Here we are, more than a third of the way through the year. April used to signify the time of year where we couldn’t do winter sports anymore, and summer was still a few months away. But then in the spring of my first year of nursing school I went to Moab, Utah with my nursing school friends. And it was this magical playground complete with huge desert vistas and seemingly endless sunny, balmy days in what would otherwise be the cold shoulder season.

So now 9 desert trips later and we’re canyoneering like it’s our main hobby or something. We may have received Scuttle Butts as a Christmas gift from Dan’s parents…[see below picture]. Anyways, enter No Man’s canyon!!

No Man’s canyon was fun. Not our favorite, and the slots weren’t Red Breaks or anything (can you sense my upturned nose??) but the highlights made up for it: many fun obstacles – high stemming over water, 10+ foot drops requiring some teamwork…and then a RIDICULOUSLY FUN 150 ft overhanging rappel at the end. Eliciting the good kind of nerves, giddy laughing, shrieking. etc. Canyons are like the adult version of a playground. With the potential for death ever-looming…just like enclosed slides felt as a child.

We woke up to clear blue skies, 50 degrees and a slight breeze. The perfect weather for cooking eggs and bacon. Hah. The only time we make either of those two things. Not because I don’t like them, but now they only seem appropriate for camping. Then we started hiking at 10:30 AM.

No Man’s Canyon (North Fork)

via Road Trip Ryan

Rating: 3A
Length: 5-7 hours
Gear: Standard technical gear, see RRR’s site. And moderate route finding skills (the free ViewRanger app is a great aid)
Rappels: Up to 60 m (197 ft.)
Water: Generally little or none unless right after rains. We did have some chest-deep wading.
No Man's Canyon Utah
At the trailhead…and where we slept the night before.

We hiked along the south side of the canyon’s rim and then descended down to the first rappel (~30 ft.) within 30 minutes. After the first rappel we made our way through short slot sections, some which involved ~10 ft+ drops. We got to brush up on our teamwork skillz. In reality, teamwork involved Dan carefully finding the way down or risking his ankles with a jump, and then helping me down like the delicate flower that I am.

No Man's Canyon
Dan jumping into a pool of unknown depth.

We also hit a few water sections, one up to chest-level.

No Man's Canyon
Scuttle Butt, activate!
No Man's Canyon

At the final slot, we descended a ~20 ft. rappel into the darkest part of the canyon. And then came the highlight of the canyon, a 197 ft. overhanging rappel. As recommended, we did the rappel in two stages to help with rope pulling (a 50 ft rappel and a 150 ft rappel).

Overhanging rappels are thrilling. You [awkwardly] lower yourself into a squat until your knees are fully bent but feet are still on the rock. Then you lay yourself against the rock and allow your feet to dangle down, and as your sweaty tear-streaked face is pressed against the cool sandstone you say a little prayer. Then you lower until you are fully free-hanging and the wind whips around you and the force of sheer delight is overwhelming. My brain was probably bathed in dopamine.

No Man's Canyon Utah
With a grand finale of what we now know to be poison ivy bushes.

Ok, so this is the end of No Man’s canyon, and now for the hike back. We walked down canyon until passing a side canyon on the left. Five minutes past this side canyon, there is a trail heading up and out of the canyon, on the left. We reached the canyon’s rim and then made our way east around the corner of the steep slickrock slope. We continued along and around the slickrock slope and then up the valley to a final scramble to the top of the caprock (the hiking was no more than Class 3).

No Man's Canyon Hike Out
Hike back out.

The hike out took about two hours. It was fucking hot. Dang if upper 70s in the desert doesn’t feel like a blistering form of hell.

Cactus Flower
This flower is laughing at my inability to tolerate the desert’s balmy 80 degrees.

We got back around 4 PM, put our stuff in the car and drove past the Alcatraz trailhead (the next day’s canyon) to the end of a dirt road for some stellar views and solitude. We had a beer and talked while listening to Tom Petty (listen number four of ten) while looking out into the canyons. Then we napped for an hour, the afternoon’s warmth lulling us to sleep. We woke up and mustered strength to make dinner. Another beer each and we made a tofu almond butter red curry stir fry while watching the sunset. We built a fire and watched the stars come out.

Utah Car Camping
A kitchen with a view.


Can I just say: we have arranged our lives around doing trips like this. It makes other things more difficult, it creates otherwise unnecessary challenges. And sometimes I don’t know that it’s the right path. But adventuring outside is the thing that lights both of us up. These trips are the highlight of our year, of our lives. When I look back on the last ten years of my life, chasing adventure in the desert, in the mountains, or abroad, are the things that fill me joy and fulfillment. I guess you can’t really pick the things that make you tick, and some things are “easier” to pursue than others. But not burying your spark under the hazy, unfulfilling pursuit of shiny adult pennies seems paramount, as time is limited. Chase the things you REALLY want, even if they are out of the norm.

I like to frequently think about 80 year old me looking back on my life. It puts the small things into perspective, and the big life desires come into better focus. This is a paragraph to self-justify our vacation 🙂 But really, it’s also to tell you to FIGURE OUT WHAT YOU WANT AND DON’T SETTLE.

The end.



  1. I enjoy your adventures outside. You certainly seem too. Some of us are born into a very fortunate family that resources are not a concern. For the rest of us, life is full of compromises and careful choices. If you’re choosing your adventures and vacations over many other discretionary spendings, I say go for it. David and I prioritized vacations and savings over things like eating out or new cars. I probably drove the cheapest car than any of my staff. In return I got to retire early. I think it’s worth it.

    • ashleyoutside Reply

      I’m not sure if I missed a post on your path to early retirement, but I would love to read how you got there! You are definitely living a pretty amazing dream 🙂

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