Leg #13…chasing Apollo through the “Promised Land”

  • Wednesday, May 7, 2014


For the last two weeks we have been in and out of Utah Canyonlands with little or no signals for cell phones or emails. The one time I used the cell to connect with a hotspot, I fried all our electronics and used up all our batteries. Since we have had to dry camp on BLM land and in state and national parks, we have been without water, electricity, and sewage. Some places have not allowed a generator to run. We didn’t realize how much water we use. It has been difficult to heat water for sponge baths and to do dishes once a day; to content ourselves at night watching the sky (beautiful, pitch black with uncountable heavenly bodies), reading and playing games by lantern light until batteries were gone, and then by firelight (but it is cold and windy on the desert at night); sleeping with no heat under piles of blankets; and fixing minimal meals with the butane stove. But what we have taken away is so much grander than anything we could ever put into words. What we have learned is that the majesty, diversity, and beauty of this land cannot be done justice with one dimensional photos. Words cannot suffice to describe it. Our minds and souls truly are overwhelmed with God’s creation which changes shapes, colors, temperatures and personalities with each passing movement of the sun.

Chad, my middle son, married a wonderful Mormon girl from a little town between Denver and Boulder, CO. She is athletic, ambitious, beautiful, a hard worker, gentle, kind, patient, and family oriented…in short, everything you would want for your son. She also comes from a wonderful family which taught her those values and holds to them. So we have a vested interest in the promised land of Mormon heritage. We’ve gone down trails (but not up because we can’t breathe at 10000 feet elevation) called the Patriarchs after separate peaks named Abraham, Isaac, and Joseph; Angel’s Landing, Mt. Moroni, the Watchman, Canyon of Temples, the White Throne, and of course, Zion itself. We have learned a lot from the choices of land of early Mormon settlers: flood plains near rivers which, unfortunately are now all sandy bottomed dry gulches, but must have been lush and beautiful a hundred or three years ago. They dug long, complicated irrigation trenches and planted acres of still-flowering fruit orchards: apricots, apples, pears, cherries, almonds. There are figs trees and vineyards. We’ve seen herds of fine wild mustangs, pronghorn deer, mule deer, elk, fields of prairie dog communities, bison, but no bear, big cats, or snakes. Even working farms or ranches are far apart; the acreage is big, but neighbors are few and houses are modest, often double wide trailers. We feel it takes a tougher kind of person to live out here; that it is beautiful and peaceful, but we are too soft. On the flip side, we have the noise, congestion, and stress of city life. Only near the towns do you see the pretentiousness we have in the east where people want to be “King of the Mountain” by building on top of one, the grander the house, the better.

We have tried to hike and we have sat and meditated; still we are overwhelmed with the size and beauty we see, knowing we are not even taking in most of the detail. The people here are so outdoorsy and athletic. So are our in-laws. The state pastime seems to be cycling. We foolishly brought our bikes (our fat-tired, no speed beach bikes) and have used them three times. Here people have very expensive, light weight mountain bikes with complicated gears, and they ride for miles up and down mountains and canyons, even on dirt and gravel back roads into the wilderness. They do the same with hiking, carrying 80 pound rucks with everything they will need for days at a time into back country wilderness. Nobody I’ve seen is overweight; everyone is friendly and eager to help another. Many seem to be “older hippies” our age with hair and beards uncut, and many more than we expected are foreigners speaking French, German, and Scandinavian languages, especially young couples. The Orientals seem to come in groups on buses and stay in more touristy venues. And the Native Americans and Hispanics are fewer, come in small family groups, and stay on well-traveled paths with their children. More than half the campers we’ve seen have been rental units, usually from California. Larger motor homes like ours are usually “snow birds” who are coming or going to their home destinations to sit and stay for the summer or winter season More than half the campers we’ve seen have been rental units, usually from California. Larger motor homes like ours are usually “snow birds” who are coming or going to their home destinations to sit and stay for the summer or winter season. That’s a lot of generalities, I know, but it is what we have seen.

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