In the Saddle: Desert days make winter tolerable | AspenTimes.com

In the Saddle: Desert days make winter tolerable

One of the best things about fall is sneaking in desert trips between rain and/or snowstorms.

Early-season snow has made it pretty sloppy in the mountains surrounding Aspen, and hunting season always adds an element of suspense, so I took a long-overdue trip to western Colorado and eastern Utah for the weekend.

I hooked up with two buddies Saturday morning just as they were thawing out from a chilly night under the stars in eastern Utah. We wasted no time warming up with the stiff, steady climb up the Zion Curtain Trail, a loop created by dirt bikers ages ago that is slowly but steadily getting taken over by mountain bikers.

The climb offers the rewards of great views of the Colorado River corridor, the twists and gnarled sandstone formations and canyons of east-central Colorado and Utah and big views of the Book Cliffs.

It was as fun plopping down on a sandstone bench and soaking in the sights under a severe-clear blue sky as it was grunting up the climb, negotiating the technical rock fields and bombing the descents. The temperature was perfect, in the high 60s.

Back at camp, we marveled as the sun set the peach-colored sandstone mesas dominating the middle and far horizons aglow. The atmosphere that evening had a purplish glow, and it had nothing to do with the Dale's Pale Ales I drank.

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Following my companions' lead, I just put out my ground tarp, snuggled into my sleeping bag and covered up with an old Army blanket that night. No tent necessary. I zonked out immediately but woke up sometime in the wee hours and absorbed the celestial show above. I watched constellations move across the sky as I drifted into and out of sleep. Talk about the perfect cure for insomnia.

And talk about the perfect cure for the oncoming-wintertime blues. I'll adjust to the cold and snow soon enough. Just give me another weekend or two in the sunny skies of the desert.

scondon@aspentimes.com