Creak. Crack. Snap. Groan. Chomp. Thwap. Ow.
These were the sounds emanating from Canyonlands National Park over Fall Break this past week. The occasional “ows” came from the 16 UVU students, myself included, and one recently appointed advisor who were lucky enough to be part of the service expedition to Moab, sponsored by the Volunteer & Service-Learning Center at UVU.
We happy few gathered all of our gear, some of it necessary and some of it less so, Wednesday afternoon and departed for the weekend in the most magical place in all of Utah: Moab. Staying in an RV park just north of town may not seem like camping, but after that first frigid night there was not one among us willing to complain about the evening trips to the jacuzzi or the hot showers, especially as each new day dawned to the beautiful warm colors of the red desert.
Opening day, we arose to eggs and hash browns and made our way to Canyonlands to meet Ranger Clay, who guided us the mile-long hike through sandy wash to our work site.
Our job, which we chose to accept, was to remove the dead Tamarisk scrub, also known as salt cedar, from the base of the Cottonwood trees, where it tends to catch fire and smother native species. The spindly branches were relatively easy to pull out, but war wounds did happen, hence the ows, while Ranger Clay educated the group on local species of plants and animals that reside in Canyonlands. With such a large group of volunteers, we made quick work of pulling out the scrub and soon made our way back to Moab where we dined on pizza and wandered the town in hopes of the perfect red dirt t-shirt.
Friday was a day of rest in Arches National Park. But first, a trip to Hole in the Rock to bask in the Danish culture, bizarre art, miniature zoo and, of course, an apartment dug out of the gigantic rock edifice, followed by the splitting of the group to go into Arches. Our last night in town was topped off by a relaxing and tasty dinner at Moab Brewery, a personal favorite, and last minute shopping where the majority of the group bought multicolored ponchos. I never did find one I liked. Ah, c’est la vie.
Our final morning consisted of chowing down the mountains of food we had never gotten around to eating and running to pack up in the overly brisk air. I had always heard that the desert drops to freezing at night but had never experienced it until this trip. Tents had been abandoned in favor of sleeping curled up on van benches. But again, very little complaining. It was a perfect excuse for hot chocolate. Returning that afternoon to the parking lot at UVU, hugs, farewells, and promises of Facebook encounters were exchanged as this group of intrepid volunteers bade goodbye to our eventful Fall Break. While others sat at home, snug in their blankies, studying away, we had served the land, perhaps to even make up for the hundreds of pages we print up every semester that are ultimately thrown away. New friends were made, good deeds were done, and an adventure not soon forgotten were the rewards of volunteering with the Service-Learning Center. Talk is already underway for the Spring Break Service Expedition and I can’t wait.
“I was very satisfied with the service expedition,” said Andrea Ibanez, a senior at UVU and Program Director for the Service Expeditions. “The service we did in Canyonlands alongside the relationships made on the trip was all worth it.”