I really love the Southwest. Where else can you enjoy the sunrise at the Grand Canyon, then turn through the rock needles of Monument Valley and count the stars at the Sorrel River Ranch near Moab that same evening? After all the years, after all the times, this unique landscape has lost nothing of its impressive magic.
Almost wistfully, I leave Mohave Point, look at the Colorado River for the last time, which flows through the Grand Canyon and make my way to Moab, which is about 500 kilometres away.
At this season (January) the days here in the canyon are cold and sunny, the tourists can be counted on one hand and the magnificent Wapiti deer come to the edge of the road. Moreover, all view points can be reached with one’s own car, yes, it almost seems as if you have this unique landscape for yourself again, which, by the way, also applies to the Monument Valley. At the parking lot of the newly built Visitor Center, there are some lost pick-ups standing around and shining in the midday sun, while without a stopover, I go directly to the 17 miles long „Dirt Road“ that carries me through the middle of the Valley of Monuments. Unfortunately it is only possible to get off at the signposted parking bays, as we are on the private property of the Navajo, who do not allow any excursions on their territory.
Nevertheless, a strip of celluloid from countless western films passes my inner eye when I switch off the engine for the first time at John Ford´s Point to walk a few meters to the viewpoint. What a vastness and loneliness, which is advantageous for me considering the road quality, because the round course has its pitfalls for normal cars, so that I am glad to be on the road with a 4-wheel drive vehicle. This car takes me to Moab in the north, where the Sorrel River Ranch, about 20 miles to the east, is hidden in a side canyon. Dali couldn’t have painted the canvas more lively beacause it always leads along the Colorado River through a mighty gorge whose rock walls are bathed in an orange-red dress by the last rays of the evening sun.
When I finally turn off the main road, I can hardly believe my eyes, because the girls and boys of the Sorrel River Ranch are really serious about the Wild West here. Horses and stables left and right of the path, in the middle the massive lodge with the torching stone fireplace and the modern and elegant sofas and armchairs. „Welcome to the Ranch“ Ngoni greets me with a broad grin and not only puts the keycard in my hand, but also equips me with the excursion program for a whole week in no time at all.
In addition, he recommends a visit to the spa area, the jump into the heated outdoor jacuzzi, yes and if I absolutely want to play tennis, of course that wouldn’t be a problem.
After interpreting my slightly overstrained facial expression, he simply reserves a table for me at the River Grill and tells me that I should perhaps arrive first. And that’s what I do in the beautifully preheated Mesa Studio, where the striking monster of a wooden bed directly issues me a wildcard for the perfect night’s sleep. But first I nibble my way through an excellent grilled chicken and sip the red wine, which of course comes from the Moab Castle Creek Winery. What a perfect evening, crying out for a perfect trip the next morning.
Among all the possibilities that Moab offers, I decide on the trail to the Fisher Towers, something like a damn legend, if you believe the photos and reports on the internet. „All you have to do is follow Highway 128 for 4 miles, then you’ll see a big sign and then the trail starts“ is Ngoni’s rather memorable description. Well, then let’s go and after about 4 miles the sign named Fisher Valley comes towards me, which takes me straight over a dirt road into the backcountry. I’m irritated but confident as I cross the river, which is filled with snow and hope for more stable road conditions behind the next bend.
But after I almost sink the SUV with the tenth Creek crossing, the first doubts come to me whether the Jeep dummy can really swim and the way really leads to the „Towers“. Since the landscape roughly adapts itself to the description, I start walking and leave the car simply at the road, in order to capitulate 30 senseless minutes later nevertheless. At the end, the solution was only 1 mile east along the main road, because there is a second sign that leads directly to the Fisher Towers Trail and ends at a small parking lot. „Here the trail starts“ is written on a sign, but also this time I land after 10 minutes in an ever narrower canyon and think about the whole time, what was the name of the guy, who got his arm caught in the canyon and finally had to amputate. But one learns and simply starts again from the beginning, so that the now following 3-hour Trail might count to the highlights of my travel career.
The path climbs slightly, first through a dry riverbed, then winds its way through the slalom along the terrific sandstone cathedrals, which shoot up to 300 meters (the Titan). The path is not always easy to spot and is occasionally replaced by stone men who enjoy taking me to the outback. But after about 1.5 hours you reach a panoramic plateau, which tries in a hopeless way to show this reddish sparkling amphitheatre in its entirety.
It’s just not possible and so I shoot the year’s supply for my Instagram account and marvel at the lonely „climber“ trying his hand at an overhang at the biggest single rock. If you’re looking for some climbing inspiration, just enter „Climbing Ancient Art“ on YouTube and enjoy wet fingers and nibbled nails.
I prefer to enjoy the last rays of sunshine on the Sorrel River Ranch and philosophize with Jeff VanCleve about the scenic highlights of Utah.“If you want to know anything about this area, if you’re looking for untrodden paths, if you’re excited about the great adventure, then I’m your man“. Yes, Jeff must know, because after all he is the adventure supervisor by profession here and I can hardly imagine a more beautiful area to do this job.
This article was kindly supported by the Sorrel River Ranch.
Here you can find my article about skiing in Vail.