After several weeks at home in Canmore—working long days, getting minimal exercise, chafed by the reality that little hiking is available in the Canadian Rockies until June—we felt strange, unsettled. The nomadic life is strong in us. So after taking care of essential business and stacking the rest onto our laptops, we migrated south. Early spring is ideal hiking time in southern Utah.
Leaving the icy mountains behind, we headed to the land of sun-pounded slickrock domes and sandy-floored, sinuous canyons. We traded a palette of grey and straw, for red, orange and yellow. We pitched our tent under grand cottonwoods, sat out late beneath the starry, cobalt sky, woke up to temperatures that invite hiking in shorts.
We hope you can take time this year to visit Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, or Zion national parks, or the vast, high-desert regions surrounding Moab, Torrey, Boulder, or Escalante. Bring our book Hiking from Here to WOW: Utah Canyon Country. It will ensure you make the most out of each day. You live in western Canada? A 20-hour drive is all that stands between you and another planet: southern Utah. If your home is in the northwest U.S., you’re close enough that four or five days is all you need for a quick but fulfilling canyon-country adventure.
While driving through the outskirts of Calgary, we passed a housing development with a huge sign: FINAL PHASE! Our interpretation was, yes, this is indeed the historic, final phase for these absurdly huge, utterly unsustainable, hilariously boxy, anti-architecture mansions. Even a dim awareness of reality (peak oil, climate change, global economic decline) is sufficient to recognize that these trophy homes are monuments to excess and will soon be unwanted embarrassments. Besides, homes and mortgages of that magnitude have always been anchors that severely curtail one’s independence. They represent the final phase of whatever liberty their owners previously enjoyed.
Continuing our drive south of Calgary, we saw other housing developments spilling across the prairie. All the homes are boxes. All are “detached” but none is more than a couple meters from the nearly identical box next door. All are drab shades of the drabbest colours: taupe and grey. We could not live there. Such pervasive monotony would quash our creativity. The comforts those boxes provide would not compensate us for the soul-deadening affects of uniformity, repetition, and predictability.
We’d rather be in a downtown Calgary condo, where we’d have the Bow River and several big parks nearby, and where we could participate in stimulating city life.
Approaching Lethbridge, we could see the weather was worse on the southern horizon. We stopped for gas and discovered the approaching snow storm had already knocked out the city’s electricity. Without electricity, gas pumps are inoperable. Plus the Coutts border crossing was closed, as was the highway in northern Montana. “Don’t try it,” someone told us. “Cars in the ditch everywhere.”
It seemed the snow had defeated us. Our four-hour drive south was wasted. We turned back north. But nomad determination kicked in. “I bet we can outflank this storm,” Kath said. “We’ll drive west over Crowsnest Pass into B.C., then probe south.”
It was longer by four hours, but it worked. It was a more interesting drive, too. And it allowed us to keep moving. That’s the nomad philosophy: Keep moving.