This past Thanksgiving, a group of ten CC students set off on an unconventional holiday break in the Moab desert.

As the sun began to set over the red cliffs, we wrapped the “precooked” Thanksgiving turkey in aluminum foil and placed it on the coals. As we put the canned cranberry sauce, corn, boxed stuffing, and mashed potatoes on the Whisperlites, my co-leader Colter Fatt and I glanced at the tag on the turkey.

Photo courtesy of Emma Longcope

“So, guys,” we announced reluctantly. “This says it needs to cook again for four hours…” However, our hungry trippees were determined to make it work, deciding to start a bigger fire.

Once we cut off the melted foil coating the bird, it turned out to be only a tiny bit undercooked and was otherwise perfectly delicious. As we feasted, we talked of the Thanksgivings we’d had at home, and marveled at how different and wonderful this one was. None of us left room for the pumpkin pie dessert, yet we devoured it anyway.

The following morning dawned cool and clear. We headed into Arches National Park and began a scramble up the rocks, which was not an official trail, but a gully splitting two steep faces. At points, the route involved some unstable shimmying, making Colter and I question our decision to tackle it as a group. However, the top rewarded us with magnificent views of the extensive surrounding canyons and the La Sal Mountains. After returning to the ground for a lunch break involving some more rock scrambling, we  hiked two more miles into Devil’s Garden to take in the views from Landscape Arch and Double O Arch.

I awoke the next morning to the relentless beeping of my watch, which read 5 a.m. The cold air hit as I unzipped my sleeping bag in a daze and stumbled outside. I’d heard that Moab has the brightest stars in the lower 48 states, but I’d never thought much about it until right then. They were stunning despite the nearly full moon.

“Okay, I know this isn’t fun right now,” I said with all the volume I could manage as I gently shook the first tent. “But it’s going to be great, and it’s time to get up… can you each make an awake noise?” Groans and unintelligible muttering ensued.

Somehow, half an hour later, we had assembled at the trailhead to Delicate Arch. Sleeping bags in hand, we hiked two miles over terrain we couldn’t make out through the dark. As the sky grew lighter in the east, we precariously edged our way along the rim of a giant, crater-like depression, then climbed up into the archway and watched the light and shadows change. The sun rose at 7:10 a.m., casting us all in a warm orange glow. We reveled in the beauty of it, taking pictures, journaling, and scampering around.

Surprised that we had enough time left in the day to launch another exploration, we headed into the fiery furnace,” a confusing mess of spires and towers. We grew accustomed to hopping from rock to rock to avoid the fragile Cryptobiotic soil, which is a biological soil crust composed of living brown algae and other small organisms. We quickly went deeper into the labyrinth. We explored natural tunnels and scrambled to the tops of incredible rock overlooks. The lack of trails enabled us to go wherever we felt, an experience that can seem rare in a National Park. After managing to find our way out, we left feeling satisfied after another full day of adventuring.

We drove back to CC with desert sand under our nails and filling our boots, exhausted, sunburned, and content. Thank you to everyone on the trip for being such an awesome group!

Emma Longcope

Guest Writer

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