Moab in 2022 - Wounded Knee

2022 December 25

Here are my pictures.

     Moab, Utah, has always been a challenging trip for me. I go to concerts to be entertained, I go to "Zice and Brian" for the magnificent beauty, I go to total solar eclipses to be awed (and to see my eclipse friends), but Moab has been about challenge. The beauty is amazing and the price of admission for much of it is doing something difficult. At Canyonlands I've done the Lathrop trail from the Island in the Sky down to the Colorado River and back up, a nine-hour 35 Km (22 mile) run-hike-run-hike-run adventure. At Arches I used to hike the Primitive trail to Devil's Garden and Dark Angel. I've landed my Piper Cherokee airplane in scary canyon airstrips. Their beauty is matched by the challenge and difficulty of getting there and I enjoy being part of the community that does these things.

     In my life it's the Twenty-First-Century version of the challenge and satisfaction I took from being a long-distance runner in younger years. (I ran my last marathon in 2001 December.) I wasn't any kind of superstar, maybe ten miles in an hour on my best days, thirteen marathons with one under seven minutes per mile (3:03:30) and forty years of getting most mornings to run for an hour or more in six continents, dozens of countries, most states in the USA, and 134 airports and airstrips I've flown myself into.

     So back to Moab in 2022 December, only this time my left knee is not doing so well. I've been able to hike about 10 km (six miles) once a week without too much trouble and I hoped I could do a few hikes of that length before it gave out and I would be limited to short walks.

     December 20 is late enough that snow was possible. When I used to go there around American Thanksgiving there was never any snow and the airstrips were friendly enough for my airplane, not a "bush plane" by any means. There was enough snow that I figured the strips that weren't snowy probably had been and they might be muddier than my airplane would like. Also, the notion of being stuck with an injured knee didn't appeal to me. I've been stuck in the back country a couple of times and I managed to remain cheerful and upbeat. I probably couldn't have kept a positive attitude with my left leg in pain. Finally, I always relied on LaVar Wells for a personal update on the condition of these wonderful-but-scary airstrips and he left this mortal coil 2022 March 26 leaving wonderful memories in the hearts of his many aviation students including myself.

     So this was to be trip with more-cautious and less hiking and more-timid aviation. I'll spoil the ending, my hiking was cut short early, my knee was in pain almost the entire time, and I had a wonderful trip full of beauty and joy. Here are my pictures from the trip.

     My flight Tuesday from Phoenix Deer Valley Airport (DVT) to Canyonlands Field (CNY) was a beautiful delight with a light tailwind and fantastic visiblity. My first hike was Delicate Arch in Arches National Park I was prepared with crampons for ice and snow, I didn't need the crampons, but it was my last hike as my knee decided to give out right at the zenith of the hike. The trip back down was quite painful even with the hiking sticks my fellow hiker Steve lent me for the descent. So that was my last hike on my trip to my hiking mecca.

     Wednesday was Canyonlands National Park and Dead Horse Point State Park, one breathtaking, magnificent vista-view after another. What was going to be a day of short hikes became a day of visiting every viewpoint in these two parks, at least every one that didn't require much of a walk. My one exception was a 1 Km (0.6 mile) stroll out and back to see Mesa Arch. I asked the folks at the Visitor Center about Needles Outpost. Tracey and Gary used to run the place, but I was told they moved somewhere else after a flood wrecked the place. Tracey seemed a bit bipolar but she was always nice to me, even when she yelled at me one time about not fixing the airstrip runway.

     I planned to fly around the area and north to Vernal (VEL), Roosevelt (74V), and Duchesne (U69) on Thursday. Regular weather reports for Moab (CNY) and Vernal were delightful with some high clouds and light winds, but the SkyVector web site had a blue-tint zone of bad weather, moderate to severe turbulance (bumpy air) which was confirmed by a call to Flight-Service weather. I drove on Interstate 70 across the San Rafael Swell (or Reef) where I remember driving in 1978 June on my way from college in Princeton to graduate school at Stanford. Then I drove to Hanksville, Utah, where I used to fly to meet LaVar Wells when he was alive. When I was eating lunch in a gas-station restaurant I mentioned LaVar the cashier and she said he was missed and he really started to go downhill after an airplane-landing accident a few years ago. (In his defense, LaVar wasn't flying the 'plane when it happened.) I changed my plan from Capitol Reef National Park to Goblin Valley State Park, where they filmed those cool scenes in the movie "GalaxyQuest."

     So Friday was Fly-Day to the planned three airports up north and then flyover views of some back-country airstrips including Sand Wash, Angel Point, Dirty Devil, and Happy Canyon. In case I had any notions of landing on the clear-looking airstrips the snow on the runway at Sand Wash made me think that the other runways might be soft or muddy right beneath their dry-looking surfaces. It was four hours of terrific flying with beautiful views and three more airports in my collection of landing places. Just to make it perfect the air was perfectly smooth all day.

     Saturday's flight home to Phoenix was also a pleasure. A thirty-knot (55 KPH, 35 MPH) tailwind made the trip under three hours instead of three and a half, all beautiful scenery and all smooth air except for a brief patch north of Flagstaff. I saw familier airports including Mineral Canyon, Brown's Rim, Hite (UT03), Bullfrog Basin (U07), Page (PGA), Grand Canyon (GCN), Sedona (SEZ), Cottonwood (P52) along the way.

     Another point of pleasure is my airplane worked perfectly the entire time including the radios and my active-noise-canceling headset. I'll also point out that all my electronic, cyber-flight gadgets for flying with moving maps showing the full sectional-chart graphics and little blue arrows showing other traffic in the air all worked perfectly. It's nice when the toys work well.

     With a wounded knee and two days of turbulant air in a place I go for hiking and flying I had a wonderful, refreshing, positive vacation. For today, Merry Christmas.


     We've all been to tourist attractions and there's are towns supporting the tour industry. These towns are usually pleasant enough, but it's not like I would go out of my way to spend time in those places except for the attraction. Except for my last trip to Zion where Xpress car rental charged me USD $3500 for damage driving on dirt roads that I didn't do, I don't think I've been overtly mistreated, just that the primary attractions at these tourist attractions have been the attractions themselves.

     I'll point out that Bryce Canyon Airport (BCE) has felt like a second home even though I only visit once a year and Cary who rented me a Turo car several times was terrific (until he decided he didn't want to do rental cars anymore). When I was coming back from the 2017 August 21 total solar eclipse in Wyoming, I was happy to stop at BCE on the way back and say "hi" to Ty. My passenger was suitably impressed that we set down in a place hundreds of miles from anywhere and were greeted with, "Hi, Adam."

     The people and facilities were themselves a joy to me in and around Moab, Utah, as they have been in the past and, yes, I would go out of my way to visit this place even if the natural beauty weren't an issue. The folks there go out of their way to make their home feel like home to those of us who are away from home there.

     Both times I landed at Canyonland Field (CNY) I was greeted well by Redtail Aviation. A nice fellow came out in a golf cart each landing, chained and unchained my airplane. A nurse-cum-linewoman Amanda was especially helpful, even taking my rental car back after escorting me when I left. The full-serve fuel price was reasonable enough that I let the Redtail folks fill up my tanks. The woman behind the counter, I forget her name but she remembered my airplane tail number (N8377W), gave me the news that the last reports about the back-country airstrips were from October. Kelly from the TSA who recognized my airplane when it was stuck at Sand Wash in 2014 was there. She spent a lot of time in the back country and I think I recall she said she worked for river-tour groups.

     I flipped a coin and rented my car from Canyonlands rental and was met by a delightful Moab veteran named Wendy, whose family was there since 1906. Not only did she remember the Uranium-mining days, her family was there even before that. Kim who worked for Thrifty and Ford car rentals since 2005 remembered me fondly as she was there working for Enterprise. The Hyundai Santa Fe was an SUV with all the cyber-car features. It was an astonishly-comfortable car for my purposes with easy-to-operate, "user-friendly" cruise control (so I wouldn't bust speed limits while gawking at scenery) and it had the newer-car features warning of nearby cars and keeping the car in lane when the driver's attention wandered. The radio-controlled key fob was cool and the backup-camera system was terrific for somebody not used to backing such a big vehicle into a small parking space. It had one odd item, a push-button automatic transmission, something I hadn't seen since my college roommate's 1961 Rambler Classic.

     I picked the Aarchway Inn to stay based on a good price on the Internet and its convenient location at the north end of town, nearer all the places I wanted to go. I'll be back because I had a wonderful stay. The room was a pleasant space with a screen on the window so I had a view with my privacy, a 'fridge with 45-degree can/bottle holders, a telephone in the bathroom, good WiFi, and an elevator in case I had a sore knee. Light and fan switches were well marked and a rubber mat was provided so I wouldn't slip in the shower. Breakfast was much more than the muffins and cereal with eggs, sausage, potato and regular pancakes, and, of course, muffins and cereal, a nice way to start the day. When I gave my name and mentioned the hot and cold sink faucets were reversed, not complaining, just informing, the desk clerk looked up the room number before I remembered it. None of these things is earth shaking, but they make a stay wonderful instead of just okay.

     The restaurants I went to were the Moab Diner and Pasta Jay's which I knew and Zax which was new to me. All were friendly and fun.





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