up on the sandy red rocks in front of the gigantic Delicate Arch five minutes before sunrise. The arch just stands there as if some da Vinci had put it up for fun. A bunch of other photographers are already there, but no one is yelling or stomping through the scenery. Everyone sits silently under the sky that is slowly turning pink. I'm gonna plunge a gallon of water into mouth and offer something to my boyfriend. "Nah, why?" he asks relaxed. I secretly dab some sweat out of my eyes and pretend it's dew.

 

Then the golden glow of the morning sun slowly crawls over the peaks of the mountains. It pushes itself inexorably over the entire landscape like shimmering lava. "Holy shit moly!" I say quietly. My boyfriend smiles and puts his arm around me. I see the freckles on his skin and know that I don't want to be anywhere else in the world.

Moki Dugway: A crazy Road above the Abyss

Goosenecks State Park Overlook
Goosenecks State Park Overlook
A few days later we are at the Goosenecks State Park. "I thought it was just a river running through a forest," my boyfriend yells against the wild storm. He took a photo of me that shows my hair sticking out horizontally from my head. I don't know what's going on here. But it is exciting, though. The San Juan River has dug itself into the rocks in a way that the landscape actually looks like the neck of a goose or a swan.
Then we drive up the Moki Dugway. An absolutely fantastic dirt road that cuts into a vertical rock face. Since I told my boyfriend about it in 2017, he wanted to drive this road. Now he is sitting behind the steering wheel like a little kid that found Christmas presents. "Oh, my God, I've always wanted to do that. Oh my God, that's great!" he shouts and smiles. I love his enthusiasm, his spirit of adventure and his little loose screw.

The Moki Dugway is 3 miles long and makes an elevation change of 1,000 feet. Trucks and caravans are not allowed because of the extremely narrow curves and the gradient.

The Cliff Dwellings at Mesa Verde and a Dark Canyon

Mesa Verde National Park, Cliff Dwellings, historic facts USA
Mesa Verde: magnificent buildings in canyon walls

After about a week we arrive in Colorado. One of our destinations is Mesa Verde National Park. Here you can find the ruins of anchient people - Anasazi - who built their villages right into the walls of steep canyons. Their sandstone houses literally seem to hide in the caves and cracks of the rocks - like a special edition of Lego. In order to get there, those people had to rope down and carve stairs into the stone. What a crazy place to live! In the middle of the abyss. The Anasazi lived here from 550 to about 1200 AD, grew crops, made pottery and would certainly be delighted if they knew that their WC is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

 

On the next day we are at the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. At first I read "Black Canyon of the Guinness". The dark canyon is one of the narrowest canyons in North America. At one point, both sides are only 0.2 miles apart. The blue river meanders through the deeply incised valley. I am a bit antsy because I want to climb to the bottom, for which you need a special permit and a lot of time, which we unfortunately don't have.

"Next time we'll walk down there," my fiance says and peers with glowing eyes into the depths.

Sand Dunes in the Mountains

Great Sand Dune National Park, Colorado
Great in the Great Sand Dunes of Colorado

Before our trip is over, we make a short stop in the Sahara. At least that's what the massive sand dunes look like, which simply hide in the middle of the mountains of Colorado. And because we didn't have enough superlatives yet, they are simply the highest sand dunes in North America. The highest one is 754 feet tall. Of course we have to walk up! The afternoon sun casts sharp shadows on the steep edges. There are no hiking trails here. You just run into the sand. Apocalyptic craters and walls made of nothing but sand, pile up in front of us in the soft light. After a few minutes I feel like I'm walking on platform shoes. We fight our way up higher and higher in the warm wind and finally reach the narrow ridge of the highest dune. The unsteady formations slosh motionless like a frozen sea around us. The Great Sand Dunes are about 12,000 years old. Formed by deposits of the Rio Grande.

 

When it gets dark, we run down hand in hand and barefoot, so that the sand gets stuck in our hair and between our teeth. There is only a pink shine over the landscape when we reach the bottom. We sit on a tree trunk. Then there's this silence. Like the stars are falling from the sky.

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