our first trip, Summer of 1973, Canyonlands

In the mid-1970s, my uncle Al started taking Dave, me, and my mom (Al’s sister) on long Summer wilderness trips.  Our first was the least physical, a jeep trip in Canyonlands National Park in Utah (as well as the drive out and back).

The Jeep was a Willys, it was Bob Jones’ and had been in a wreck that left the drivers side repaired with a plywood wall.  The brakes needed maintenance, Al actually got the parts and replaced the brake shoes en route (somewhere near Silver City, if I remember…  or Durango…  wherever the second photo with Dave and Karen was taken.

Canoyonlands trip, Karen as Marilyn

I remember petroglyphs, rock climbing, throwing dirt clods to attract bats, sleeping on the ground (with kangaroo rats jumping on us) or picnic tables (fewer scorpions or snakes).

Al took us for provisions one day, and we ended up swimming in a reservoir with some young women who showed us how to find it.

Dave accompanied me for one of my more stupid adventures — there are mushroom shaped rock formations like these (in fact maybe I’m remembering these exact ones)…  I was exploring around, and lept from one to the next to the third…  and then realized that each jump out had had also been down…  and the third was the farthest and lowest and the edge slopes downward… and now I’m 60 feet off the ground on the third mushroom and really not sure I can make the leap back up to the second or first one!  And, it’s late afternoon…  will get dark in an hour or two, and we’ve walked an hour from camp.

I sent Dave back to find Al, and get enough rope to let me lower myself down from the mushroom I’m stuck on…  but the longer he’s gone, the more I start thinking I should really get out of this trouble myself…  so I take a run around the perimeter of my mushroom, and leap back upward to the second one, phew!…  then again to the first one, and finally back to the butte or bluff they’re carved from…  and I hustle back to camp in time to prevent a search party/rescue mission.

Close to the end of our trip we were exploring the area closer to the campground, driving up a dry wadi, when we spotted a hint of a human-made wall up high in a rock face…  we stopped the jeep and Al taught Dave and I how to wedge ourselves in a “chimney” formation and work our way up without ropes or hand/foot holds…  and when we got just under the lip of the rock wall, sure enough there was a cliff dwelling…  it was dry stacked stone almost hidden from sight from below, and there was a fire pit in the middle of it…  Al took some of the old coals from the fire, and we noted this on the map, and when we talked to the rangers, it turned out this was a new discovery!  Al had the charcoal carbon dated by a lab, and it turned out to be hundreds of years old!

(In searching I found this nice FlickR photo set which shows a lot of what we saw in Canyonlands).

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