Sleeping Beneath the Stars at the Labryinth Campsite, White Rim Road 🌟 | Canyonlands National Park, Utah
🌕 🌖 🌗 🌘 🌑 🌒 🌓 🌔
11: 30 p.m.
In my mind, I had imagined myself sleeping beneath the stars so so many times. No ceiling, tent, or tarp blocking my eyes from the stars scattered above, nocturnal life secretly bustling in the surrounding nature, and the kiss of midnight breeze against my face as I wrap my sleeping bag tighter around me…
It was late, and I didn’t need to look at my watch to know that. I’d been laying on the ground for hours now, reason telling me to fall asleep so I wouldn’t act like a sleep-deprived zombie for the adventures awaiting me tomorrow, but wonder had kept my eyes wide open. The occasional gust of wind had blown sand into my eyes several times before, and even after the stinging pain had passed, my eyes refused to remain closed and returned to gazing at the stars as if seeing them for the first time.
Back at home, I have glow-in-the-dark stars glued to the ceiling of my bedroom. Every night when I turn off the lights, I lose sight of everything except those stars. I used to have a nightlight, but that was one of the many things I took out of my life as I grew up. I kept reorganizing my room and taking things out as I slowly picked out what I really needed in life to be happy. Now that I’m lying beneath the stars in Canyonlands National Park, all I want to do is tear those glow-in-the-dark stars off my ceiling — and tear my ceiling away along with them so that I might fall asleep to the sight of real stars every night instead of plastic ones.
I’ve also imagined a lot of scenarios in my mind. It used to be receiving the Hogwarts acceptance letter when I was in elementary school, but now I think of traveling, life, and how ink words on paper can so mysteriously but magically transport me to different minds and worlds. Some of these imaginations happen, and some don’t.
I guess I just never realized that the day I slept beneath the stars would be
Life is never perfect in its entirety, but is perfect right now?
It sure feels like it.
Earlier that day on
June 10th, 2017,
After hiking the Moses & Zeus Trail in Taylor Canyon
My mind is a mess of “Oh my goodness what if we can’t cross it” and “Come on be positive” and “I shouldn’t assume things before I actually see for myself” and “BUT WHAT IF IT’S ACTUALLY FLOODED” because
right as we were driving out of Taylor Canyon
my dad and I saw a super-tall truck drive
right past us
and out where we came onto the White Rim Road.
Could the driver have passed the flood successfully from the other direction and just decided to drive out of the White Rim Road today? Possibly — but another option, the option that I fear is the case, could be that the driver drove onto the road while my dad and I were hiking in Taylor Canyon, tried to get across the wash but couldn’t, and thus ended up having to leave the White Rim Road. 😖
My dad began to talk about our alternate plans if we couldn’t get past the wash (because it wasn’t looking too good when we saw the man waiting for his family to get across the wash earlier), but I already knew what we could do for Option B: We would have more extra time for our trip and ergo could drive to any combination of the Valley of the Gods, Monument Valley, Natural Bridges National Monument, and/or Dead Horse Point State Park. I would be happy with anything that happened, of course, buuuut I still wanted the wash to be passable. 😇
After all, we did plan the entire camping trip around driving through the White Rim Road. I wouldn’t be telling the truth if I said that I wouldn’t feel a little disappointed if we couldn’t do it.
When my dad and I arrived at the wash and parked on the sand, the man from before was already gone. The water was heavily saturated with tan silt and still. Dried tire tracks started on the sand and disappeared underneath the surface of the wash.
My dad and I slowly got out of the car and stood in front of the wash, trying to find any sign that would hint at whether we could successfully and safely drive across the flood.
Honestly, I would love to say that it was a super-dramatic moment in which we surveyed the one part of the White Rim Road that would determine the outcome of the entire trip from that point forward, but the wind was really starting to pick up at that point and kinda ruined the “dramatic” aspect of the moment. Actually, the phrase “pick up” doesn’t accurately describe the wind — it came in random, heaving gusts that picked up the loose, dry dirt and sand from around us and pelted our bare skin with teensy bits of what felt like shards of glass.
So many things were going through my mind at the point, but my dad and I decided to walk through the wash to see how deep it is, and how far it was to reach the other end (because we couldn’t see where the wash ended and the other end of the road began).
Here comes the greatest disappointment of my photography aspect of this trip: In my utter excitement at how wonderfully adventurous it was of my dad and I to walk across a wash in the middle of Canyonlands National Park combined with my overwhelming hope for the wash to be shallow enough to be passable, I had completely forgotten to take pictures of the entire experience to visually document it. 😢 *cue the internal sobbing*
In a way, though, I’m glad I didn’t increase my chances of dropping my camera (NON-WATERPROOF, btw) into the wash by bringing it with me. I felt like a genuine explorer during that moment of wading through the wash, and I’m still kind of in awe that I get to even say that I’ve walked through a flooded wash before.
After slipping several times and nearly falling entirely into the water, my dad and I had made our way out to the middle of the wash. The surface of the water had climbed up my ankles and my shins to reach my knees within a few steps into the wash, which was not a good sign. I had held onto my hope and continued walking, waiting for the water to turn shallower as we walked closer to the other end of the road…
I don’t know how to say this eloquently. The water just climbed higher and higher — first it was at mid-thigh, then all the way up to my waist. There was no way that our 4-runner could drive through this without submerging the tires, and we weren’t risking flooding our car or killing the engine if the air intake pulled water into the engine. The only way to get our car out of the wash if the engine died from water would be to tow it… and we did not want to deal with that.
It was in that moment, standing the middle of the wash, with soil and sand and silt sinking beneath our feet, that we decided we couldn’t cross the wash.
We weren’t going to risk driving through the flooded wash if there was even the slightest possibility that we would get stuck. We had to assume, essentially, that it’s either cross the wash, get stuck, and have solving that situation be the rest of our camping trip, or turn back around and have fun safely driving to our other destinations not stuck in a wash.
We just couldn’t do it.
The risk was too great.
There was a momentary wave of disappointment that scared any bit of hope I held in my heart away, because now that the facts had been presented to me, I had no more reason to hope for our adventure on the White Rim Road to continue any farther than our stay at the campsite we booked for tonight, the Labyrinth Campsite.
I probably shed a few mental tears oh so. Maybe I felt a flash of the thought that the trip was ruined because of this mere instance. Perhaps I could have let this moment negatively taint the rest of my trip.
I kept standing in the wash, waiting for all of that to happen —
But it didn’t.
Right then, I was experienced the height of what adventure is: exploration, unpredictability, and the strength to be happy with anything that happens. The thing with traveling and camping is that even when things go wrong or differently than planned, it’s still feels amazing because of the fact that I’m on an adventure. I’m doing and experiencing things that I would never be able to do or experience at home. Every time I scrape my knee, have the skin on my hands crack open from the dryness of the air, or have sweat burn the back of my neck, it feels like I’m not only having the best time of my life, but like I’m relearning how grateful I am that I get to say I have a home full of comforts to return to after traveling.
I had no reason to be disappointed, so I let the inkling of disappointment pass and walked back to shore, my pants dripping and tinted brown by the silt in the water, the sand dark brown where my wet feet treaded.
My dad and I had just walked across the wash and found out we couldn’t drive any farther on the White Rim Road. We had barely even driven on the road, and now we had to camp overnight knowing that we had to leave this very road tomorrow morning, despite having gone through the entire process of getting a permit and booking a campsite to be here, right now, on this very road that was labeled as a “life-changing experience” by many people who have experienced this road before.
We could have been sad. We really could have.
We weren’t, though, and happily walked back to our car, sand and dirt sticking to our wet clothes and shoes as the ever-growing wind pelted more of nature’s debris at us, with nothing else fueling our content than the fact that we were having one of the greatest adventures in Canyonlands National Park.
@ The Labryinth Campsite, White Rim Road
What was this insanity?
And by “this insanity,” I mean the amazing views of our campsite, yes, but also the wind.
The wind was very insane, indeed, for what my dad and I were trying to do and that was setting up a tent. Not only was the ground waaaaay too hard for us to put our tent pegs in, but we couldn’t even properly set our tent on the ground anyways because the wind kept trying to parachute it up and over the cliff edge and into the gurgling Green River.
We knew after several minutes of trying that we couldn’t sleep with a tent. We probably would have to sleep in the car, but we had so much gear and didn’t want to reorganize our entire lovely setup in the car…
Could we actually?
It would be completely unplanned, of course, but completely possible…
What if we slept beneath the stars
🌌 instead? 🌌
My dad pulled out the tarp (so prepared! *round of applause* 👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼) and we gathered rocks to place around the tarp to prevent it from flying away into the serene distance of Canyonlands National Park. I never knew it could be so fun bringing rocks back and forth to a piece of tarp but it was honestly such an entertaining activity because I knew what accomplishing the task would bring us: a chance to finally — finally! — do some minimalist-gear camping and sleep under the stars. 😍
We cooked some food and tied a chair to our car so it wouldn’t fly away (as you can see in the picture below) as the sun got closer and closer to setting…
… and immersed the rocks around us with pools of golden light.
Once the sun sunk behind one of the canyon walls, though, my dad and I pulled out our mattresses and sleeping bags. The wind was still blowing strong, so to prevent our sleeping gear from flying away as well, we put boxes of our other camping gear at one end of the tarp to create this barrier between the wind and the sleeping gear.
The sky was fading from blue to purple, but the temperature remained warm and the wind continued to blow in arbitrary gusts.
My favorite moment of the day? It actually wasn’t hiking up to Moses & Zeus or wading through the wash, though both of those moments were exhilarating and adventurous and wonderful. It wasn’t interacting with the campers next to us in the second part of the Labryinth Campsite and learning that even though they’ve been to the White Rim Road four total times before, they still had to turn back for various reasons and have yet to complete the entire round trip. Nor was it learning that I would finally be able to sleep beneath the stars that night.
My favorite moment was actually when my dad and I sat on the cliff edge next to our campsite at dusk, the light nearly fading from the purple-tinted sky, when we heard the softest flapping of wings above us mixing with the sounds of the river purling below. We had both looked up, searching for the source of those flapping noises. Nocturnal birds?
No — bats. 🦇
At first glance it was hard to discern the black wings of the bats from the darkening sky, but as our eyes adjusted and more bats appeared in the sky, we realized that we were surrounded by bats. It’s hard for me to describe how peaceful and beautiful that entire experience was, but I’m so grateful that I can say I’ve experienced a moment as rare and serene as this one and got to share it with my dad.
I know I’m going to say this again later, but I’m going to say it now because I feel like I can never say these two words enough:
This is mainly for my dad, but also for nature and the Green River and my wanderlust. It’s for the sand that blew into my eyes and the sweat that burned my skin. This thank you is for everything that has happened on this trip, and everything that didn’t.
In that particular scene, though, the thank you was for the bats flapping and diving around us as dusk faded into night, the fact that we could camp overnight on the White Rim Road, and the ability of my dad and I to share such a beautiful moment together without needing to talk to express how unbelievably mind-blowing this trip has been thus far to each other.
And thank you to the sun, too, for disappearing behind the horizon and finally letting the stars reveal themselves in the sky after a long, breathtaking day of camping.
🌕 🌖 🌗 🌘 🌑 🌒 🌓 🌔
Probably After Midnight
The idea of going to bed has literally disappeared in my vocabulary. I had witnessed the moon trail across the sky — another indicator that I’ve been awake for too long. The temperature was too warm for a sleeping bag, but at the same time, I didn’t want to get pelted with sand during my sleep, so I kept my sleeping bag tightly around me. Occasionally I had to duck my head underneath my sleeping bag when an especially strong gust blew sand over the crates towards my exposed face. My hair was filled with sand and dirt, and my skin, even after wiping the majority of the dirt off with baby wipes, still felt dry and grimy.
In other words, I felt awesome.
Eventually I couldn’t take it anymore and woke my dad up to take night shots of the moon. I didn’t have a tripod, but my dad did, so he was able to use longer exposures and capture the beautiful night scenery of our campsite. We did that for about an hour, maybe, or perhaps longer. I wasn’t keeping track of time. I knew I would regret my decision to not sleep tomorrow, but I also knew I could deal with that in the morning. The now — the sleeping beneath the stars — would be something I wouldn’t be able to experience for a very long time after this trip, and I wanted to savor every second of it.
For now, I’ll continue staring at the stars and moon and glimmering sky until my eyelids get so heavy they close by themselves.
I plan every single of my days at home.
I know what each hour will bring me
and what I will see with each turn of my head.
So this —
This wonderful feeling of freedom to encounter unpredictability
To shatter binds of daily routine that have kept me
so tightly confined all year…
So this, even if it only lasts for the extent of this excursion,
is all I want to have.
This post is the seventh post in the
Road Trip of Summer 2017 travel series
on Whisked Away By Words!
If you want to read more about my adventures road tripping and camping throughout
California, Nevada, Utah, and Arizona,
head on over to the Travel Archive to view a list of all the posts in this series.