~15 years ago my longing to be in unpeopled places was every bit as strong as now, even if I lacked partners, or gear, or a chunk of the needed skillset.
That didn’t prevent me from going deep in those days, but any trip I did back then had two things in common: At least some part of the route would have been done before: A known quantity, as it were. And once out there I’d be overcome by aching loneliness: I missed the people in my life, and desperately wanted to share these places with them.
Enthusiastically shared stories, illustrated with snapshots, had to suffice then. And that was good, for awhile.
Nowadays I have Jeny, an adventure partner without parallel, and we’re learning to go deep together.
It wasn’t meant to be a spring break trip. It was a trip that just happened to coincide with the arrival of spring on the Colorado Plateau.
All winter we’d batted ideas back and forth: The coastal crux of Alaska’s Iditarod? The southern ~half of the Arizona Trail? A singletrack smorgasbord loosely surrounding St. George? A traverse of Canyonlands? Maybe an over-snow tour of Rocky Mountain National Park?
Nothing really stuck. Weeks passed, the discussion would be reinvigorated, we’d half-heartedly check current and forecasted weather for each possible objective, then momentum would fall by the wayside, lost in the immediacy of our day to day existence.
It was Daniels that shoved us off the fence. Even if he didn’t mean to. Even if he ultimately couldn’t make it. His emailed inquiry was the catalyst, like a seeded cloud, that initiated a flurry of mapgeeking.
Once we’d set a start date it didn’t take long to rule out most of the options. RMNP? Too snowy, at a time of year when we crave the texture of dirt and rock.
Iditarod? It’s just been done so many times and so many ways already, and the ITI races were already happening during our alloted window. Plus it’s both far away and expensive to execute.
AZT? Gorgeous and challenging, just not currently compelling. Partially because it’s such a known quantity, and so popular.
St. George had it’s merits, but we were both feeling decidedly caged, and only extensive immersion into wide open spaces can cure that particular affliction.
Ultimately we wanted something without a guidebook devoted to it, without a GPS track to follow, without signs pointing the way to the obvious. Something that we weren’t even sure was doable, whose secrets were ours to discover.
Looking back now, that uncertainty might have been the most compelling aspect of our chosen route.