Red Dirt Days

Robin and I took off with granddaughter Elsa on Wednesday morning for several days in southeastern Utah. I will preface this thrilling travelogue by saying that each day’s weather was exactly the same – 65 degrees on rising, 88 degrees by noon, 98 degrees by 1600 hours, 78 degrees at bedtime. No rain or wind. Nary drop nor flutter. For this and a host of other reasons, we did not attempt anything epic.

First stop was Goblin Valley state park. This is an amazing place if you like to look at thousands of hoodoos in one place. Fortunately for us we were hoodoo people. Unfortunately, in less than an hour walking around in the noon-day heat had sapped us. It’s not that we couldn’t have continued but there wasn’t a bucket of fun to be had in continuously sipping at our water tubes and staggering from goblin to goblin.

So it was back in the car to find air conditioning and safety until after supper when we returned to the park. Even though the temps were still in the 90s the sun’s lower position made things less brutal and now allowed us to comfortably hike for a couple of hours. Driving to our motel after dark we spotted a couple of jackrabbits. Hadn’t seen one of those for decades.

To bed at the Whispering Sands motel in Hanksville, Utah.

Peaceful Easy Feeling, by The Eagles

Next morning we found something unusual in the motel parking lot. A Harley-Davidson motorcycle with something intelligent written on it.

Usually the only script found on a Harley either suggests all sorts of mayhem that will befall you if you touch it, or extols the virtues of having bugs on one’s teeth. This was a pleasant surprise.

Onward we went to share the joys of walking in slot canyons with our granddaughter. We went up Little Wild Horse canyon for about an hour until the scrambling took its toll on knees and we turned back. Always amazing , those narrow and sometimes truly claustrophobic places.

Next it was on to the city of Moab. For those of you who have not been there, Moab was a boomtown when uranium prospecting was a craze in the late 40s/early 50s. But instead of drying up and blowing away when that was over, some entrepreneurs thought to themselves “Let’s see if we can talk a bunch of people into coming to this godforsaken part of the US by telling them that it is fun!”

And they have been successful.

Today you come to the town to hike, mountain bike, drive 4WD vehicles everywhere imaginable and many places where you shouldn’t, or to climb into rafts and run parts of the Colorado River. If you are of a more sedentary persuasion, there are scores of merchants with their arms full of t-shirts to sell you.

We spent most of the rest of the day exploring by car in the upper part of Canyonlands National Park. Stunning. Vast area of cliffs and canyons and valleys. As difficult to really take in as the Grand Canyon has proven for me.

Later we encamped at something called the OK RV Park, and according to the advertisements, we were “glamping.” It was a huge teepee which contained two beds, two swamp coolers, a fridge, a flat-panel television, a table, and a lamp. It was really kind of fun, and the teepee seemed much larger on the inside than a glance at the exterior would indicate. So consider me glamped, I guess.

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There was one jarring note on this trip. In the rest rooms in Canyonlands, this sign was posted. Please ponder it, as you mull over the fact that all of the instructions given were most likely prompted by instances of citizens not doing things the proper way.

I can see that the first and the last suggestions are pretty much common sense. But the rest … especially that middle one … who are these people and who let them run free without their leash?

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Lastly, a quote that we found on a national park sign which we all found particularly meaningful. And from a surprising source, President Lyndon Johnson, who I think of more as a rougher cob than as the author of such beautiful and prescient words. As he was signing the Wilderness Act of 1964, he is quoted as saying:

“If future generations are to remember us with gratitude rather than contempt, we must leave them more than the miracles of technology. We must leave them a glimpse of the world as it was in the beginning, not just after we got through with it.” 

Lyndon Baines Johnson

It’s possible that Lyndon didn’t write this, he had many excellent speechwriters to help him in this area. But he definitely said ’em. If only we had listened and acted on what he said. Those last eight words … .

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