The drive out...
It was the standard haul across Central Colorado and fifth crossing of Monarch Pass for this old yellow horse.
Since my drive to Utah follows one typical route, I like to look for new variations to get there. I left the pavement and the Paradox Valley behind and ascended high onto the Uncompaghre Plateau. From this vantage point, you could see Paradox, the farmlands around Norwood, and the San Juans beyond.
I crossed into Utah high on the backside of the La Sals.
Heading high at Paradox was impulsive and I hadn't planned a route beforehand. It was still early in the season and there were many downed trees and snow banks to deal with.
I finally descended from the La Sal's flanks on a gnarly 4WD trail above the Castle Valley. From Paradox to the Sand Flats Recreation Area, my tires didn't touch pavement for almost 110 miles.
I met up with Ben and Jason that evening and we made a beeline for a nice little spot north of town on public lands with a grand overlook.
We slept under the stars on a sandstone chimney, sleeping bags and Thermarests laid out on the rock.
The next morning, we headed south to the eastern rim of the Colorado River canyons.
The plan was to camp here but the windy prelude to a massive Pacific storm was blowing in as we arrived. There were 50 MPH sustained winds with gusts over 70. We followed a 4WD trail out to a point to take in the view. You could barely make out Lockhart Basin below.
After bagging on that camping plan, we decided to head south for Comb Wash, since it's a little more sheltered down there. While exploring for a campsite, I--unintentionally--took us up the Comb Ridge dugway that lies south of the highway. It was 11PM as we started the ascent up the very rocky and very exposed trail. I considered turning us around when I saw what we'd gotten into but with three trucks already on the narrow ledge, there was nothing to do but commit. We hauled ass up that thing and set up camp in a sandy wash above the ridge.
The next morning, we broke camp and headed for the redezvous with the rest of the group in Blanding.
After the meet-up and some quick grocery shopping, we headed for Cedar Mesa.
We set up camp in the afternoon and the festivities began.
Peter grilled a delicious feast of lamb ribs for the crowd.
Kevin made some fancy quinoa.
It was one of those magical afternoons where you wish you could freeze time. The weather was beautiful and we didn't want the sun to set.