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Nr.78 USA – Bikepacking the terrific landscapes of the Colorado Plateau in Utah as well as the end of a 4.7 year long bicycle trip around the world

Mar 19, 2018 | America, Blog, USA

It was hot, piping hot when I started my tour around Utah.

A dream. Those bizarre rock formations are simply terrific. They shine in all colors and shades and can be found here around every bend.

The desert had me again and I was eager to experience it.

The desert had me again and I was eager to experience it.

Silence. You really don’t hear anything here, absolutely nothing. If so then only the wind, because unfortunately there is often too much of it in this corner of the planet. But it was heavenly, because I love this loneliness, this feeling, when the world belongs to me all alone.

Nobody, absolutely nobody was out here. I call this pure freedom. My greatest happiness.

When I can jump around naked and know that the only creature which might come across is a scorpion, but certainly not a human, then I can enjoy these landscapes even more.

I can do whatever I want. I don’t have to give an account to anyone for what I do, what I wear, what I eat, how I look like, or how often I talk to myself.

Whether I sing or dance, laugh or cry. Whether I comb my hair, wash myself or not. Whether my clothes are dirty, my jacket smells like a campfire or if my socks stink. When I get up or go to bed?

Here I am – all alone. Brilliant.

Collecting wood to experience a small campfire. Watching stars and trying to find the few constellations I know. Cooking, drinking tea and reading books are the things that I do especially in the evenings. And, of course, taking pictures, enjoying, just living and calling out into the world how very incredible it is.

I can spend hours looking at the landscape and never get bored. Crawling around on rocks, enjoying the sun and the warmth and searching for the unknown. Watching ants at work, spotting birds flying. Collecting stones and discovering flowers.

I was happy, as always out here.

John, with whom I came here from Oregon, had given me food, because if something is difficult here, then it is getting food and water. Unfortunately, I can’t really take much on board with my bikepacking set-up and with the strenuous trails out here, it would not be easy to have a lot with me anyway.

So, I knew, sooner or later I would have to restock again. But I wanted to postpone this for as long as possible. I didn’t really care about civilization.

Goblin Valley, a state park, was very close by. But first I wanted to explore the San Rafael Swell. A rather unknown area, so almost no people were there.

But on the other hand, there were enough people to ask for water and to get something to eat from time to time. Most were traveling with their big 4×4 jeeps and had the whole vehicle full of groceries and water.

Hikes interested me the most at the moment. There were several so-called slot canyons, so very narrow in which you had to climb in part to get thru.

There was also the Little Grand Canyon. As the name implies, it is the little brother of the Grand Canyon, but almost deserted.

The views were beautiful, the silence still great and the love I feel for the American West was getting stronger and the time that I had left, unfortunately, getting shorter.

I felt at home, I felt comfortable, I wanted to stay. I have often imagined what it will be like when I get home. Into the cold, wet and overpopulated Germany. I started to get worried, started to get scared, but I didn’t want to ruin my mood, after all I was looking forward to my people!

I wondered again and again whether the Americans are actually aware of what kind of natural treasures they have? How overpopulated my country is in comparison. Not to mention the noise there is in Germany. And the almost unlimited opportunities they have here, something I am even a little jealous of.

I also couldn’t really remember what it is like at home. I had simply forgotten, too long ago. I had lost the feeling for it. Many things just did not come to my mind anymore and I often wondered if I just remembered things wrong or if they really are like I think they are?

Americans told me again and again how great they find Germany. How friendly people are and how tasty the food is.

I also read more and more lately about touring cyclists from all over the world who were traveling in Germany and they talked about the great hospitality of the Germans. Each time I thought – what? Friendly? Hospitable? Do I no longer know my own country?

Am I unfair? Is it always that far away is so great and just out of principle at home not so great so it’s easy to find a reason to go away? I simply couldn’t remember.

But maybe it’s more that I’ve changed a lot and see things differently today and do not know how Germany will affect me today. The more I thought about it the more excited I was for what lies ahead of me.

The desert gives you a lot of time to think. It gives you peace and strength and security, even though it seems so extremely hostile to life. You won’t be distracted, you can concentrate on what surrounds you. You can focus much better on the little things.

When walking through New York, London or Paris, or even in a small village, you certainly do not notice that an ant is crawling nearby. Or a mosquito flies across the street.

Surrounded by loud noises and distractions, glowing billboards, running people and chaos, something so delicate does not stand out anymore. The little things are often lost in daily life.

In my opinion, the desert is the best way to recover from the daily stress and continuous problems of civilization that we are constantly exposed to. Luckily, there is not even a cell phone signal here. So, no reason at all to take out your electronic devices.

As always, I talked to the people I met. About God and the world, about the weather, the great nature and about anything and everything. Americans love small talk, something in which we Germans are pretty bad at. But it always makes it really easy to get in touch with the Yanks. Everywhere you just strike up a chat to give the others a nice feeling.

Trump opponents were numerous. Americans who apologized for their president and it was written on their faces of how ashamed they were of him. Of course, I also met the others, who continue to believe that he was the right choice. But I had the feeling that those people were clearly in the minority.

People are shy to talk politics in the US, only when they are sure which political opinion they have will they talk openly. But of course, only if they have the same leanings as you. Then you can even grumble wonderfully and improve the world mentally, especially with me as a foreigner.

Apart from that, I always find out how restrained the Americans are and prefer to avoid the subject as best as they can. It is too volatile and entire families are shattered because their political interests diverge too far. One is ashamed of the thoughts and vote of the other.

I had rarely heard coyotes at night and took the opportunity to ask a ranger about this when I visited the Ranger Station in Goblin Valley. The ranger was visibly uncomfortable explaining the law to me, because in Utah it is still true today that you get a $20 bounty for each coyote shot and properly presented.

One night a kitfox sneaked around my tent. He was spotlighted thru my campfire and his eyes glowed wonderfully green. It was wonderful. One of the moments that I probably will not forget soon.

Goblin Valley a state park with bizarre rock formations that are almost unique. The super friendly ranger there gave me food, so I could stay out for another while before I finally had to return to the tiny village of Hanksville. The distances are as always immense and just going shopping, can take the whole day cycling.

In Hanksville I took the opportunity to hitchhike again. I wanted to go to the Needles District of Canyonlands and found someone to take me right there.

Canyonlands is divided into several sub-areas and the area around Moab is totally overcrowded, but the other areas are quiet and at least as beautiful. In the Needles District you are even allowed to set up your tent right outside the National Park border, so I stayed for a while and mostly walked a lot. In addition, I took part in almost all the Ranger talks, which are always instructive and gave me great contact with people.

On amazing trails, I found my way back towards civilization and can only say again, what the American West has to offer is simply amazing.

Many times, I hiked, or hitched or cycled and enjoyed my new way of life very much. Without ambition and without counting kilometers, I discovered a new way of exploring the world. In the long run, that would not be my style, but now and then it’s really nice. As already mentioned, this was my break time.

I liked the hiking more and more. The biking lost its appeal. I had done that long enough and somehow, I was a bit done with it. I started to imagine what it would be like if I walked from now on? No more cycling – but walking the world?

Would it work? Is it fun? How could this be realized? Or is cycling the perfect way to experience the world after all? I thought about it a lot, began to wander and to push rather than cycle. Sometimes I left the bike and just walked away from my campsite.

I just felt tired. Tired of pedaling. I wanted to stay longer in one place more often than I did at the beginning of my journey. Less is more, I’ve understood that for a long time.

In addition, I started to bake bread. Something fun and really easy and leads to great results. It almost was something of a ritual and I was often looking forward to the evening to finally be able to bake it again. Of course, it took several attempts until everything was as I liked it, but in the end, I was simply thrilled how well it worked.

By a sheer coincidence, I discovered an event in New Mexico. A “Star Party”. But not a party where important people come, but a party where you watch the stars. Exactly my thing and I registered immediately for the week because the event was very inexpensive.

On the way there I visited the Bisti Badlands Wilderness. An area with many extraordinarily impressive rock formations.

When I was walking in the parking lot, a couple suddenly smiled at me in a very friendly way. They were Swiss and when I got closer, they greeted me with: “Hello Heike” and I just thought, huh, who is that now? In the end I had met the two Volkswagen drivers Sandra and Markus before in Laos and they recognized me immediately. Small World.

The Star Party had been more than interesting. People from all over the US came together, the farthest from Alaska. Just great people. Watching the stars every night with giant telescopes and answering all the questions I asked during the week.

There were also lectures on various astronomical topics. We visited the huge MRO telescope and the largest radio telescope station in the world the VLA which was extremely impressive, known to many through the movie Contact. A great week and an event that I can recommend to anyone who is interested in astronomy.

Of course, with almost no light pollution, New Mexico is a perfect place to do such celestial observations. Just seeing the rings of Saturn or discovering galaxies that are forever far away was a real treat.

During the day we slept, we observed at night.

Back at the Colorado Plateau I visited the well worth seeing National Park Capitol Reef. The park not only has beautiful secluded off-roads to offer, but also lots of hiking trails that lead you through the most incredible rock labyrinths.

So late in the year it was already very cold, but still sunny every day. The visitors were less, the daylight as well.

If you live on the road, the winter with its short days is always more difficult to endure. Although of course I treated myself to a campfire as often as I could, but it is dark early and cold for a long time. You have to entertain yourself in the long dark night.

The more I hiked and the more I experienced the beauty of the area, the more I thought with horror of the flight home. In addition, my plan was flying home for Christmas, something that I do not really like anyway and I kept asking myself why I had actually decided that way.

I enjoyed the sun even more, as I always did anyway. I knew I would not see it for a while. Apart from the weather, I was just nervous. I was insecure, I was scared. There was a deadline. Besides, I did not know how my people will react to me and what will happen at my homecoming.

This time it was not just a new country, this time it was an end. The end. But then again it could turn into a new beginning, but in spite of everything, it was almost over and very soon not the same as it was before.

The question of whether I will somehow experience anything comparable to these brilliant 4.7 years again in the future or in journeys to come was the unknown. After all this trip was so gigantic and I doubted if matching it could really be possible.

Also, I noticed more and more that I was not so enthusiastic about the bike anymore. I was doubly uncertain, because I did not know if I was in my final weeks with my “biker career”? Internally I hoped, of course, that this is only a short phase and does not last forever.

I was looking forward to home, but I would have preferred to postpone the flight for another while, even though I knew it had to be now. But one thing I already noticed, flying home was the hardest part of the journey so far.

It was at some point the first thought when I woke up in the morning and the last one when I lay down at night.

But I continued to enjoy my campfires. My camping anyway.

Then it was time for Bryce Canyon …….

and of course, Zion.

Grand Staircase Escalante and the Mojave Wüste were next.

Surprisingly, even so late in the year everyone was on the go in Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park. Despite everything, they are fantastically beautiful.

The Mojave was again as I imagined. Lonely, calm and pure desert. In the end it was the best ending I could have had.

I sat in the plane and my thoughts were a roller coaster. Inside I was laughing, smiling and crying an endless mix of emotions. In the Condor flight from Las Vegas to Frankfurt, of course, I was surrounded by a lot of Germans, more Germans than I had met on the whole trip. It was simply weird.

It went home, I could not believe it myself and was nervous as rarely ever before.

A gigantic journey was over and something new had to come. In between a few months at home until I know what’s next. With that in mind, I said goodbye to my life on the road and could barely wait to finally arrive. Somehow, I was damn homesick.


  1. Another amazing blog with outstanding pictures. Thank you! Hope you will find something worthwhile to do and maybe be out on the road again soon.

    • Thanks very much Lars!
      Yes, already busy with planning 🙂
      Cheers Heike

  2. Wow….So beautiful. An amazing place for soul searching. Thank you for the beautiful pictures and inspiration… I’ll be interested in hearing how it feels for you to be back home …

    • Thanks very much Linda……
      Yes – sure I will let everyone know 🙂
      Cheers Heike

  3. Your words and reflections are so touching.
    It must be a very tough decision to end your trip and go home. I hope you are getting okay with your home country and people, and be happy to have your family and friends around you again. Take care.

    We shall not cease from exploration
    And the end of all our exploring
    Will be to arrive where we started
    And know the place for the first time.
    T.S. Eliot


    • Thanks very much Shan 🙂

      I love your quote a lot. It really gets it to the point!
      Thanks for it – I might be using it for my next blog post….
      Cheers Heike

  4. Dear Heike

    It is great to read your blog posts and see the beautiful pictures. I am going to miss the monthly updates. I hope you have a wonderful time back in Germany.


    • Dear Dan,

      thanks very much Dan…..
      But there is more to come 🙂

      Cheers and all the best Heike

  5. I suggest you write about your photography technique, explaining how you took each photo. You could easily write a travel photography book. It is mind boggling to see so many stunning images created in every blog entry.

    • Thanks very much for the great compliment!
      Let me think about it 🙂 Maybe an e-book one day …..
      Or should I blog about it?
      Cheers Heike

      • A detailed e-book that you could charge money for will not be out of place.
        Efforts to get a coffee table photo book published with a reputable publisher would be worthwhile, too.

      • Thanks for the idea 🙂 Not sure how things are where you are from, but selling pictures is a tough job.
        Happy day…..Heike

  6. some of us do know the gem we have in the american west- i’m so glad you also know this! thank you for your photos and frank commentary of your travels- i look forward to watching what unfolds for you going forward-

    • Yes Kristen, I know – some of you definitely know!
      Thanks…..have a great day…Heike

  7. Wow, beautiful blog post in so many ways Heike. Truely hope you find your time in Germany to be refreshing, enlightening and restorative. Hope too your path ahead will be easily found and followed. Thanks so much for your gift, taking us all along. Enjoy and cheers !

    • 🙂 Thanks so much my friend.
      Sending you a big hug across the ocean!
      And by the way enjoy your ice-cream! I realized how much better the American ice-cream is to ours.
      Cheers Heike

  8. Sometimes your skies are washed out have you tried a graduated neutral density filter when taking your photos. Would make them even more stunning I think

    • Yeah, I never use filter. Don’t like them all that much. They often look unnatural.
      I sometimes wait for the good light, sometimes I take it as it is….
      But thanks for the thought…

  9. Great stuff! Transitioning from adventure and unbridled freedom to ” normal ” life is never easy. Hope it’s going well for you. I’ve been stationary for the last four months. Next week I’m out again on my bike for a ride across American West, Colorado, Utah, etc. Blogging again too ,thanks to your encouragement. davidbrankley @

    • Thanks….yeah I am calling it a break – off to new adventures soon.
      Enjoy the ride!

      Cheers Heike

  10. Helke, Thank you so much for sharing your journey with us. You take us not only around the world, but also venturing into the inner self and ‘home’. Wonderful photos as always.

    All the very best!


    • 🙂 Glad you like it 🙂

      All the best for you too!

  11. Heike, I love your wonderful Blog and amazing photographs. Please come back when you can.

    • I will – already missing my lovely American West…..thanks Vance!

  12. Thank you for sharing the most beautiful parts of our country with us. You really got to explore with days that most Americans just don’t get – I guess we are always rushing because our two weeks of vacation are not enough. lol The desert is magical and wow the photos of the stars… incredible. Not too far from where I am, it does not seem out of reach to get there myself. Anyhow, thank you for your adventures…. I hope your stay at home is good – but yes, you will be changed and you will want to leave again! 🙂

    • Hi Anne, yes I know. The daily rat race never provides enough time…. a very sad truth.
      But there is the new style of exploring – it is called micro adventures or overnighters 😉
      So what you do is you go out for a day and get the most you can in the short time there is.
      But not rushing or stressing yourself with lots of gear and luxury. The idea is to soak in the simplicity of nature for a bit.
      Maybe this would be something for you…

      Cheers and thanks for your wishes….happy day Heike

  13. Stunning photography as always Heike. I’m not sure whether to say that you “captured the west” or that “the west captured you”. 🙂 Great to meet you in person. I hope we can see each other again soon and enjoy an evening at a campfire behind my home. Oh yes, I built a place especially for that purpose. It’s my way of bringing nature to me. Soon! Only a short time here in this place where I am now and I will be home again.

    • 🙂
      Thanks DON – get better soon and see you around the fire somewhere….Heike

  14. Amazing journey
    Fantastic photos!

  15. my goodness but your pics are absolutely stunning. looking at them is the next best thing to actually following around behind you. what type of camera are you using? safe travels.

    • 🙂
      Thanks Brad!
      Olympus OM – D-EM 10 Mark 2

      All the best Heike

      • thanks for the reply. safe travels, now and in the future. kind regards

  16. I knew your trip would eventually end, and I’m only sorry that I didn’t learn of your blog until your were struck by the pickup on the Great Divide route in Montana. Reading your blog and viewing your stunning photos is a touching experience I don’t often get when I read other touring blogs. Thanks so much for sharing so much of yourself and your travels, Heike. I hope, somehow, we can see more, for whatever adventure you next consider.

    • Thanks for the big compliment Drew! I am curious now – how did you find me?
      Yes….new adventures….. 🙂
      Enjoy life….Heike

  17. I have enjoyed your trips? I envy you. Choose your next life experience carefully so you don’t get bored.

      • Good luck Heike!

  18. Heike,
    Wow such amazing photos. They seem unreal. I think only you on such a journey could show us what you have seen through your eyes. I have no doubt you’ll be back in the desert again.
    Thank you for sharing your life and the beauty of creation from all over the world with us.

    • Rick, thanks very much!
      Yes, the desert is my all time favourite – my place – love it.
      Greetings to Oregon, Heike

  19. Hi Heike, thank for all the nice posting and photographs, I really enjoyed it, for me micro adventures works great, it nice to be on the road but it also nice nice to be with people that I love and care about, in 2016, I went around Prince edward island, Canada and I ‘m writing a booklet, very small ,just for the fun of it,no money there unless you are a writer and it not my case,and I’m planning another micro adventure. every year or so,depending of my work,,I am doing a lot of differents things maybe that why it easy for me to fit in micro adventures, ham radio, bicycle, music, hockey, badminton,two grandkids and two wonderful daughters.Like Albert Einstein said , everything is relative, to each his own,while I’m on a bicycle tour, things are differents there a feeling of freedom , there a lot of time to observe around ,challenging and never boring. Wish you all the very best Heike.

    • Hi Rino, thanks 🙂
      Great to hear that you are happy with micro adventures.
      And sure if you have commitments and love to be around your family,
      it is a healthy way of getting outdoor for a while.
      And I am sure it is great fun – keep enjoying those moments…..
      Cheers Heike

  20. Thank you for sharing your beautiful photos and your thoughts about your journey. I hope you find a warm welcome and a time of rest in your home. Your love of the desert and it’s solitude and freedom ring through your art. Rest assured that you are always welcome to return, there’ll always be room amongst your friends in the desert.

    • Thanks Pistil,

      🙂 great comment – thanks for the big compliment towards my photography.
      And thanks for your wishes…..

      Cheers Heike

  21. Beautiful Heike
    Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful
    what awesome Kaleidoscope of photos

  22. Hi Heike,
    This is Terri Olson, you stayed with our family in Lincoln, MT in August of 2016…. Wow, you’re back home ! You really need to write a book about your adventures. All you your blogs have been amazing to read, and the pictures…… also so amazing. We wish you all the best in your next adventure. It was such a pleasure to meet you and we have really enjoyed following your journey. You are a remarkable women.

    • Hello Terri & family,
      so nice to hear from you….!

      Thanks for all your great compliments!
      And it was super nice to meet you.
      Are you guys still gold panning?

      Cheers from cold Germany……Heike

      • We are still gold panning ! We have continued to go back to the Lincoln, MT area every summer, we just love it there.
        We live in Minnesota, it’s cold here too. We woke up this morning to snow….

  23. I am so thrilled to have seen this blog post and a bit sad that I have only just found you at the end of your journey! Your photography is stunning and your narrative of your environment and experience was an enjoyable read! Thank you for sharing and good luck on your next endeavor!

    • Love your words Jenny…thank you…..enjoy life….Heike

  24. What an amazing blog post. That really was a gigantic journey! Well done Heike! You stayed with me just one night in Kyoto and I’ve been following your progress since then.

    • Hi Ken, so nice to hear from you!
      I actually thought I stayed longer than one day. I remember you very well. The most popular warmshower host in Japan 🙂
      Thanks for following me all the way to the end.
      All the best Heike

  25. Absolutely stunning colors!
    Somehow I hope that you will write a book, you know like Paul Theroux. Give it a snazzy title, get Oprah to promote it. 😉 I love your writing.

    • Thank you Ingrid! Appreciate your great comment! Glad you like my work.
      I had to google Oprah – never heard of her before 🙂
      Yeah a book, but if so, I wouldn’t write it in English. This would be a bit too much to ask for…..maybe a coffee table book for your office 🙂

  26. Fantastic photos, thanks for posting!

    And why not put together a photo e-book. 🙂

    • Thanks very much Grace. Something to think about – indeed.
      Cheers Heike

  27. Stunning pictures and intelligent writing: what else there is to say…Thank you…

  28. Heike
    as always, I love reading your blog posts and viewing your lovely pictures. I was wondering about your tent, as I recall you had a Hilleberg ? In this post it looks you have different tent (Big Agnes? )
    What happened and have you ever tried a Helsport tent ?
    Good luck with your next phase and I hope you update your many fans with what you are up to
    Larry Narachi

    • Hi Larry,

      yes I have a Hilleberg. But I was able to get a very light used Big Agnes and decided to find out more about it. Because if you bikepack you can not carry all that much.
      I still love my Hilleberg Soulo a lot. The Big Agnes isn’t the right colour and in my opinion doesn’t last all that long.
      Never used a Helsport tent.

      Sure I will update my blog and let you know about my progress 🙂
      Thanks for being one of my fans 🙂

      Cheers Heike

  29. Fantastic photos! Can’t wait to read what adventure you take on next. With your love of solitude, I could see you taking up solo sailing.

    • Hi Harvie, thanks!!!
      No, I can promise you one thing – it won’t be sailing! I get seasick just by looking at the sea 🙂
      Have a great day…..Cheers Heike

  30. Thanks for sharing.
    Your words and pictures are both beautiful. I hope to see more blogs in your future. Good luck in anything you decided to do.

    • Thank you Robert!
      All the best for you too…..
      Cheers Heike

  31. Heike, loved the adventure that you so beautifully shared. The photos were awesome and added much to the story. Thanks, MK
    BTW: I searched diligently from beginning to end and I noted with some dismay an( inadvertent, I’m sure) omission on your part. I missed the dancing naked photos which I’m sure would have been enjoyed by all. Tailwinds and declines to you. Regards, MK

  32. You take some of the best photographs in the world. Please consider publishing them together in a book or some other way the the whole world can enjoy. Love!

  33. Heike, I have followed you on and off for a few years and feel saddened that your cycling adventures are on pause. Strange emotions considering we have never met. I both sail and cycle, and explaining the joys of touring and experiencing nature’s beauty to others often gets this blank look. Only with a fellow traveller do you get knowing smile and gentle nod of the head. Fairwinds wherever you choose to go. ?

  34. Hello Heike,

    Thanks for the birthday wish! I just re-read and re-viewed this blog again and am as mesmerized and fascinated as the first time I saw it. I absolutely love your eye for photography and how you capture texture! I am real curious as to how things are going for you. If you are willing to share, please do as it nearly has been six-months and we all need more Heike!

    • Dear Norman, thanks for your great compliments……
      And yes there will be more coming…..I need a bit more time…..a few more weeks 🙂

      Cheers Heike

      • Take all the time you need of course, no pressure, just eagerly awaiting more…

  35. I just discovered this blog, and it’s fantastic. I live in Utah, and have only done a short, 3-day bike tour to start gaining experience. I keep planning different trips/routes (Pacific Coast 2020!), but none of them had Utah as much of a part of the trip. Reading this blog made me realize just what a treasure I have here in my own backyard.

    Your photos are terrific. Your writing is introspective and enjoyable. Thank you.

    • Big thank you Dan….
      Utah is the best….enjoy!
      Enjoy…cheers Heike


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