People often ask where our favourite places are and Utah is always high on the list, especially the south of the state where there is a density of National Parks that few other areas can rival: Zion, Bryce, Capitol Reef, Canyonlands and Arches all within a few hundred miles.
Having dropped Sterling in Salt Lake and had the delay with the truck in Moab, I’ve only got a few days before I need to be back in Green River to meet him off the train. I’m spoilt for choice but settle on the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park on the basis that it is remote enough not to be overrun at the height of the season.
From Highway 191, it’s a good hour’s drive down to the park, no houses, shops, or much of anything really except increasingly spectacular scenery and the growing sense of anticipation. Knowing what to expect doesn’t lessen the impact: it still takes my breath away. I cannot explain the effect this landscape has on me. There is something about the combination of red sandstone, green vegetation and blue sky that makes my whole being feel that everything is perfect and all is well with the world.
I arrive intending to make the most of my short time here and proceed to spend the whole of the first afternoon fighting with the satellite dish. Teresa : 0 Dish : 3. Back in 2002 in the first log about our travels I wrote:
It’s still the same satellite dish!
"A piece of equipment costing as much as it did has no business doing anything other than working perfectly. While you can rely on Sterling to give you the technical version, take it from me, the thing's just stupid. It confuses the sun with the satellite it's meant to lock on to. It's lazy and tries to turn the wrong way when scanning the sky, because it's a shorter distance. It puts itself away at the drop of a hat."
The following day, sandwiches packed, I set off on the Big Spring Canyon Trail. I’m out for three and a half hours and don’t see another person. Fantastically eroded red rock walls line the way, the scent of pinyon wafts on the air, wildflowers add an occasional splash of colour, lizards scurry for cover at my approach and the shadow of an overhead Turkey Vulture swoops across the path ahead of me.
It’s hot, and even with an early start the temperature is 36 C (95 F) and climbing, by the time I return. While I haven’t walked that far, only seven miles or so, I’m still acclimatising, after the snow in the Tetons the week before, and find the heat draining. One of the climate features in the dry west is the incredibly low humidity: it sucks the moisture from your body before a bead of sweat can even form on your brow. It’s easy to become dehydrated and a battle to get enough fluid down your gullet.
The following day, I have time for a couple of short walks before I leave. Unlike Big Spring, they’re both across the tops with wide expansive views down into the canyons, over to The Needles and off to the La Sal Mountains in the distance. I find the beauty overwhelming, feel flooded with a sense of well being, am inordinately happy. This is a truly wonderful place and I am always grateful to be here.