May 15th, 2019 | Words & Photos by Erik Gordon
Dust rises off the wheels of an old Volkswagen Van as it peels off down the highway. This is a familiar sight in Southern Utah; vehicles built out to be far more than just vessels for transport. Instead, climbers, explorers and other visitors to this expanse of seemingly inhospitable desert have adapted their vehicles to serve as homes on wheels, allowing them to experience the desert and all it has to offer for weeks on end.
Our caravan of two VWs, a sprinter van, and a built out Toyota Tacoma fits right in with this ethos of self contained exploration. This isn’t our first rodeo exploring Utah's epic public lands, so consequently we’ve got all the essentials: built out rigs, lots of burrito supplies and way too much climbing gear (full disclosure, you can never really have too much climbing gear). It feels good to know that every member of our caravan has got their set up dialed to the n-th degree. This time around we will be visiting Moab & Indian Creek and are stoked for our journey to these beautiful and wild public lands.
As we roll into camp and park at our new home among the boulders, the sun starts to dip below the vast expanse of the sky, while the aura of sunset fades into starlight. You can still feel the warmth of the day’s heat radiating from the red sandstone boulders, giving us a welcome buffer against the cool desert breeze. We unpack our tables, get the stoves cooking and light the campfire, just in time for the ever popular s’more & whiskey happy hour.
As I push open the back hatch of our van the next morning, I can feel the bite of the cold desert air. Time to throw on the puffy and get the coffee brewing! One by one everyone makes their way back around the fire ring and talk of cracks, cams (devices used to protect a climber in case of a fall), and climbing routes fills the air. After one last coffee top-off, the van doors slam and dust flies from the tires. We’re Moab bound and headed to Indian Creek for our first day of climbing!
We pull up next to the infamous roadside crag known as Wall Street and park the van. A few steps later and we’ve thrown down the gear and are racking up for some beautiful desert splitter cracks. While looking up at some of the world’s most convenient crack climbing, we realized we forgot the guide book for the area. On top of that, my phone with its access to Mountain Project, an online database of climbing routes, died on the way out here. Then it hit me, I remembered to throw the Nomad Carabiner into my pack for the day, along with an extra PowerPack. A few seconds later, we’re charging up and back in business. All the climbing beta we could ever need is at our fingertips and we are now ready for a full day of climbing.
The rhythm of climb, rest, and repeat starts to take shape and before we know it, the sun is starting to disappear from the far side of the canyon. A day full of laughs, sandstone cracks, and a few more burritos has gotten the best of us and it's already time to head back out to our desert basecamp.
With the windows down and a tired crew piled in the back of the van, I can’t help but smile. This is what it feels like to live with everything you’ve got. All of our preparation and, more importantly, our attitudes, have allowed us to spend the week living at ease. This seemingly harsh and uninhabitable environment feels paradoxically just like home; I think there is something to learn from that.
The desert glow starts to fill the sky and thoughts of empty roads and more adventures fills my head. Once again, as the sun fades from the horizon and the fire starts to crackle, I can’t think of anywhere else I’d rather be.
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