Meadow Hot Springs and San Rafael Swell
After leaving Montana with full hearts (and the kids a bit torn – having seen everyone at home again – asking for a home, our OLD home, for the first time since we left Montana last summer) Belle and Trent and I drove a long direct shot to a desert scrub pasture in the west of Utah’s cattle country, where for two nights we camped in the sun, and read, and soaked and swam and dove (dived?) as deep as our lungs and ears (and, okay, bravery) could withstand in a wide, stone, clear blue hot spring that goes down, down, from layered aquamarine rock shelves to a black hole twisting into the ground and who knows how deep. This is Meadow Hot Springs two or three hours south of Salt Lake. Met many interesting people there over the two days, one of whom borrowed Trent’s goggles to swim so deep into the black tube I lost sight of him. It turns out he graduated from Pulaski, Tennessee, Trent’s hometown! wtf. He’s a stunt photographer, and if you can’t picture that, you can see his work at http://skarbakka.com/.
East of there lumbers the San Rafael Swell, bluff and blush and red, with the dark green juniper and pinyon and yellow turpentine brush. The rough sandstone offers enough stick to the soles of your sneakers that you can scramble up long, steep slopes of rippled, poured, splattered, petrified pancake batter without slipping. About the only animal life we ran into other than lizards, birds and chipmunks was a round, gentle, unafraid porcupine under a small cavey overhang.
And Bradburian Goblin Valley is here too, so we entered the park again for another day of hoodoo hopping on Mars before moving on to Mesa Verde in southwestern Colorado. The red goblin sandstone fortresses invited hours of breathless hide and seek and chase.
Compelling questions and images persist from the cliff dwellings and mesa-top pit houses. I hadn’t realized there were so many different cliff-clinging villages, separated by green gnarly cliff and canyon, but connected by common customs and treacherous, chipped paths and ladders. To have this extensive system evolve and become abandoned within only a hundred years is so unexpected.
Five or six times on the trip, throughout most of the states we’ve seen, we’ve driven through really large road construction projects funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. So surely the gazillion dollars are appropriately spread around.
After rolling in dog crap at our very first stop with her in Montana and forcing us (aka Trent) to wash her off with a borrowed hose, Sally has otherwise been an excellent and easy companion. I was concerned about her ability to tolerate (or my ability to tolerate with her) a windy night in the camper, which is a lot noisier than the breezes that usually leave her shaking and quaking and spit-drip panting in an insulated stick house. But we had a doozy of a windstorm the other night and to my amazement she sat next to us nearly tranquil, steady, and even slept pretty comfortably. The kids have taken over her feeding and letting out, she curls up tight and doesn’t take up much room, and she seems to be more satisfied than I’ve seen her before, although very out of shape and lagging a long distance behind me on runs where she used to ricochet around me. We’re happy to have her here and so far we’ve mainly been places where she’s been able to hike with us and run freely, with the cool weather allowing us to leave her in the camper when we have to. Although the little hare she apparently devoured in the sagebrush may have felt the desert would fare better without Sal.
It snowed on us in Durango this morning and we’re bumping and rattling our way down the sandy road to Chaco National Historic Park right now which Mazie Jane will be thrilled with because, if we remember right, you can explore and touch and crawl through the remains of the villages and, in her sweetest stomach-churning imaginations, maybe find a little overlooked reed toy woven for a child a long time ago, or a pottery shard, to dust off and take home to her little secret shelf.