By Nate Hegyi | KUER
The scene was picture-perfect for the cover of a nature magazine: purple and yellow wildflowers against a backdrop of red and tan mesas.
But the quiet solitude wouldn’t last long. As the day wore on, the area known as Klondike Bluffs, about 40 miles north of Moab, became crowded with retrofitted vans and mountain bike-toting Subarus, all hunting for the ideal place to camp – for free – for the weekend.
James Gustine and his wife, Jamie, were relaxing in folding chairs as their children played nearby. The Durango, Colorado, family was lucky to have secured a spot that morning, before the throng arrived.
“Camping in Moab is just brutal,” James Gustine said. “Just getting a spot can be full-on competition. It didn’t used to be this way.”
A decade ago, the public lands surrounding Moab were known as a quiet spring break destination for mountain bikers and climbers – the kind of place where a visitor could roll in on a Saturday and not see many people.