Platts: Going remote

by Barbara Platts

A short trek from our mountain town haven, it’s really just a jaunt down the Roaring Fork Valley, a stretch on I-70 west and then a sharp turn south for scores of miles, is a place called Moab, Utah. The town is quaint and charming, but perhaps the more appealing quality about this destination is the desert all around it. The readily available adventures here come in a different package than they do in the Elk Mountain Range, which is exactly the reason that Aspenites flock here in the shoulder seasons.

Just about four miles on a bumpy road off of Highway 191 and we feel entirely out of civilization, except for the three to four bars our cell phones get. We arrived late on Friday night to a well-established campsite filled with good company (a bunch of seasoned Aspenites who were showing us the ways of desert camping). We quickly melted into the atmosphere, setting up our tents and taking our positions near a well-established fire. We couldn’t yet see our surroundings, but we knew they held a promise of being absolutely gorgeous once the sun rose in the morning.

Friends who don’t live in Aspen are confused when you tell them that you are taking off to the desert for a weekend. They don’t necessarily see the appeal in going to a desolate space with unusually high temperatures and immense amounts of cacti. On top of that, many of them don’t understand the appeal of camping. I once had a friend (he now lives in New York City) tell me he didn’t like to camp because he didn’t like to act like a homeless person on his weekends. Perhaps he had never experienced the true joy the outdoors can bring. How satisfying a dark and muddy cup of coffee tastes in the morning, after a night spent in a tent, or how rewarding it is to cook an edible meal around the fireplit in the evening.

The first time I ever camped near Moab I was in sixth grade. It was for a class trip and we were out there hiking and exploring for about a week. I grew up in Boulder at the base of the Rockies, but I remember thinking how massive the mountains looked and how all of the warm colors felt so foreign. As if we were thousands of miles away from Colorado. Once I moved to Aspen, I realized that going to Moab was a kind of pilgrimage for locals. It was a way to get a different type of scenery without having to travel far.

When we woke up Saturday morning and peered out of our tents, we could see towering red sandstone structures around us. In one direction was the start of Arches National Park and farther down we could identify Canyonlands National Park, however it’s hard to calculate the distance, as everything in the desert looks deceitfully close…or is that far?

After getting our daily dose of bacon (charred and crispy, which is ideal for camping) we headed out for some mountain biking adventures. The trails around Moab for biking are endless. People of all skill levels can find something they like. We checked out the Konzo trails and the routes near Klondike Bluffs (Google for further information because my directions would not be helpful). The weather was ideal, with occasional drizzles to cool us down (a welcome treat in the desert heat). Once we returned to our campsite, a couple of us chose a sandstone landmark somewhere in the distance and started heading toward it. After an hour or so of carefully navigating the untouched desert crust, we were on the edge of a cliff, peering over Arches National Park. It was one of those moments postcards are made out of.

That evening, we cooked a wide array of meats around the fire. I’m a firm believer that no one should feel the slightest bit of hunger whilst car camping. We roasted chicken, grilled kabobs, seasoned salmon and mushrooms and skewered a fair amount of sausages, which prompted a plethora of penis jokes as we sizzled them over the fire. The rain came in again that evening, but it didn’t bother us. We huddled around the fire, close enough that we hoped the heat from the flames would evaporate the raindrops before they hit us.

The next morning, it was time to pack up and head out. Weekend trips never last long enough, but they are a satisfactory escape from the Monday to Friday grind. Even us Aspenites need a break from our weekly obligations. The open expanse of the desert helps to unwind and refocus for what’s ahead.

As we drove home, the smell of firewood soaked in my hair was a strong reminder that we will be back to the desert in the spring season.

Barbara Platts thinks everyone should take a pilgrimage to Moab this offseason, before the snow sets in. Reach her at

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