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Epic Road Trip Through the Colorado mountains & the Utah Desert

It's fall time.

I had to get out of my home state of Florida, a place of flat lands and endless summer, and go to a land where golden leaves lightly drip from the Aspens. A land where the wind is crisp, and the roads are long, and the days are shortening -- making way for the cold, starry nights.

So with a backpack and a tent, I set off on an epic journey out west, alone!

“Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever so on the road.”

― Jack Kerouac

Day 1

“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming "Wow! What a Ride!”

― Hunter S. Thompson

After flying into Denver, I rented a truck and headed 200 miles west to a tiny little town called Marble, Co -- Population 131.

Marble is nestled in the heart of the Colorado Rockies, located right on the edge of beautiful Crystal River in the Elk Mountain Range. I set up camp at Bogan Flats Campground, about 10 feet from the gentle flow of the river.

Bogan Flats Campground

“The world's big and I want to have a good look at it before it gets dark.”

― John Muir

After spending half the day hiking, exploring and aimlessly wandering, I fell into asleep to the sound of the flowing river as golden leaves of aspen gently weeped on my tent. It was pretty magical.

Day 2

The next morning I headed an hour outside of Marble to capture some shots of the beautiful Maroon Bells -- one of America's most photographed mountain range.

And I can see why.

“For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.”

– Robert Louis Stevenson

Next, I got on the road and headed 3 hours south to one one of Colorado's most enchanted hidden gems -- Last Dollar Road. Scenic, vast and adventurous, this secluded dirt road slices through a low valley encompassed by jagged snow top peaks and deep-blue skies, while at times shrouded by golden aspens. It's one of the most stunning scenery I've seen in my life.

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived." -

-Thoreau

“Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.”

― F. Scott Fitzgerald

“We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”

― Joseph Campbell

Found this little campsite right off Last Dollar Road. It's free. No one in site. No sounds except the crackle of fire and mountain wind ruffling the pines. This is the area where John Wayne's 'True Grit' was filmed. You can still feel his spirit out here.

Day 3

It was time to say goodbye to the great mountains of Colorado. I packed up my gear, loaded up the truck, and headed southwest into the red wasteland of Monument Valley, Utah.

Monument Valley is located in the southeast corner of Utah. The vast desert with its red towering buttes and empty skies looks today exactly like it looked 1000 years ago.

“I have always loved the desert. One sits down on a desert sand dune, sees nothing, hears nothing. Yet through the silence something throbs, and gleams...”

― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Remember that spot where Forrest Gump finally stopped running? 9 beers in, I was there. Kinda.🤘

Monument Valley was beautiful but too many tourists. I'm not a tourist kind of guy. I like to stay away from the crowd, away from the "common" places. So I headed a bit north, about 25 miles, to a town called Mexican Hat. Not much there-- a few small motels, small restaurants, and one gas station. I needed a shower so I splurged and paid $40 for a little desert hostel -- no tv, no glitz, no glam.

Day 4

“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars. ― Jack Kerouac

The sun seeped up over the red horizon, splashing rays into my dark barren room. I got up and sat on the porch and drank my breakfast. Today, I was heading north to drive the 18 mile dirt road through the scenic sandstones of the Valley of the Gods.

Then head on up to Moab.

Valley of the Gods

“A man on foot, on horseback or on a bicycle will see more, feel more, enjoy more in one mile than the motorized tourists can in a hundred miles.”

― Edward Abbey

After arriving in Moab I tried to find a discreet place to camp -- for free. It's pretty difficult to disperse camp in Moab. There's a lot of officials riding around waiting to hand out some hefty fines to "unauthorized" campers.

After a few beers at a local bar, I got a tip from a local on where to go. I drove 25 miles south of town along the Colorado River and set up my tent right on the edge of a canyon away from the everything.

It was stunning.

“The old hunger for voyages fed at his heart....To go alone...into strange cities; to meet strange people and to pass again before they could know him; to wander, like his own legend, across the earth--it seemed to him there could be no better thing than that.”

― Thomas Wolfe

After I set up camp I headed into Arches National Park. My aim was to photograph the world renowned Delicate Arch at sunset. It was 3 mile round-trip hike. By the time I got out there, the placed was littered with tourists. Looked like little ants crawling all over the damn place. It took about 3 hours to get a shot of the famous arch without a human in the frame.

It was worth the wait.

Delicate Arch

“Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark in the hopeless swamps of the not-quite, the not-yet, and the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish in lonely frustration for the life you deserved and have never been able to reach. The world you desire can be won. It exists.. it is real.. it is possible.. it's yours.”

― Ayn Rand

It was a hell of road trip. By the end I had met starving artists, mountain gypsies, and sipped beers with desert vagabonds. My tent got attacked by a dog the first night. Got a little lost in the woods by the second night. By the third, I felt lonesome & alive at the same time. My boots were ragged. My clothes were dirty. And I forgot who I was.

This is how you keep the soul from descending into the ashes of oblivion. Buy the ticket, take the ride. Just go!

Because life, my friends, is an epic poem if you let it be.

www.RamblinRitt.com

https://www.etsy.com/shop/RamblinRittPhotos

Credits:

Erik Rittenberry

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