Life at the Crag

I have a hard time taking myself seriously these days. I recently left the comfort of my cozy condo on Powder Mountain Road in Eden, Utah in favor of living in an old, musty tent. I ditched luxuries like electricity, running water and wi-fi, to instead live amongst the critters of the Manti LaSal National Forest. You might be wondering why anybody would make this transition and trust me; between dealing with the aggro squirrels and armies of moths I have not gone without questioning my sanity at least a time or two myself. Chasing the snow and needing to be able to pedal, paddle, and climb, I have taken several low paying jobs so that I can pursue living, playing, and “being” outside. This has found me in a colorful assortment of summer gigs but this summer I am working in one of the sweetest seasonal positions yet; I am living the dream as the Campground Host in the ultimate conglomerate cobblestone sport climbing destination, aaah yes, life is good in Maple Canyon.

I wake up to the sounds of robins chirping and the occasional yell from climbers on top of Dizzy Rock. I often see marmots and gorgeous butterflies. I am surrounded by the smells of campfire and cool air you only feel when you are in the mountains. Even on hot days shade can be found under canyon walls and canopies of maple leaves. But despite the beautiful surroundings, it’s not all glamour. The obligations underlining the title Campground Host include but are not limited to; making sure campers are kept happy with an adequate supply of toilet paper in the bathrooms, attempting to keep these bathrooms “clean” without the use of any running water, and answering questions such as, “Where is the schoolroom?” and “Where do I park to climb at the Zen Garden?” I try to keep up on digging out the fire rings which is great fun because I enjoy pushing the wheelbarrow full of tools and bags up and down the canyon. But other than being solely a good time, it is simultaneously fascinating because I see what kind of items people find fit to throw into the fire rings.  It never occurred to me that a fire ring was great place to throw cans, plastics, webbing, or those unwanted miscellaneous clothing items. Actually, there are a few instances where I have wondered to myself, “Is this these peoples first time camping?”

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Working in Maple Canyon means that I see how the usage-fee is used for the maintenance of the area. Almost 100% of the money collected here is used at this site. Ninety-five percent of the usage-fee is allocated to maintain the outhouses, the trails, and the campsites. It also pays for the pumping of outhouses, furniture at campsites, and the construction of new sites. I would like to say that it also provides me a beefy paycheck, but that would be a lie. Some of the pros of the job are that I am cooking most meals over an open flame and I don’t have cell service, both of which contribute to a slowed down version of life. One of the cons is that there is no distinction between when I’m ‘on’ or ‘off the clock’. This means that at any time of day, or night, I can anticipate people dropping by my site, or tent, to ask a question. Being indisposed of in any fashion is never an option.

A good friend of mine who patrols at Brighton introduced me to the canyon several years ago and I have been coming back for visits ever since, but it wasn’t until I lived here that I really got to know the place. I always thought that this place was special, but living here means that I have had the time to explore new and less traveled crags in the canyon and I’m slowly beginning to understand the fine distinction of cobble climbing. One of my favorite things about Maple Canyon, and something I never experienced prior to living here, is the view from the top. A simple three-mile loop hike (middle fork to right fork or vice-versa) puts you on top of the canyon and is an amazing place to marvel the fanciful sand castle formations. Additionally, along this hike there is a turnoff for an arch that shouldn’t be missed- this striking geological formation, a conglomerate cobblestone arch, is only half of a mile from the campground!

I attribute the unique rock and intricate climbing that is found only in Maple Canyon to the eclectic group of visitors I meet while working here. I’ve always referred to the Sanpete Valley as beautiful country land and surprisingly, in the middle of rural Utah there’s a spot attracting climbers from all over the place. Being that it’s not too far from Salt Lake I meet a lot of climbers from the large climbing community there, as well as meeting people from all over the United States, Canada, and even a gentleman from Belarus.

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If you somehow haven’t heard about Maple Canyon, it is just west of Moroni and almost right smack in the middle of the Beehive State. Some say that the sport climbing here is “world class” and I would have to agree that it is pretty good. Being tucked beneath maple trees and between rock formations, the developed campsites (8 bucks a night) even have a little character. If you are thinking that an impromptu trip to Maple is in order, you probably have a decent head on your shoulders; that is of course as long as the trip isn’t an overnighter on a weekend. The weekends here are busy and campsites tend to get reserved far in advance. Fortunately, there are a handful of first-come first serve sights at the bottom of the canyon. In Maple Canyon there is no potable water and there are no dumpsters. This means that you should bring your own water and deal with your trash following the “Pack it in, Pack it out” method. “Pack it out” means please take your trash out with you. Trash is not secure in a plastic bag left in a parking lot or on a picnic table. Squirrels have the time of their life chewing anything they can get their wicked little claws on. Visitors in Maple Canyon are lucky that, unlike Yosemite, there is currently no fear of bears breaking into coolers or cars and hopefully it stays that way. If coming to Maple with a group of friends, please try your hardest to carpool for not only gas conservation purposes but because parking is sparse. Lastly, if you come to Maple Canyon this summer, please stop by and say hello.

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