I woke up with the grit of sand in my teeth after a Friday night under the stars, and a short, moonlit bike ride near Canyonlands. By 9 a.m. I was at the trailhead of Upheaval Dome in Island in the Sky – the section of Canyonlands National Park between the Green and Colorado rivers. The Dome, 2 miles across and 9 around, looks like a meteor impact crater. It’s unique, with no consensus on how it was formed.I started running along the south ridge and got a good view down into the crater before the trail launched off a 1,500-foot cliff down to a wide canyon with high walls.It was pleasant running along the sandy bottom of the Syncline Trail – the loop around Upheaval Dome. There was still plenty of rock-hopping and short descents, but it stayed relatively smooth to the junction where a spur took me down to the Colorado, seven miles and 2,000-feet from the top. Tamarisk barred my way from a cool dip, the sun was getting hotter and my water was already running low, so I turned and ran up the canyon to rejoin the Syncline Trail. It was around that point that my body turned to autopilot and my mind was on foreverrunning pace. Going up steep pitches on the north side forced me into a hurried goat-climb that turned to fevered quick-hiking and eventually, walking. As the upward miles pressed on, noon hit with heat and I ran out of what had been 2 liters of water. I kept going, sometimes walking and sometimes running, often thinking 16 miles had never felt so impossible. After a few sitting breaks that did little to relieve a parched throat and sore legs, I finally took off the empty CamelBak for a pillow and laid down in a heap. This is what it feels like to die in the desert, I thought.But it was only a few moments before I heard something recognizable and realized it was a car. Standing up, I looked around to see nothing, then walked about 10 feet. There, in plain sight was the parking lot, packed to the brim with RVs and SUVs.Suddenly, seeing people fresh out of the A.C. and a couple chowing on a Caesar salad out of a plastic container seemed disgustingly decadent. For some rational thinking, I bought a copy of “Desert Solitaire” at the ranger station on the way back to my campsite and sat alone, the rest of the day, just reading, drinking water, eating as much as I could and playing guitar.
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