Vernal,Utah in Route To Flaming Gorge
Maybe it is forty miles to Wyoming depending on the hip of the road or the pass I take, if I ever set this map down that I have soiled and tattered nearly out of existence. Wyoming. It is a crazy loop of string in my mind that is trying to connect all of the miles that have brought me over America and through so many lives that I have no thought of forgetting. I ask everybody about bears, the powerful grizz, asking where exactly is the line in the sand. "Your on it," I am told. Fifty dollars worth of food shudder on my cart, worried that it will be taken in in one meal. Everything about me smells like meals eaten and the smoke of two weeks of cooking over fire with sage wood. Inside of me in a area connected to my fight or flight response is a shudder of my own. For weeks I have been practicing the string and bag technique once again, getting all that is edible out of my nylon house and into a tree. Every morning I find an apple, a bar of lavender soap (keeps bugs away), a bit of jerky, alright, and maybe one chocolate bar--dove dark. I have become my grandmother with candy under the pillow. I'll have to search my pack more carefully now. The grizzly has just been taken off the endangered species list. Have I been added to it?
If there have been lonely miles before now, this is the same flavor of land, the same sound of silence once I leave this town. A mouse found its way into my pack last night. I talked to it. A nervous skunk flirted at my door, gave a free sample of her spring scent, then waddled into the grass with my apple core. It was 97 degrees the day before yesterday when I called it a day at one in the afternoon. It was ten degrees on Indian Canyon, and I was covered with a layer of hard blown ice, a white out of wind and snow only a week ago and now my cheese sweats and my candy bars are sports goo in plastic pouches that still say Snicker's. I can only flex so far before the man in my head yells for a break, or at least a pause between extremes to get the anti-freeze glans set up to sweat like a fiend as I plod up yet another mountain or stone red mesa. While on the hellacious rise before entering Vernal I found a concrete underpass for water to flow when water is there to flow, and animals to move under Rt. 191 through. It became home for a night; an afternoon to polish found ivory elk teeth, write postcards to people I've met along the walk, and feel the cooling effect of a heavy sweat. What spring? Dinner was wild rice with fresh mushrooms, real montery jack cheese, chilies,scallions all folded into tortillas and spiced slices of cucumber and tomato. I sip tea made from spearmint leaves I found two nights ago by the puddled remains of a creek, and watch the rock formations change in the passing light through the end of the concrete pass. After all of this walking I have forgotten to feel lonely. I tell myself this out load, and believe it with a smile feeling the cold of the concrete I lean against enter my back. The boulders turn their faces to slate blue, wink , and then move over to reds and golds so hard to blend with a brush or knife on a palette in any believable fashion for canvas to remember. I listen with my eyes the same way we put on glasses to answer the phone. I listen harder.
Vernal is a sweet town in the middle of a boom running on the petrol demand that is in the drilling south of town, like so many southern states where oil and natural gas still rumble beneath the earth...only Vernal appears to spend some of its wealth back on its own in a good way; the college is expanding, new shops open and flourish. People are smiling. Houses are being constructed faster than a supple of wood can be shipped in. New pick-up trucks cruise the town, and it appears everything here in Vernal is blooming in richness for spring. Every boom has its cycle though, and then ...bust. A few people that I have talked to say that this ride has been a good one, and although it is due to bottom out, new money has made some great changes in this high desert town that are here to stay and it has offer some wholesome new blood to this town. The energy of the people here is easy and friendly with people sharing their town pride at the tip of a hat, and everyone has a favorite route through Flaming Gorge that they are just thrilled to pull up a chair, finger over a map with excitement talking about all the best vantage points I just have to titter above with camera at the ready....and my favorite topic, the glorious return of trees and rivers...at least for a while.