At 9am this past Monday morning (my Saturday, as my days off are Monday-Tuesday) I had an interview for a ski instructor position at Keystone. By 10, they had offered me the job.
That was the start of my amazing weekend.
I had been so busy the last few weekends that I hadn’t made any plans. But after only a few hours of idle, I knew I needed to think of something. Just as I reached for the phone, the very number I had intended to call flashed on the screen. Austin had an idea – we should go up and camp in the La Sal Mountains that evening with some friends to celebrate my new job. I hastily agreed and got to packing.
At 5pm four of us met in the Arches parking lot and headed out.
The La Sals are the closest range to Canyonlands, and the tallest on the Colorado plateau. I see them every day through the visitor center windows, and had been longing to go up for a trip since I first noticed their rolling greens turning orange. I had camped in the La Sals in early July, but hadn’t been back since. I was eager to see how the mountains had changed, and was excited for any excuse to get closer to the stars.
The best part about the La Sals is how accessible they are. With multiple entry points, it’s about an hour and a half drive to the closest route, and a paved road will lead you deep into the mountains. There’s a little something for everyone there – lots of trails for backpackers and hikers, but plenty of roads that lead straight to free campsites if you just want to spend the night. Because we were short on time, and one of the members of our party was very pregnant, we opted to car camp.
It was getting late as we made our way up through the mountains, and the sun was setting just as we reached our destination. We dashed out of the car to watch the sun disappear behind our red rock desert through a gap in the aspens. We decided to make our campsite at a place called Moonlight Meadows.
After the sun went down we set up camp. A fire was started and tents pitched, and before long we were feasting on steak, potatoes, onions and carrots cooked directly over the flames. For some reason, food is always better when you’re camping. For dessert, our travel buddies had brought a fully prepared apple crisp to bake in the fire. We devoured it straight from the pan, before finishing off with some s’mores (wouldn’t be a campfire without it!). I couldn’t have had a better celebratory meal in the finest restaurant.
A guitar was passed around as we all digested, and gazed towards the sky through our perfect little gap in the pines. The sky was as clear as I’d ever seen it, the Milky Way glowing above a sliver of a moon that never rose completely. It wasn’t long before we retired to the warmth of our sleeping bags, where we were treated to the lullabies of nearby coyotes.
But it wasn’t until we awoke the next morning that we were given our real treat. I was single minded as I crawled out of my tent. We had camped at the edge of the meadow in a cluster of pine trees purposely so that the sun wouldn’t wake us, but by morning I was eager for it’s warmth, and made a beeline to the meadow ahead. It wasn’t until I stopped and soaked in the rays for a good few moments that I realized what surrounded me.
The meadow was sparkling. It was as if millions of tiny diamonds had nested in the grass and among the fallen leaves that evening, waiting for the sun to reveal them. A frost had settled over the meadow in the night, and now I was the richest girl in the world.
What made the moment even richer was the diversity of the place. Not only was I standing in a sparkling alpine meadow, but I was just 500 feet below the closest talus peak, surrounded by tall pines and golden aspens, and with a clear view of my desert home, The Island in the Sky. There aren’t many mountain ranges that boast a red desert vista from it’s forests.
This is why my meager $75 a week makes perfect sense.
We were joined at breakfast by some very curious grey jays, who diligently made sure that no trace of our meal was left behind. We of course thanked them profusely before packing up the car and heading back to reality (if that’s what you want to call any one of our lives).
We couldn’t leave, however, without one final stop. A particular golden grove called out to us from the road, and we didn’t have a choice but to pull over and play. We wondered through the white and orange forest for as long as time would allow us, and then we were forced to say goodbye to the mountains – at least for now.
I did feel slightly melancholic as we made our way back down, but it wasn’t long before that gorgeous red rock rolled out again before me. It was then that I was reminded that my life currently consists of experiencing one spectacular place after another, and for that I couldn’t feel anything but incredibly lucky.