Christmas in the Backcountry
Backway Sign

The Backway. Down Burr Trail.

This was quite different.  An enormous gulf was between me and the world.  This was a different universe – withered, desert, lifeless; a fantastic universe where the presence of man was not foreseen, perhaps not desired. – Maurice Herzog, Annapurna

Fifty-eight years before Christopher McCandless hiked into Alaska to find himself (but died before completing the process…), 20-year old Everett Ruess wandered through the forbidding and desolate south central and southern Utah backcountry and disappeared. A hunter found Christopher’s body, but Everett was never found, though people have been searching for him ever since he vanished. There were a few tantalizing clues: Everett’s two mules were found tied up at a site where he’d camped; in a letter to his parents he wrote: As to when I shall visit civilization, it will not be soon, I think – and the name Nemo was discovered scratched into rock in several places. Nemo (“no man” in Latin) was the name Everett took to calling himself.  Ugly rumors circulated through the town in which he was last seen – some thought that Everett was murdered by cattle rustlers. He might have fallen from a cliff or gotten trapped in a slot canyon. Or maybe he just wanted to disappear.

I read about Everett a while back. It’s just the kind of story that fascinates me. I don’t have a risk-taker bone in my body, but I’m drawn to the lonely canyons, the red rock and slick rock, the twisted junipers, the colorful arches, fins, hoodoos and searing blue skies of southern Utah. Combine that with a real life mystery and I’m hooked like a Lake Erie Walleye. Kel and I spent Christmas in the thin air of Boulder without realizing until later that we were in Everett country. Boulder and sort-of nearby Escalante were Everett’s last known stomping grounds. He disappeared into the massive Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument which encompasses a mere 1,880,461 acres of pitiless landscape. It’s no wonder his remains were never found.

In addition to hiking in the Boulder area, we made our slow way home via Kodachrome Basin and Bryce Canyon. One huge advantage Kel and I have discovered about traveling here in the winter is that there are few other fools willing to do so. It’s possible to have stunning trails and sprawling National Parks all to one’s self (with the exception of Bryce Canyon which was teeming with visitors. At 7 degrees Fahrenheit accompanied by a bone-chilling wind, it was an astounding sight to see cars lined up at the entrance point.) Below are some pictures from our trip.

One Year Ago Today: Basic Seitan

Snowing in Boulder, UT

Snowing in Boulder, UT

Snow Crystals

Snow crystals, Bryce Canyon

Bryce Amphitheater

Looking into Bryce Amphitheater from Bryce Point

Bryce Amphitheater

Bryce Amphitheater

Natural Bridge, Bryce Canyon

Natural Bridge, Bryce Canyon

Calf Creek Canyon

Calf Creek Canyon, contrails

Lower Calf Creek Falls

Lower Calf Creek Falls

Calf Creek Canyon Overlook

Calf Creek Canyon Overlook

Wildflower, snow

Pasture in Boulder, UT

Pasture in Boulder, UT

Kodachrome Basin

Ike enjoying Kodachrome Basin

Chimney, Kodachrome Basin

Chimney, Kodachrome Basin

Highway 12 scenic overlook

Highway 12 scenic overlook

52 thoughts on “Christmas in the Backcountry

  1. Jeannie

    I loved what I could see of your photos but the “Follow anunrefinedvegan” pop-up blocks a third of my screen. I AM following your blog but this blasted pop-up makes it so hard to read that I may have to give up. Can you take that down? There is no place to click on it to make it disappear and ESC doesn’t work, either.

    Reply
    1. An Unrefined Vegan

      Hi Jeannie! I’m so sorry you had trouble viewing the photos – grrrr! Can you tell me on what type device you were viewing the post (tablet, computer, phone)? I’ll then contact WordPress help desk and ask them to look into the issue. I have the freebie WP site so don’t have a lot of control on how the site looks or acts. Again, so sorry – but appreciate you stopping by and letting me know you had a problem.

      Reply
    1. An Unrefined Vegan

      I recommend reading about Everett if that’s your bag. Recently some bones were discovered which were thought to be his – turns out they were the bones of a young Native American – but the search goes on!

      Reply
  2. Somer

    Why am I crying? Those photos look like home to me. So glad you got to take Kel to Bryce. When we went last January, we were the only ones (that we could see anyway) in the Park. It was 7 below. Too crazy. Read Into the Wild, funny how one feels tied to people they’ve never met through their stories. Both of those men were definitely lost in their own ways. Did I tell you Abe used to spend his summers camping and being a river guide in Alaska? He thought he was having a vision the first time he saw Aurora Borealis. Close for comfort 😉

    Reply
    1. An Unrefined Vegan

      They ARE your home and they’re my adopted home. There is just something about that landscape that gets in one’s bones. Abe had some amazing experiences, I’m sure – – thank goodness he didn’t go the way of Chris McCandless!!

      Reply
      1. Somer

        No kidding. That book was a harrowing read for me. I’m surprised I got through it. Dan used to tell me that the Utah landscape was boring. I think he was just homesick. There’s nothing like it anywhere else. He’s come around now 🙂 Um, can we do Omar’s on Friday. Last Hurrah before the challenge?

      2. Somer

        Absolutely! I wonder if we could call our order in so that it’s ready when we arrive. I’m trying to be more timely with getting home for my kids after school 😉

  3. Sarah

    I happen to be a real fan of Utah when snowy 😉 Why anyone would want to visit those areas in July is beyond me 😉 I’ll take cold, snowy and isolated over hot and crowded!

    Reply
  4. Angela @ Canned Time

    Absolutely breathtaking. My favorites are the snow crystals and the pasture, and all that red rock against the snow is just indescribable. A few years back we were able to get to Zion’s National Park in early April and had a similar lonely walk through what felt like another world compared to DC. This brings it all back. You’re writing and pics make it come alive 🙂
    (Glad you’re home safe though !)

    Reply
    1. An Unrefined Vegan

      Zion is a treasure! April sounds like a great time to visit. I’ve only scratched the surface of that park. We were there 2 years ago on Super Bowl Sunday and had it all to ourselves! Yes – – literally and figuratively miles from DC! (Have I told you I lived in DC for 5 years?)

      Reply
  5. narf77

    What an awesome vista…I don’t think I would be at home much if I lived somewhere close to that amazing outside space. I love to hunt around…fossick amongst the debris of nature and the call of that amazing space would be too much for me. I am NOT a risk taker…but nature has a way of teasing a little bit of adventure out of all of us 🙂 I hope you had a wonderful visit and that it refreshed your soul 🙂 By the way…Earl and Bezial say “Hi” to Ike 🙂

    Reply
    1. An Unrefined Vegan

      Arf-arf!! (That’s from Ike!)

      I think you’ve perfectly understood the essence of southern Utah. The siren call of wide open, wild places. We all must be hard-wired just a little bit to be drawn to the quiet and mystery and beauty. And danger.

      Reply
      1. narf77

        I agree totally. I spend my childhood wandering barefoot and alone over 100 acres of bushland that bordered on an esturine inlet. There were snakes, spiders, a couple of dams that I could have drowned in but I didn’t. I watched…I observed…I took everything in and I learned. I learned how to ask questions and how to feel cycles and understand life and death through the farm animals and I gained something intangible that keeps me optimistic and somewhat resiliant. The world just “is” and it’s up to us to feel our way tentatively around it like a praying mantis make approaching its mate…making sure that we don’t get eaten in the process!

  6. Sophie33

    Waw, Annie! What beautiful scenery! The mountians there have special features: so cool & the snow chrystals look great & very stylish too! Lucky you two!!! Waw! Thanks for sharing this lovely post!

    Reply
  7. tinykitchenstories

    Wow, those photos are stunning! Love the snow crystals, second only to the one with Ike romping around. Love the back story too–I once read a book about numerous planes and people who have gone missing in Alaska, never to be found again. Can’t find the name of it! It’s like a Bermuda Triangle…
    Oh, and Happy New Year!

    Reply
  8. Linda Germanetti

    Please remove my address from this blog. I have tried to remove from your manage subscription page but it doesn’t work. Thank you!!

    Sent from my iPad Have a beautiful day!

    Reply
  9. biggsis

    Finally getting around to reading this post. A fitting delay as we all pursue our adventures and decide our level of risk taking in the new year. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and your incredible photos.

    Reply

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