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Thursday, April 15, 2021

"Don't flaunt what you didn't earn"

“The freedom of the open road is seductive, serendipitous and absolutely liberating.” Aaron Lauritsen, 100 Days Drive: The Great North American Road Trip.  
Aaron said something else I agree with, which, more or less, goes something like this: Don't flaunt what you didn't earn. 


Last time we spoke, Bobbie and I had topped out on The Whitecaps that rise above Klondike's awesome bluffs. Next time out we set our sights on the maze behind Tower Arch and below The Whitecaps. 

Tower Arch is easy enough to find, especially now that we know it rests below and between a couple of bobbleheads that we can see from Daisy's well aimed dining window. Behind Tower Arch is an unlikely route that worms its way through a seemingly impenetrable chaos of fins, hoo doos, toppled boulders and dead end slots. We first spied this "chaos" while scrambling around atop The Whitecaps, and thus an idea was born. 

We've trekked this route a couple three times now and it has become a favorite. I find it peculiar, though, how few people go beyond the arch. It reminds me our 1950s family vacations where, one by one, we'd check off all the places on our itinerary, snap a photo, pile back in the car and zoom off to the next Bucket List item. At the end of the day we'd all collapse on slumped-in-the-middle beds that smelled like my grandma's attic, in some nameless neon motel where a noisy air conditioner drowned out the antenna tv. I'm thankful for every one of our old road trip vacations, eating crackers and cheese for lunch while dad put the "pedal to the metal" in search of the next natural wonder, waterfall or roadside "wigwam" attraction. Sometimes we'd even stop at a "Stuckeys" for gas and a pecan log roll.

Rushed as they were, those trips instilled in my impressionable, yet-to-be-broken heart a sense of wonder and wander. It's what brought me west to Colorado, in an old broken down GMC pickup with all my worldly possessions in tow. That was the ultimate road trip...not knowing where I was going or where I would land.

Though I've spring-camped around Klondike/Moab for many, many years–this time for well over a month (shhhh)—Bobbie and I are still discovering "new dots," worthy places to remind us that we've only scratched the surface. 

Maybe tourists are not as curious these days. Or maybe they are wore out from all the driving like we were on Dad's "marathons." Or maybe they are tired from the less than half mile hike from the parking lot. Do they not look beyond the arch? Do they not see all the goblin-like "figurines" that hover over them and the secret passageways begging to be explored?  

Our cross-country route to Tower Arch wandered through overtures of "amazing grace," Oh how sweet the sight of red rock chaos.

Two bobbleheads mark the way to Tower Arch

Looking west through Tower Arch

For those willing to do a little "all-fours" scrambling, there's a steep sandstone ramp just beyond Tower Arch. It's a "key" of sorts, one that unlocks "new dots" and closer encounters with chaos and marvel.

A guy gazes at Bobbie as she scrambles up the sandstone "ramp." Little does he know that the "good stuff" is behind him.

As in "life," the "good stuff" is not served up without struggle. A few tight squeeze areas to remind you of that extra 10 pounds. 

Another tight squeeze...not for claustrophobic types (or Dolly Parton types, for that matter).  This long slot starts out shoulder width, then narrows down to a few inches that threatens to imprison.  Back packs must be removed and dragged behind or balanced on your head.

A few inch worm maneuvers helps you work your way up and out of the crack and keep on going, making your way through chaos and (hopefully) route find a way out and back to camp.

Finally, The Whitecaps. Our "exit drainage" lies somewhere beneath them. 

The secret to success is to "never mind" the "ifs" and just keep going. There's aways a way out... 

Shortly after the above hike Brent and Anita rolled into camp. It seems like we just parted ways from our Oro Valley Boondock. I guess time flies when you are having fun. 

Still excited from the above trek, Bobbie and I were anxious to show it off. I was also anxious to mountain bike Klondike's 24 mile Alaska Loop Trail with Brent. I knew he would appreciate the views, the single-track, and several Black-Diamond challenges.

In the meantime, off we go on a repeat of the above hike, only this time we take a slightly different approach in order to include some of our other worthy "finds."

Balanced boulder, with Marching Men in the background

Marching Men

Anita takes in the view through Tower Arch

Time to scramble up a few loose boulders, walk the "ledge," and take on the "ramp."

Yes, it is more fun with curious friends/relatives

Into the "crack"

Bobbie and Anita, out of the maze and into the exit wash.

"Don't flaunt what you didn't earn" 

Peace out from windy, cold/hot Utah...currently raining!!
Mark, with occasional visits from Bobbie, friends and relatives.


  1. Love love love this one, Mark. Almost...."almost" felt like I was there with you. I could feel the warm sunshine and the feeling of slickrock beneath my feet on that ramp. Missing those days a lot, but reading your blog helps a tiny bit.

  2. It is wonderful to see the sights in your hikes and rides. It has been about 5 years ago that my knee and hip joints said NO MORE to these size of hikes/rides. So I still do the easy 3-5 mile hikes/walks and read about my unfulfillable dreams in your blog. THANK YOU.

  3. “Get the photo and get back in the car” rings even louder in our times of “Instagram-gratification.” Like the line waiting to tour the Antelope Slot Canyons. A revolving door of tourists on short walks with even shorter attention spans. I certainly guilty of a little of that... but my soul always pulls to know what’s around the next bend or beyond the picture perfect arch.

  4. Cool Man and Wow is all I can say, Utah Rocks and I know there is a lot more out there, so don't retire yet Mark & Bobbie !

    D &A

  5. Fun adventure. As usual, thanks for taking us along.

  6. I'm thoroughly enjoying living my life vicariously through you and Bobbie :) and your family and friends that join you, as their smiles say it all well. And as for wondering and wandering, nobody amongst any of my friends/relatives in my rural childhood traveled beyond the county we all lived in, can you imagine such a deprived life? In 10th grade our driver education teacher gave us all a road map (life before GPS) and explained the icons and road numbering system and how to plot from A to B, and it was like lifting a dark veil from my view of life.

  7. How do you not get lost, or do you and make it look like your not?๐Ÿ˜‰✌️

    1. It happens. But sometimes it takes getting lost to find our true selves. Humans are problem solvers. The more durable and smart ones always find their way home. Still, we go prepared to survive a night out. It why my pack weighs over 30 pounds :)

  8. What an awesome hike!!

    not for Dolly Parton types, ha!

  9. What planet-universe are those rocks located?.....Thanks for taking me there....I'm hmmm... 140# but I'm not going into that slot, don't think I could hold my breath long enough.....


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