Saturday, March 02, 2013

Leave No Trace


They say religions are born in the desert. And you have to walk the desert to understand exactly why.

There is so much, amidst the so little out there. It’s vast, and dead silent. Scary. You’re constantly waiting for something to happen. To erupt. And make it all noisy. And you wait. And the vast of the desert answers – with yet another day (or night) of silence. It’s almost despair, this wait, in vain. But after a while you get it. You take everything in, and not only you start to hear the very life of it, the tumultuous-ness of it, but you also know that, in the end, that is the ultimate truth: “the rest is silence”.

After a while, you learn to listen to every small, needle-y leaf swish in the dry air; you hear the howl of the wind through the canyons, you watch the rocks fall, ever so slightly, into the sharp valleys. You hear the wolves. You see how the clouds and the sun change the shades of red on the rocks – almost with a “ta-da” noise, each time. And see the deer and the free range cows jump and perk up their ears. In the summer, you’ll hear the lizards busy body-ing through the boulders. It’s alive.

But the world wraps everything in a blanket of hush. And just for a minute you might have the illusion that you’re alone. With Him.

We drove down in the heart of the Utah desert (where that is, exactly, don’t ask me – the whole state is a diverse, colorful, immense sea of wasteland) the other week, to spend a couple of days in this small town, population cca 300, of Bluff. I found it quite by accident, while trying to see where we could stay overnight if I were to go visit Goosenecks State Park. Their site was mentioning that it’s closest to the town of Bluff – of which I have never heard. But if it has a hotel and a gas station, I am typically OK! Minus the constant scare that I might be shot and buried in the middle of nothing, of course!

I was a bit nervous to go that big of a distance away from any civilization (about an hour and a half from Moab), but I was hungry for silence, and hungry for beauty. And boy, did we get both!

On Saturday, when we got there, there were only two restaurants open in town: Bluff City Café – a very small, Native American owned diner, and Twin Rocks Café. Since our hotel lady told us that Twin City Café will be the only food place open on Sunday, we decided to have some variety and ate at Bluff City Café the first night.

I got the Navajo taco (of course), and it was delicious. It was cool to watch how they make the fry bread, from scratch, right there. No frozen nothing from a huge Sam’s Club freezer bag dipped in the fryer. I am not sure what will stick with me from this place: the enormous (think The Green Mile giant) Navajo owner, who towered over us, yet was so helpful and nice and gentle tempered?, the delicious beef and bean chili on the fresh fry bread?, the cute water jugs they had, in the shape of Indian boots?, or the fact that on a Saturday night we were the only people in the whole joint. Us, the Indian man and his cook – who looked more like a Turkish immigrant than an Indian, in the middle of the dead silent world. No, it was not scary. Just very, very welcoming and cozy! 

The cute bootie water jugs at Bluff City Cafe 

Sunday, we ate both the breakfast and the dinner at Twin City Café- as there was no other choice other than the beef jerky at the gas station! Everything we had was again, delicious. It all tasted homemade. I know my husband will say that the brisket he had there for dinner will be something he’ll remember, but I loved the chicken noodle soup. I have not had homemade noodles since before I moved to the US, 15 years ago!

Between the only hotel that seemed open (ours – Desert Rose Inn and Cabins), the only gas station and the only restaurant open, we just about acquainted the whole town and all of its handful of visitors in 48 hours – just about. It was that small, and that intimate. 

 Goosenecks State Park

On Sunday, we drove around, looking for photo opps, of course and just getting lost in the wild . We saw Goosenecks Park, first, this beautiful canyon where the San Juan River twists and turns and forms these “S” shaped valleys, really close to each other. We visited the Natural Bridges National Monument . We drove around The Valley of the Gods – which is so appropriately named it’s not even funny! It’s huge, overwhelmingly so, and it has beautiful rock formations scattered all around it  that change their color in the moving sun, during the span on one day, with every cloud that shades them – it’s breathtaking. You just know all this cannot be at random!

The Valley of the Gods vista

We then drove by the Sand Island Park, and saw the thousands of petroglyphs carved in the side of the rocky mountains – a living testimony of times past. And that’s another thing about these parts: you feel and hear the steps of what used to be: the Old West, head-full-of-dreams cowboys trekking across the land, in search of  their fortune: gold? Cattle? Land? Who remembers?! Just searching. You hear the screams of the Indians defending and losing their own. The cooing of babies in the wagons. The barks of the dogs sensing the coyotes in the distance, and the screech of the wood wheels against the hard rocky, yet un-carved paths through the mountains. I always feel so small and so humble to be walking the same trails as all that civilization. The petroglyphs bring that all back to your mind. And you shiver.

Sand Island Park Petroglyphs

On the way down, we noticed lots of places called “port of entry” – just a  reminder of where one county stopped and another began, back when boundaries were sacred. The stores are called “trading posts” to this day, and they still have the wooden railings in front, where you can tie your horse.

Outside this fairy land, we also visited The Hole in the Rock house and grounds – a freak in architecture, as these folks in 1950’s carved their 5000 sq. ft. home in the side of a rocky mountain, right outside Moab. Their yard and store is just a vivid testimony of everything Americana stands for.

We also drove the 14 miles on Hwy 128 in the same area, to go visit The Red Cliffs Lodge and Castle Valley Winery, along the Colorado river – a place where hundreds of movies have been shot; so many, in fact, it beckoned the place to host a movie museum on its premises. The Red Cliffs Lodge will probably be on our short list of places to stay when we drive down to Moab, again. What a beautiful, serene, forgotten, hidden place! The Moab red mountains around turn the grounds into just a cathedral under the skies, complete with a beautiful, sunken in pasture, horses and cozy small cabins strung like beads along the river. 

Nearing The Red Cliffs Lodge - Moab

It was a visual as much as it was a spiritual journey, all in all! We got closer to nature, God, our land, our past, ourselves and each other, just in the span of 2 days! The desert wind will cover our footsteps, but the vivid red rocks will forever be imprinted in our brains and hearts, as forever as they are in the wild. 

Click on this picture to see the whole album that captures this trip

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