Searching Through Sandstone

From climbing canyons in the Escalante to bike-packing singletrack under the night sky, this was my chance to reconnect with the wildness of Southern Utah during an impromptu adventure.

A narrow beam of light from my headlamp methodically scans the rock wall above me in search of something to grasp. My breath fogs the cold night air and I am utterly alone beneath the thick black sky held above me. A fall at this point would be disastrous, but these are the thoughts that must not be felt. Instead my focus turns to breath, the rhythmic push and pull of air that keeps my mind and body steady. On the edge of the canyon I feel grounded. 

Clouds roll up the canyons of the Red Mountain Wilderness Area.

A view of the night sky from the massive hanging canyon walls of Coyote Gulch. 

It is at these points, on the edge of a canyon, that the rest of the world fades away and only the most immediate surroundings come into sharp focus. I feel every grain of sandstone ripple under my fingertips, the slightest shift in every toe straining to balance, and from within the most visceral feeling of the canyon floor tugging below. 

Sunlight illuminates fresh snow covering Reflection Canyon. 

So too, on the edges of day and night, is such clarity felt as the landscape comes into focus. The light is engulfing and I am forced to stop and marvel at the brilliance of my surroundings. 

A sunset of incomparable colors falls over the Henry Mountains.

Flora of the Beaver Dam Wilderness Area.

A roaring sky over Factory Butte. 

I emerge from the edge. The safety of the horizontal world allows my awareness to expand into the rolling sandstone formations laced with snow laid out before me and to the thick blanket of stars hanging over me. I can feel their weight, except the feeling isn’t crushing - it’s comforting. Despite my isolation, I share this sky with all of humanity. The sound of my breath subsided and a deafening silence takes hold. This is the peace I came in search of. 

The moon rising through the clouds and the Milky Way draped over Factory Butte. 

Last light on a mesa beneath the Pine Valley Mountains.

Tent views in the Utah hills.

Standing on the summit overlooking Hellhole Canyon. 

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