Utah is much more than mountains and Mormons. Driving down from the Rockies we were embraced by its colorful canyons that had been carved by the Colorado River.
From mountains to mesas, breakfast by the Colorado
We spent a day hiking through Canyonlands National Park then watch the sunset with our new campground neighbors, Larry and Melanie. They retired young spending half of the year living on their sailboat in Mexico. The summers are spent roaming our country's cool mountains in a camper similar to ours.
Like us, they converted a Toyota van into a home on wheels. They have bikes on the back and that pod on top? It holds their inflatable kayak.
Mel and Larry love to wander and can afford their no-work lifestyle. As they told us, “It costs much less to live in Mexico and here, camping is just twelve bucks a night”. The former airline manager and sit-com producer have lived this way for years. If they ever settle in one place it might be on a houseboat in France.
The four of us enjoyed hiking in the park which is a lot like the Grand Canyon, a hundred miles southwest.
Wind and rain have carved up this part of the west in beautiful ways. Just north of Canyonlands is Arches National Park. Although neighbors, the two parks are quite different. In the first you're looking down into huge voids.
When you're in Arches, you're tilting your head up a lot.
This formation is called "The Three Gossips"
In Arches you are high on a mesa with over 400 spans, dramatic negative spaces, sandstone worn away by wind and water.
Francesca climbing down from her perch
We hiked to a few in the 105 degree heat. By two p.m, we were ready to cool down in the nearby Moab library. The popular place was packed. We learned it got a 2009 award for being our country’s "best small town library”. The award described it as “Moab’s living room”.
This town, like Boulder, is a magnet for people who enjoy extreme outdoor activity like hiking, mountain biking, and boating. It’s next to the Colorado River so it seems there are more river rafts than cars.
It was time to tell the magnificent muddy river goodbye. The Colorado was turning south to enter the Grand Canyon and we were continuing west.
Note: Unfortunately, we're doing our best to destroy the big river. You may want to watch "The Death of the Colorado" on the Discovery Channel, Thursday, August 4th.
We decided to spend the rest of the sweltering day pushing our air-conditioned van further. The two of us expected to be passing through flat desert for hundreds of miles, until we reached California’s Sierra Mountains. I thought I might see see a Mormon dad crossing the road with his six wives and twenty-nine children.
Neither happened. The fantastical “canyon lands” continued for hours until it became mountainous ridges with dry, desert valleys in between.
The evening's long excursion was totaling entertaining. We had close up, slo-mo view of all we’d been admiring from 30,000 feet on annual flights to the Bay Area. Most of Francesca's family lives there.
We were now far from interstate highways. Our path took to a national park we'd never heard of ("Great Basin")
and, the next day, through small towns like Delta, Nevada.
This place -like many others- had a small history museum run by the town's elders. These cool collections exhibit items you’d never see in a big city museum and you can pick them up!
Delta's did a decent job of covering the 10,000 years when Native Americans were here. Their lives were relatively simple, arrowheads and pottery shards were displayed. Nomadic Indians did not require furniture or collect antiques.
This museum's focus was on what white people had done in this area after they destroyed the pesky Indians. For many years they had a gathering place for the U.S. army veterans who fought them.
The citizens of Delta re-created a general store in their museum and
held on to their early telephone operator console.
There was plenty from my early days too. I saw the dentist's drilling apparatus that tortured me as a kid and the machine that x-rayed my new shoes (and my feet inside). I'd step into one every time
my ma took me to Landau's Shoe Store in Miami Springs. From all that radiation it's a miracle I still have ten toes.
As we were leaving the hostess asked us if we'd seen the museum next door. When we told her we had not, we learned about Delta's biggest story.
At the beginning of WW II, 10,000 Japanese-Americans were forced to leave their California homes to live in a desert prison just outside of town.
More on "Camp Topaz" when the Grove Guy returns.