Call of the Abyss
“Men come and go, cities rise and fall, whole civilizations appear and disappear — the earth remains and so does the heartbreaking beauty where there are no hearts to break… I sometimes choose to think, no doubt perversely, that man is a dream, thought an illusion, and only rock is real. Rock and sun.”
~ Edward Abbey in Desert Solitaire
The call of the abyss sometimes whispers to me but occasionally it will yell. Many consult their inner voice or intuition when making big life decisions, but for me I refer to this inner calling when considering options and migratory movement. Here in Moab, Utah the expansive horizon of red rock and mountain stretch on as far as the eye can see, accented by the infinite sandstone towers which can only be described as geological anomalies erected from the wild mind of Dr. Seuss himself. This breathe taking landscape has always been a constant reminder of nature’s immense diversity and creative creation. Here in the high desert, there’s a guarantee for getting lost and the potential for finding oneself amongst the many rock layers, endless slot canyons and resilient spiky cactus. This holy land of Utah not only holds a never-ending supply of highline space, beautiful boulders and infinite crack systems begging to be climbed, but it also claim a rich history of Native American past and present.
In short, I am simply and utterly inspired by this setting of the world and the people who call it home. Sitting atop the cliffs of this desert, overlooking the quaint but growing town of Moab, Utah (population 5,000), the eloquent words of Edward Abbey echo through my mind momentarily and bounce off the canyon walls for eternity. Every Fall for the past three consecutive years I’ve frequented this rock mecca, never staying more than a month or two at a time, but the current migration somehow feels more permanent than ever before. Back in Oregon goals were reached, dreams attained, lessons learned and with this progression a complimenting sense of change has since stirred. Life has led me to this destination with many new visions of the future and a renewed energy to reconnect with the most talented community of psyched slackliners, B.A.S.E. jumpers, rock climbers and adventure enthusiasts I’ve ever had the privilege to know. Exiting my car at the grocery store it’s impossible not to notice the majority of all passing vehicles are 4 wheel-driven and able living quarters for the like minded nomadic desert wanderer. Having an addiction to crack has taken on an entirely new meaning out here and I love it! My concept of what is possible in walking on one-inch and the mysterious abyss which lurks below loudly calls to my senses. Whether you’re fix is single track bike riding, jumping off cliffs, climbing rocks or any number of other “extreme” outdoor activities, there are strong and healthy addicts everywhere. These are the details of life that bring a smile to my heart and a deep satisfaction with the community I am a part of. Where no limitation is the limitation. This experience of highlining in elevated perspectives between slot canyons, desert towers and natural rock arches persuades my inner desire to explore the spaces between, to breathe the air up there.
Having arrived in Moab a little over a week ago, I’ve quickly settled back into a supportive community of psyched individuals with big dreams. Ryan Matson, a long time friend and avid rock junky has offered me a place to stay in his desert kingdom during my transition and I’m forever thankful for his kindness and support. Situated atop the highest domesticated point in Moab, Matson lives and works at The Sunset Grill Restaurant which overlooks all of town and the cliffs beyond, offering the most epic city view and sunset vantage point. For the past many years Ryan has lived in the Moab area maniacally devoting his free time to pursuing a passion of climbing desert towers and establishing new highlines throughout the desolate desert area. He is a like minded person with a large collection of gear, a huge Jeep capable of conquering all rock terrain and a friendly enthusiasm which guarantees a life extra ordinary. Ryan is one of many in this motley crew of motivated monkeys who seek out big adventures and accomplish the impossible more often than most will in a lifetime. To say the least, life is stimulating with this bunch…
To sum up recent events since my migration southeast, I’ve already walked 8 highlines (5 of which were new and sent on-sight), surpassed my longest highline record of length and established a new FA (First Across) highline spanning 190 feet. “Tangerine Dream” is the name of the newest line (bolted by Terry Acomb/Ryan Matson and equipped by Jeremy Shive) out at the Slackhouse, which represents one of roughly 26 developed areas for highlining here. In addition to experiencing individual success, my buddy Jeremy Louis added to the sendergy of Tangerine Dream by walking his new personal record on-sight and full-man. Having been in Moab a short time the progression is tangible and contagious… While living in town, days typically begin warming up with acro-yoga, sessioning Ryan’s backyard highline (122′ long and 50′ high), drinking a lot of coffee and eventually setting out for the remote desert with a caravan of monkeys in tow and a cloud of dust trailing behind. This life seems to get exponentially better as the stoke for highlining continues to cultivate and exploring the wilderness seems ever more expansive than before.
Not only has the call of the abyss contributed to my growing sense of happiness in a life on the line but I’ve also discovered a new appreciation for the land here and how I choose to interact with it. So much of my everyday joy of living has stemmed from discovering new ways to experience the world and by learning how to escape my comfort levels regularly, and my newest findings have led me to the basics of sustainability in a very grounding way. With an abundance of Native American culture all around it’s hard not to be curious about how our ancestors thrived in the desert before my existence and for the first time in my 27 years of life I’m now learning a most basic skill. That is, how to make fire from my surroundings. This ability is essential for human survival, especially with the winter nearing, and undoubtedly even the youngest members of a community could once conjure up such “magic” efficiently. Being a product of the modern era, however, this expertise has been lost to many. Luckily for me, one of the many traveling characters amongst this slacklining community is an educated friend who goes by the name of Phoxx. He has been teaching and practicing primitive living techniques for a very long time and upon request he seemed happy to spread his knowledge with my enthusiastic mind. Through his tutelage I am learning new skills that may one day save my life. In summary, after the past four days and three nights in the desert I have learned to make a portable candle/stove from a can, Pinion Pine sap and Juniper bark. I’ve also been taught where and how to gather natural materials for making an assortment of fire making tools such as a stick and bow. Having now successfully made three fires with this technique I’m excited about the growing prospect of living more sustainably off the land and feeling more confident in my survival abilities in the desert. In short, I’ve been putting more effort into expanding my awareness of both my external settings and internal feelings throughout all the adventures in Moab… I thank all the supportive monkeys around and offer a deep guttural grunt of thanks in return… UUUUGGGGHHHH UUUGGGGHHHH!