I Need Rain (or: Rain, Rain, Come This Way)

Warning: This post does not have a point. I apologize for the weirdness and pointlessness of it in advance.

The desert is nice and all, but recently I've been feeling an intense desire to go somewhere that's, well... Wet. And green.  

I don't really know why I love moisture and precipitation so much. I don't know why the thought of big thunderclouds approaching on the horizon brings me such joy. I'm sure it has something to do with the fact that I've been living in the Utah desert for 13 years. I'm sure it also doesn't help that it has been 100 degrees here recently. But the fact of the matter is that I love rain. I crave it. Overcast days make me happy. And when it rains... Well, I feel euphoric. Sunny days, on the other hand, just feel: Oppressive, deadening, exhausting.

It annoys me when the weatherman or the people at work get upset because it's overcast or because it might rain - and then they tell me I'm weird when I say that I like clouds and rain and so on and so forth. They ask me if I'm "emo."

My response: "We live in Utah. It's the desert. You have lots and lots and lots and lots and lots of time to play and melt in the sun. Are you really going to get upset because 30 of the 365 days in the year aren't witheringly hot and bright and sunburny and all that?" 

Even when it does rain here, nine times out of ten it sprinkles for ten minutes and then it's over and we're left to look forward to our next "rainstorm" in four months.

Of course, everyone responds: "You should move to Seattle."

And, well, I would if I could. One of my dreams is to move to Portland or Seattle or anywhere on the Olympic Peninsula. In fact, from every description I've read, those places sound like paradise on Earth. They get lots of moisture, they have lots of big, growing, green things, and lots of little streams and rivers and so on. So, in other words, they're kind of the opposite of Utah.

Of course, I might change my mind after a few months in Seattle. I'm sure the strong attraction I feel to those places has at least something to do with how very different they are from Utah. Perhaps I'd go there, get tired of the constant rain, and then decide I really just want to live in a place where you can expect more than three rainy days in a year. Of course, I don't want tornadoes and I don't want flooding - but I have to believe there's a happy medium out there.

...In the meantime, I've taken to Googling pictures of thunder clouds and rain and staring at them, daydreaming that I'm living somewhere where real, honest thunderstorms are more than just the stuff of fantasy. Somewhere where you can look out in the distance and see those big, epic thunder clouds approaching and where you can wake up to the sound of rain on your window.

I like pictures like these:


Western Colorado Adventure - Part 1: Colorado National Monument and Grand Mesa Scenic Byway


After 13 years of living in Utah, I’ve finally begun to realize just how much there is to do in the area. If you have a car (and money,) there are about a million awesome road trips you can take without ever getting more than about half a day’s drive from Alpine.

That’s why this year one of my New Year’s resolutions was to go on a road trip every month. I’m not going to be in Utah all my life, so I figured I really need to take advantage of our amazing location by seeing as much as possible before I (please please please) get a new job and move out of state within the next year or two. (So far, the trips have been more like every other month (Sundance Film Festival in January and Moab in March)—but a lot of the cool places are harder to access (or partially closed) in winter, so I’m hoping to make up for it in the coming months.

In order to reach my goal, over the last few months I’ve been doing a lot of research to find all the places in the Utah-Nevada-Idaho-Northern Arizona-Western Colorado area that I would like to visit. Then, using Google Maps, I try to find all the sites that are within relatively close proximity of each other and that could feasibly be reached over a weekend.

As it turns out, there are a lot of hidden gems in the area (along with the more famous world-renowned destinations), and it would take years and years of traveling every weekend to see everything there is to see. I have a long-term goal of visiting all the national parks (most of which are disproportionately located in the western half of the United States,) so those are a high priority.  Other than that, I just try to pick and choose the sites that sound most interesting—while realizing that I’ll probably miss out on some great stuff and that I’ll never be able to see everything.

…And that was how our Western Colorado Trip was conceived. This Memorial Day weekend, to kick off the summer travel season, Dad, Mom, Heather, and I all headed out into the wilderness to visit some places none of us had ever been (or heard of.)

Over the course of the two-day trip, we visited (in chronological order):

·         Colorado National Monument
·         Grand Mesa Scenic Byway
·         Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
·         Ouray and the Million Dollar Highway (aka: The Most Terrifying Paved Road in America)
·         Mesa Verde National Park

If I may say so myself, the trip was kind of perfect—compact, with lots of amazing sites in a relatively short period of time, but without ever feeling rushed or overwhelming or exhausting (I actually had time to take hikes in both the national parks.) We left Friday afternoon after work, and arrived back home at around 11:30 on Sunday night—in the meantime, we saw some of the most spectacular scenery anywhere and tested the absolute limits of my acrophobia.

So, without further ado:

Chapter 1: Colorado National Monument & Grand Mesa Scenic Byway

We woke up in Grand Junction on Saturday morning and drove about ten minutes out of town to Colorado National Monument (henceforth referred to as CNM.) Like several of the places we visited on the trip, CNM is kind of obscure and easy to miss. You won’t see any evidence of how amazing it is until you’re actually driving into it and looking down at Grand Junction from a great height. In fact, Dad mentioned that he had driven through Grand Junction many times and never even suspected that such a place existed.

Anyways, the Monument itself consists of several deep canyons, as well as some really cool rock formations. We wound up the steep road until we were about 2,000 feet above the valley floor. But instead of describing it, I’ll just post some pictures (even though none of my pictures really do it justice):

Some awesome rock formations

Some more awesome rock formations

Some meta-photography

It should be noted that even though the road to The Monument is steep and involves extreme elevation change, we actually saw more bikers than cars once we were at the top.


Once we left CNM, we made our way east towards the start of the Grand Mesa Scenic Byway. The Byway takes you to the top of “the world’s largest flat-top mountain.” The road takes you through some really gorgeous high elevation scenery, with lots of lakes (I love mountain lakes) and extensive alpine forest. The road’s highest point was about 10,500 feet—which is really high, but not the highest point we’d reach on the trip. Nevertheless, there was still lots of snow (and ice) at that elevation. In fact, we stopped at a summit rest area to eat lunch—only to find that the one picnic table we could see was almost completely covered with snow.  

Unfortunately, I didn't take many pictures of this part of the trip.

A view from the top

The rivers and lakes near the top were still mostly frozen

Once we were off the mesa, we headed towards Black Canyon of the Gunnison - but you'll have to wait for the next post to hear about it.