Our Vie Adventures consists of Cees, Madison, Vladimir the Kitten, and a 1989 Toyota Motorhome named Vie. Cees and Madison are on the road, living the dream of every outdoor-minded couple by visiting each national park in the country over the course of the year. In celebration of our National Parks centennial, we’ve partnered with Cees and Madison to bring you stories and photos of their yearlong quest (and of course, plenty of #vladimirkitten along the way).
Keep scrolling to see Cees, Madison, and Vladimir’s visit to Canyonlands National Park, UT. Stay tuned to Downstream for updates on their adventures and follow them on Instagram (@ourvieadventures) for more frequent updates from the road.
I have a deep love for the desert. It just feels good. I love the colors, the smells, and feeling the dry air gives me when I breathe it in. Canyonlands is one of my favorite places because of this. Now that I have professed my love for this blessed area, I need to start with an “I HAD A BAD EXPERIENCE” story.
When I was 14 years old, I came to Canyonlands with my dad, brother, and a few cousins. We set off on a three day bike ride along the White Rim Trail. The first day was awesome. The views were stunning. The air was dry. The ride was fun and the company was more than entertaining. Then it started to rain. The downpour persisted and on the second day we decided that instead of breaking for camp, we would try to ride all the way out. So much water came down that the desert couldn’t handle it. It ran along the surface and created a sticky, muddy mess. So much of a mess that our bikes couldn’t handle it. The mud stuck to our tires, our shoes, and pretty much anything that it touched. We couldn’t ride at all.
To make a long story short, we ditched our bikes on the side of the trail and started walking the remaining miles back to town. All the while the heavens were unloading on us, and all we had was one little keychain flashlight and a pack of gummy worms for comfort. We survived. But until this trip, those were the memories I had connected to Canyonlands National Park. I am so glad that I was able to return to give it another chance!
Believe it or not, we actually tried to snag a permit to ride out one day on the White Rim Trail. We would have camped one night and then ridden back that next morning. However, the fates didn’t allow me to recreate those memories; the overnight permits were completely booked out.
We spent the day hiking to every overlook in the park. The views were breathtaking.
One of my favorite parts were the scars that the mining industry has left on the landscape. The uranium boom had people building winding roads down the sides of these cliffs and out along the flats from one mesa to another. It was interesting how even though many of them haven’t been “used” in years, you could still see faint outlines zig-zagging this way and that.
We walked out to one of the further viewpoints and ate some snacks. I looked down next to me and saw a lizard just massacring a pile of winged insects that seemed to just have hatched.
When we are in the parks we have to leave the kitty in the RV for most of the trails. We try to get him out as much as we can on the overlooks where he can walk around. It’s funny to see how people react to a cat on a leash. People straight up lose their minds. It’s hilarious.
I have been reading Travels with Charley. My mother-in-law gave it to me before we left on the trip. It has been interesting as I simultaneously navigate my own trip and follow along with Steinbeck on his journey across America.
We were the only ones on Whale Rock for sunset. It was pretty special to see the light bounce off of these red rock walls. There is a certain glow that really doesn’t happen anywhere else but in the desert of the West.
I love the contrast of the blue LaSal Mountains in the background agains the red rocks of the canyons.
A stereotypical night for us so far consists of going through the day’s pictures, making some yummy food, and then reading and/or playing with the kitty. Madison occasionally bakes yummy treats in our mini little RV oven. Life is pretty good!
After spending all day in the park hiking around, we decided it was time to get on our bikes! I do love hiking, but it doesn’t come close to my love affair with riding my bike. This was Madison’s first time in Moab, so I wanted to choose the most iconic trail I could think of. So, naturally, we went to Slickrock.
The Slickrock bike trail is famous because of its grippy sandstone. The trail is on this type of rock for the whole nine miles. The cool thing about being on rock, is that you can ride straight up and straight down anything you want with perfect traction. It really changes the game of what you can do on a bike.
I need to take a second and brag about my wife. She did GREAT. The trail we were on is a very technical and physically demanding trail. The fact that there is zero relief from the desert sun adds to the intensity. There were for sure some tough moments, as you can see here in the picture below, but Madison stayed so overwhelmingly positive that it was a really great experience. It was difficult, but worth it.
We met a really nice couple on the trail that day who didn’t need their campsite. It was a deluxe spot right down by the river! We had originally planned to go and hike some more after our bike ride, but since we were pretty wiped out, we changed our plans and went and swam in the river instead.
After our swim, we geared up to make some chicken curry and cauliflower rice. We just had a really mellow evening – it was nice to relax and get ready to hit it hard for the next day’s adventures.
It wouldn’t have been a Canyonlands adventure without doing a canyon during our stay! The funny part is, is that this canyon is actually outside the park. That’s the cool thing about the Moab area, there is SO MUCH to see and do.
We met up with Madison’s cousin Chase and his girlfriend Faith. This was their first canyon (though it didn’t seem like it – they were total naturals!). There were two rappels, one into a really neat “secret chamber” and then one off of Morning Glory Arch.
As we were driving up to the top of the canyon, there was a guy walking the side of the road with his thumb out. I have gotten very needed rides in the desert before, so I usually try to pay the universe back for its kindness. We pulled over and asked where he needed to go. He was stoked we stopped and said he was making his way to the “radio tower” – which is actually exactly where we were headed! So, he jumped in the back of the truck and we drove the few miles up the road. Turns out he was planning on doing the canyon that we were, so we just made a big party of out it!
I’m so glad that we stopped and picked Chris up. It was fun to make a new friend and to hear his stories. He was such a help as we set up the rappels and got everything situated. I really believe that nothing in life is an accident. We were supposed to meet Chris and enjoy the canyon together. It just goes to show that you can find and make friends everywhere!
We brought the kitty along for the ride! At this point of the hike, we were setting up the first rappel. Instead of hanging out in the hot sun, he climbed in my bag to get some shade. Smart kitty. He really did so well! He is starting to learn the game. What I mean is, he now knows that when there is a little trail, we just walk down it. He used to try and take off after leaves and other distractions, but now he just follows us down the path! We ask a lot of this little guy, and he is doing great.
Morning Glory Arch is interesting, because you can’t really tell it is an arch until you are right on top of it!
So instead of going down one at a time off the bolted anchors, Madison and I tried to ‘simul-rappel’ and go down together. We draped the rope over both sides of the arch, and acted as each others’ anchor as we lowered together at the same time. It was an interesting experience as we first started out. We had to completely trust the other person not to “bail out”. For example, if Madison got scared, and decided to take her weight off the rope at the beginning, I would drop down a good ways and could potentially pull her off the other side causing us both to plummet the 120 feet to our deaths. Scary stuff, huh? The good news is, that once you get far enough down, and the rope is laying completely flat on the arch above, there is so much friction that there is no way that you can mess it up. From there on you just enjoy the ride down with your rappelling companion!
I have thought about the rappel multiple times since. The parallels to marriage and making the choice to be together are too real to ignore. When we got married, we completely trusted each other not to “bail out”. We were taking big risks to potentially gain huge rewards. And as life goes on, and we learn to work together and cooperate, we can focus on having fun and enjoying the ride. I am glad that Madison is my anchor in these desert canyons, and in the canyons of life – I couldn’t ask for more.