The reasons for coming home have been several, among which is ofcourse money. I've been draining my account steadily for 6 months and I decided to do the responsible thing and return before I ran out and worked myself into a debt.
Next to that my sleeping bag was not designed for freezing temperatures, something I have clearly felt for a few weeks now. For a few weeks already I had been sleeping with an inner liner to add warmth (and when I got another one from a ride later on I started using both of them) as well as wearing all my clothes. That worked fine for the first half of the night but as night progressed I started getting colder and colder, up to the point where by morning I was shivering cold.
Another reason is that I personally think this time of year is the worst for solo travel. Not only does it get cold after dark, it gets dark early. In the case of the area I was in it got dark at 17:00, and light didn't return much earlier than 7:00. That is a lot of darkness to deal with, especially if you are lying somewhere in the desert with nothing to distract you save for a book (and in order to read it I need to open my sleepingbag somewhat so I have room, letting out all the heat). And I figured it would be much nicer to spend Christmas with my friends and family.
Nonetheless it feels like a bit of a cop-out.
I've been back for quite a while now, a month or two I guess, but already I'm forming plans for another trip.
But first let me tell you how this one finished.
Before I left Utah I wanted to see Canyonlands, Mesa Arch specifically.
In the hostel I was staying at I met Cory from Canada and Danny from England. Both were looking for something to do on the following day, and Danny had his mind set on a biking trip, followed up by a visit of Delicate Arch in Arches National Park. Cory was fine with the latter part but wanted to do some hiking. His only trouble was he didn't know of a good place to go. I told him about my plans to visit Canyonlands and so he offered to take me there and go along for a daytrip. With this turn of events I decided I would make it a daytrip as well, and return to the hostel after.
And so the next day Cory and I drove his car to Canyonlands.
The view at the entrance of Canyonlands.
It was pretty in it's own unique way. We visited just the northern area of Canyonlands, called Island in the Sky. Now that might sound like a weird name but it was quite appropriate: the northern part of the park basically consist of a massive plateau from which you can look down over the southern end of the park. Essentially you have some canyons inside of canyons down there, and it is quite the complex view from up above. There might be a few places where you can go down to the bottom of Island in the Sky but we haven't found them yet, and generally speaking the entire plateau is surrounded by massive cliffs. Hence the Island reference, because it is so hard to reach, and standing from the bottom it might as well be high above in the sky.
Some shots from Mesa Arch.
From underneath Mesa Arch.
The view from Grand View Point Overlook. This is a pretty weird sight, as you can see some canyons inside other canyons, almost like nature went all 'Inception' on us!
After viewing the far end we decided to check another viewpoint at the western rim, where we did some hiking along the cliff edge.
The hiking trail to and from the western rim.
A shot of Upheaval Dome. Apparently people aren't quite sure what caused this particular formation. Some believe a meteor crashed here and caused this crater. Another theory was that it is a salt dome and that this caused the formation, but I'm not sure how that would work exactly. The meteor theory sounds a lot more epic though!
Another two shots of Canyonlands.
After walking around for the better part of the day and seeing pretty much all the major sights in Island in the Sky we returned to Moab to pick up Danny, who wanted to see Delicate Arch as well.
But when we got there he had not returned from his biking trip yet, and if we wanted to catch the sunset we had to move now, so we drove to Arches together. I had already seen Delicate Arch but when I was there the first time around it was a bit clouded and the sunset missed some of it's brilliance so I didn't mind giving it another shot! And thankfully today was a clear day with barely a cloud in the sky, so the second hike up there was well worth it. I made some more pictures of the Arch, and the turned out even better than the first ones. Unfortunately it's quite hard to get a shot of the Arch without people standing in or near it.
Heading out here on a bright sunny day is well worth the trouble, as you can clearly see! The colouring is brilliant!
I took some more shots from different angles, even from the back.
This last picture was taken from the hole you can see in the picture above this one.
Unfortunately things only seem to quiet down when the sun is down. This is my only shot without people in it.
When we got back to the hostel we found Danny and decided to get something to eat in town, and grab a couple of beers while we were there. All in all a good day, despite Corey's car getting hit in the parking lot while we were drinking beer. Thankfully there was a witness and she knew who did it and gave us his phone number. I don't know how it turned out though, because the following morning I packed up all my stuff after having stayed in the hostel for about a week and set back out on the road.
This time the goal was Albuquerque.
Unfortunately I've been putting off writing this post for too long. I do remember names as I wrote them down but I can't perfectly recall each ride. Some of them were a bit more memorable though.
Anyway, I took my time waking up as I didn't have to leave until 11 AM. Then I packed up my stuff and walked down the road a bit before sticking out my thumb. This was still Utah after all, and the cops don't like hitchhikers, so the farther out of town you get the better off you are.
Fortunately I got a ride from John before any cops showed up. He didn't get me further than 3 or 4 miles, but it was a more desolated place with hardly any buildings around out in the desert already. That suited me fine, figuring there'd be fewer cops passing by. Most of them seemed to stick around Moab.
Next ride was Merry who got me further, but again not much of a place. After Merry I got a ride from Spencer, and this I remember better because he had a mobile home and he offered me a new sleeping bag. Unfortunately the sleeping bag in question didn't seem much better than mine and at this point I was already contemplating to go home soon, so I turned down his generous offer. He did give me an inside liner for the sleeping bag I already had, to improve it's warmth by a few degrees. And with my sleeping bag in this time of year every degree is more than welcome. That left me with two liners, because I had already bought one myself in Moab, but I didn't mind getting a little bit warmer still because it was still chilly in the mornings. He dropped me off at Monticello, my turn-off towards Colorado.
On that position I had to wait for a little while before my next ride, but when it was offered to me by Kevin he took me down to the next village. This area was very rural, there was a lot of farmland which was a nice change of pace from the barren desert. Even better: I was now officially in Colorado, where hitchhiking is legal. So at this point I didn't have to worry about cops trying to arrest me or giving me tickets!
I again had to wait for a while, and got the last ride of the day. Cody came back from a hunting trip but hadn't caught anything. He drove me to Cortez, and I made it my stop for the day. The sun was already setting fast and hitchhiking in the dark is doable but not preferable. So I asked him if there was a McDonalds in town where I could get some food and use the wifi for a little while (it was still only 5 PM or so, and it beats twiddling your thumbs in the darkness for 12 hours). Before we got there though he wanted to get some beer, and bought me one too. In all quite a good day, and I was quite content!
After a meal and watching a movie and hanging out for a little while I decided to try and find a place to sleep. I had already been pointed in a general direction, so I started walking in that direction hoping to find a park of some sorts. And I did end up finding a pretty good location at the edge of Cortez, on a park edge close to the water. That's where I put down my sleeping bag and after some star-gazing fell asleep.
My sleeping spot.
And a picture of my backpack, just for the hell of it.
Early next morning I woke up quite chilly, so I got out of my sleeping bag at first light and packed up, ate some breakfast and tried to find the right road out of Cortez and going to Albuquerque.
Unfortuantely I found I had to backtrack through the entirety of Cortez and it took me a little while to do. When I reached the other end of town I saw a lot of construction going on, and decided that chances of getting a ride here were pretty bad. There was not a lot of room to pull over without inconveniancing anybody else, so I kept walking down the road untill I was past the construction area for quite a bit before trying to hitch a ride.
I didn't have to wait long. The first ride of the day was Pat, an older guy with whom I had a nice chat. I remember him well because he had a sniper rifle across his lap and a shotgun in the back. But I didn't think much of it considering the fact it was hunting season, and that was indeed what the weapons were for. He got me out to the middle of nowhere, and dropped me at an intersection. He was heading to Arizona which was in the other direction of where I wanted to go.
This area was pretty much what the rest of the day would look like: a lot of empty desert with some distant mountains and mesa's. But I can't say it was boring. In a way it was quite exhilirating. This isn't the hottest time of the year obviously, so there wasn't much fear of dehydration and getting into serious trouble if I got stuck. I had a nearly full reservoir of water and food to last me for two days, and ofcourse I counted on getting a ride out of there before ever running out.
Thankfully nobody proved me wrong haha.
Next ride was George, who took me to another town I can't recall the name of, and dropped me off on the other side.
Apparently a fire broke out in that town.
There I was picked up by Alex and Lou, two guys of around my own age who were traveling all over the US together, and had been doing that for quite some time. They had a dog with them too, and he was pushed to the side to make room for my pack.
They told me I was on the wrong road, while I was quite sure I wasn't. I wasn't going to care if I got sidetracked a bit if I was though. Traveling should be done in freeflow after all. Turns out I was on the right road though, which Alex and Lou figured out soon enough. They had to turn around, and I got let out of the car some 4 miles or so out of town in a worse position than I had started out in.
Hitchhiking is not just about having a good location to do it in though, it is also about luck, and luck would have it that I did not need to wait long for Edison to pull over. Edison was somewhere near or just over 30 I guess, and he was in a hurry to get to a school play in which his daughter performed.
That he still took the time to help a complete stranger says quite a bit about him.
After that I had to do some more waiting. I was now in the area of Shiprock. There were only a few houses around and it looked pretty desolate. Considering some of the places I've seen it's hard to believe I've been to a country that's a super power because a lot of it looks pretty poor.
Anyway, after waiting about an hour or so I got a ride from Dave, who was heading through Gallup and would move east to Grants, which is on the highway that leads to Albuquerque, so that was perfect! When we got there we found a nice onramp for me to stand at, but after waiting on it for a while and watching the little traffick that was coming through I decided to move further down and stand by the side of the highway hoping for somebody to pick me up before a cop sent me away.
Thankfully I didnt have to wait long. Unfortunately I can't remember the guy's name, but I do remember he was an old Navajo who was heading straight to Albuquerque where he was supposed to deliver some stuff. Along the way he told me about the Native tribes in the area, and the casino's they had built and ran. It was interesting to hear how the Natives here have adapted, as opposed to the Natives I met in Canada who were more secluded to their more remote reserve.
They didn't have much to do for a lack of jobs in the reserve, and moving out of the reserve basically meant giving up their native status, so it's a lose-lose situation for them really. There isn't much traffick coming through the Manitoulin Islands either, so there isn't much they can do.
Here though there is a major highway and the city of Albuquerque relatively closeby, and they have made it work to their advantage. It's good to know too that Albuquerque can't grow any bigger than it has because it is bordered by Native reserves on all sides.
As we got closer to Albuquerque we made a little deal too. If I helped him unload some stuff at his destination he would drive me to where I needed to be in the city to find my friend. I accepted happily ofcourse. So after we reached the place he needed to go I did some hauling of boxes and we then made our way to the adress I received, where we said goodbye. I was now standing in front of the apartment of my internet friend Alexander whom I've known for some years through a gaming tool called Xfire. Everything looked pretty quiet so I decided to get some food first, and walked back to a McDonalds I saw along the way before heading back.
This time my timing was perfect as he was just walking back to his apartment, and we looked at eachother for a bit before recognition came.
The next week I spent at his place. It was pretty cool to meet the guy who I've talked to online for such a long time, and it was time well spent. He showed me around the city a bit, I got to meet his parents too and we even visited the Albuquerque zoo where his father had worked before retiring.
Me and my friend Alexander.
In front of the Albuquerque Zoo.
I had a great time there. But as the week progressed I thought more and more of going home, at least for the winter. Christmas and New Year's Eve with my friends and family sounded really appealing after half a year spent by myself. And because I was in a big city with an airport already, I decided to fly home from Albuquerque.
At the end of the week I bought a plane ticket and left the next day. I flew from Albuquerque to Denver, where I had to wait for five hours. From there I got on a plane to Reykjavik in Iceland, where I had to wait another hour before taking a final flight to Amsterdam, where my parents were waiting for me to take me home.
It's been weird adjusting back to my old life. It was nice to have some of the luxuries back, especially to have some more clothes again, though almost all my stuff became too big for me. I lost a bit of weight tramping around! Some pants that used to be too tight now need a belt to be held up haha.
It's been good seeing my friends and family again too, and I have had a nice christmas and spent New Year's Eve with my friends. I have adjusted to life back home again by now, but as I said at the very start of this post new ideas are already forming in my head.
The day before yesterday I was at a train station in a nearby town and saw some people carrying around their luggage and I felt a pang of longing to be back on the road again. But first I have to do some saving up again, and finding a job isn't all that easy these days. But no worries, I will make it work, and you will hear from me again. Untill then!