Sunday, September 10, 2006


Campsite in Utah's Canyonlands, west of Moab (lower right)

9:45 p.m.

I'm camped in Canyonlands, somewhere below the potash ponds.

There are better than 50% odds that the dominant sound in any given moment out here is an aircraft rather than any natural sound. But when there are no jets overhead, it’s amazing: just the pulsing crickets, and my gurgling stomach.

Didn’t intend to camp this far from civilization, but I began following the Colorado River west from Moab. During my last visit I had noted campgrounds out here that seemed less crowded than those east of Moab. But the river is very high, and the shore is damp, especially in the sorel groves, where insects abound. The campgrounds are all in these grove areas. I wanted something drier.


Back in Utah this morning, a nearby generator was fired up at 7:30. I crawled out of my tent and glared at the man busying himself around his motorhome. I wanted to yell “I came here to get away from lawnmowers, you idiot!” But I’m too polite.

Around me, a wet landscape.

Tried to brew some coffee, but the little plastic spoon-like strainer I had purchased at the outdoor gear store didn’t work. So I put the grounds directly in the hot water. Then I poured in a creamer and tore open a brown paper "sugar" packet and poured the contents in. It was salt!!!

“Skip it!” And I dumped the coffee in the fire pit.

I filled my folding bucket with water from the stream that runs through the campground, carried it back to my campsite and filtered water into plastic containers. It's the first time I’ve done this in the States.

It was just a few miles down the highway to the town of Salina. While filling up on gas, I noticed the lock cover on my gas cap has broken off. No idea how or where.

Downtown, I found Mom’s Café at a main intersection. Two motorcyclists out front said it’s just like home, except they serve “Mormon Coffee”. According to the menu, it has been in operation since 1926. A big breakfast of sausage, eggs, hash browns, hotcakes and (weak) coffee. A generous dose of grease. So rich, I fear I’ll be sick. My first real meal since Tuesday? The bill, with tip, totaled less than $10.

Sitting with my road atlas, trying to decide what route – such a problem! Should I track south to Capitol Reef National Park? (I wasn't eager to pay park fees.) "Just go any way!" It hardly matters.

I opted for for Interstate 70. Thought of stopping to help a fellow fix a flat tire on his boat trailer, as his wife and two young daughters looked on. But I was too late to recognize the situation and react. Why so slow to respond - was it just some sort of defense mechanism?

In Eastern Utah, Interstate 70 cuts through a dramatic undulating rock landscape of "swells" and "reefs". I left the highway to explore a canyon carved by Muddy Creek. I was aware, however, of a curtain of cirrus cloud high above racing out of the west, and suspected it was a harbinger of thunderstorms. I didn't want to be caught out in this country with a threat of flash floods, so I returned to the interstate. Even at 70 mph, the front was outpacing me.

Interstate 70 cuts through the San Rafael Reef in Utah

Dropping down the notch blasted through San Rafael Reef, I pulled over to survey the canyon from which I had just emerged and take some photos. I decided to turn around and try for some more dramatic shots further up the escarpment. This turned into a fifteen-mile detour. Once westbound, it was over seven miles before a break in the center guardrail allowed me to cross back over to the eastbound lanes.

When they began to construct the Interstate, a man could stretch his arms out and touch the opposing walls of the narrow canyon through the San Rafael Reef

Billboards announced that Green River, Utah will host its Melon Festival next weekend.

Arrived in Moab, and went directly to the Peace Tree for a smoothie. The town was just as busy as in April. Went to check on a room at the Silver Sage Inn (where I stayed previously), but the $60 tariff is too much for me now.

The day had begun cold, but by the time I reached Moab, it was quite hot.


Back in Canyonlands...

It sounds like a 4-wheeler stopped just down the road. Of course, out here in the wilds, any encounter with a stranger is fertile ground for one's imagination (especially a nighttime encounter.)

Eventually, the aircraft traffic subsided to infrequent intervals. In its place, I became aware of a low distant pulsing of machinery. Probably the potash plant miles away.

The Milky Way arched overhead brilliantly, until it was washed away by the light of the rising moon.


babycondor said...

This is one of those "speechless with awe" photos. Thank you for being there and sharing your journey with us!

timtraveler said...

Thanks for the nice comment!