September 07, 2010

Summer Road Trip - Driving to Cedar City

Breakfast view from the Lodge restaurant
On my last morning in Bullfrog, Becki and I go back to the Lodge restaurant for breakfast. After I am full of pancakes and coffee and gazing out at Lake Powell, I amuse myself with the thought that Becki is from Bear, Delaware and now lives in Bullfrog, Utah.  Also amusing, is that she has a dog named Pancake, named after a breakfast food and this reminds me of the time my sister wanted to name her dog Lollipop when she was eight and of the cat my grandmother had temporarily, who she named after a food as well, Mochi. I could go for some mochi right now, my favorite food, I am sure they don't have any within at least 300 miles of Bullfrog. But I like the name Pancake for Becki's dog. Pancake, the dog from Bullfrog owned by Becki from Bear. Where do these names come from anyway? I am from Landenberg, but what does this name mean? I am sure it means something, some word or words. I find it interesting that almost all words can be defined by other words, and those words can be defined by other words. So, does that mean that there is a word that in not definable by another word? Is this the first word of language? What, I wonder, was the first word? What was the first word that humans decided that they could agree upon the meaning where they needed no other words to define it. A meaning that is simply that, because it is that word. Maybe it was "I" or maybe it was "God". Is there any person on this world that does not understand the meaning of "I" or the meaning of "God"? Even if you do not believe in God, I think you have a very clear sense of what other people mean when they say "God", and also, you must know the meaning of "God" to know that you do not believe in God. Sure, we have words now, that we can use to describe "God" but maybe, if you could trace those words back to the words that describe them and so on, you would have, at the very beginning, just "God".
Lake Powell at Bullfrog
I find it interesting that "I" and "God" were the two words I thought of as the first words that were the basis for all other words. Maybe, when you strip away all the words used to describe "I" and "God", you will find that these two words actually mean the same thing.  This is not to say that I think I am God, or that God is me, but that God is in all of us individual "I"'s, and we are all in God. The fact that we have words and at some point there was a first word that we agreed we knew the meaning without another word to describe it, would seem to suggest that we can know something without words. Which also would say that we can think without words and perhaps feel without words. And even if it seems almost unfathomable now to know something or think or feel without words, we all started our time in this world exactly in this way, as babies. And maybe, as babies, we knew these meanings without knowing the words and now these words are really just pointers to the meaning, but they are not the meaning themselves. I wish I could "know" more often, without words. Ah, but perhaps I do! This is why I like photography and music. A picture and a sound can be meanings without words and maybe we crave them because they let our mind relax and take us back to that time as babies, when life was so simple and pure and full of meanings that we could know without labeling them. Oh words, how you complicate and simplify everything, at the same time.
Maybe the first word was actually "experience" and I should really get back to using words to describe my "experience" of driving to Cedar City. On this day, in Utah, I left Becki who went in late to work and I set out driving north out of Bullfrog.
START: 1762 miles.
So, I race back across the orange Utah desert lined with bright pastel green sagebrush and through the open range. The enormous rock formations take the shape of mountains. The mountains begin to be colored with green only to turn again into a white-gray-yellow color. I am on my way to Capitol Reef National Park. The road goes up and down and around sweeping curves and mountains. Today I feel a very familiar nervousness, that is some flavor of fear. What I am nervous or fearful about, I don't know, but I often feel it when I am off to somewhere new. It makes my chest burn and my stomach anxious to the point where I almost feel like I am going to throw up. But I know this feeling so well, that I know I can just charge through it without understanding it.
Capitol Reef is kind of a "drive-through" park. You could be on your way to somewhere else and find yourself just driving through, which is how it happened the last time I was here. This time, I will stop and do at least a short hike. After dry, dry landscape, I enter Capitol Reef, where the valley seems lush in comparison. The narrow valley is green with a river flowing through it and high multi-colored walls rising on the sides. I stop at a gravel parking lot and start my hike.
The road through Capitol Reef
Half-ling Tree
The hike takes me up red rock and turns into white rock. It is dry and hot and the sun feels especially drying today. I drink often from my camelback. There are dry bushes and dwarfed trees that are kind of depressing. I think I have been in the desert too long. There are desert clumps of wildflowers, but, even as a lover of wildflowers, these too seem sad. The vegetation here seems half dead but not struggling, like they have given up trying to flourish, they have decided they will just take what they can get. I wonder why they grow to such an unsustainable size and put up with their "half" life, so to speak. Why not be smaller and nicer looking? Some of the trees look completely dead, like they are just dried up sticks that have remained. I don't know what about this bothers me today. Why should vegetation bother me? I think, in all the beautiful places I've been, the harsh climate plants you see are usually miraculous. Sometimes it is a tree or a flower that somehow seems to thrive in a particularly extreme climate and this makes it miraculous and you get a sense of wonderment, how nature continues to surprise you. Not here so much. It kind of reminds me of when I was a kid and teenager and we would go to the beach for just the day and then drive home two and a half hours full of sand and salt water. For some reason the feeling of sand sticking to you in a hot, sweaty car interior where you can't really move around would really irritate me. This reminds me of this place. Irritating.
The Main Road through "white" rock valley
I don't want to turn back, I want to finish my hike and I don't even know why. There is supposed to be a beautiful lookout, so I guess this is motivating me. I am sweating a lot and wishing I had a hat. Even the sun is annoying me today. But I do reach the lookout. I go out to the edge where I enjoy views of the valley and the distant hills, mountains and roads. Its actually quite nice and I indulge in some homemade dried fruit and buffalo jerky. You can see the main road making its way through the green valley made of red and white rock. The green-ness seems unnatural here, but I guess the river that runs through here helps to hydrate the place to life.
View from the overlook
The green valley amongst dry land
I sit there for a while, dangling my feet over the edge until I get a strong urge to leave and get off this mountain and go away from here. Why am I so irritated? My hike down passes quickly and before I know it I am back at my car feeling unrefreshed and thirsty. Hiking usually makes me feel refreshed and excited, even when I am tired.
I get back in my car and get back out onto the main road. A few miles later there is a turn off for a scenic drive through national park land which I decide to take. Much of the road is paved, but soon turns into gravel. There is expansive desert sweeping down and up to one side and high butte walls on the other. The landscape here seems to bother me less. I even enjoy the wildflowers, yellow and red. Maybe I like it because I am amongst the green-ness, instead of looking down upon it. I think I really like green, it means life. I pass many gravel parking lots for hikes whose names seem familiar to me from my travel magazines. Someday I will have to come back to try these all-day hikes, perhaps they will be more inspiring than the one I chose.
At the end of the dirt road I don't stick around too long and turn around. The view going in the opposite direction are also amazing and different. This is what I like about traveling both directions on a scenic road, you get to seem something from a different perspective. Becki had told me about the orchards in Capitol Reef where you can pick your own fruit and pay per pound by stuffing your money in one of the little boxes posted around the orchard fences. I attempt to do the same but it seems that every orchard fence is locked and this discourages me easily. I could go for some fresh fruit right about now, but it is getting later in the afternoon and I know that the best part of the drive is ahead of me, so I continue on.
I make one last stop on my way out of Capitol Reef, to look at a tree. At this stop is a motorcycle group. The tree is half alive, half dead but its shape is beautiful and curving, reaching up vertically, much different than the beautiful, curving landscape reaching out horizontally.
Through red rock, crumbling, dry earth I continue. Then, the landscape starts to burst with bright green. The trees get taller and more abundant. I travel through small towns and see pastures where cows mingle amongst large, smooth rocks. The mountains lose all red color as then begin to be covered with more and more trees. Before I know it I am traveling through forests. The road continues up into the mountains blanketed with forests. The trees change into pines of some sort. I can still feel the dryness but there is something refreshing about it too, like stepping into a nice shady spot after being out in the bright sun. An occasional break in the trees reveals the desert landscape I have recently left, showing off the bright red and white colors.
The air becomes rapidly cooler and here the trees change again into white barked birch trees (I think). These forests are very dense with the long, white trunks reach high up toward the sky. While the green pines brought refreshment, these birch trees make me feel calm, like everything is alright in the world. It is amazing that on the top of these mountains you find birch trees, and reminds me that maybe everything has its own place. I think I've said this before. At the summit, the birch trees break up into clumps and allow for rolling mountain pastures. There are some purple and red wildflowers blooming along the side of the road. I can see the road I will travel ahead of me, swinging down the mountains and through forests and into more mountains and disappearing out of sight. The air is cool here, you might even call it cold. It is a nice change.
After descending for a long time, I discover what is on the other side of these green, tree covered mountains, it is farmland and white mountains. These white mountains turn into canyons and the road continues up alongside them. At one point there is canyon dropping on the left side of the road and on the right side of the road. The narrow road winds precariously between the two canyons and then continues through canyon lands and uphill to a breathtaking overlook.
Canyon views
The road up to the overlook
As I continue on, it is becoming very clear how late in the day it is. The shadows are long and the light, slanted. I pass through green fields, some dotted with yellow wildflowers, with tall, green walls or mountains in the distance. I pass through small towns where young kids are practicing football. The area is remote and open. I pass near the edge of Bryce Canyon National Park and see some outlying red spires, which I know exist in the heart of the park. The setting sun cast some amazingly, deep red colors on the already red rock. After that, I drive through wide open mountains pastures and forests of Dixie National Forest. Then it is dark and after a long time of barely seeing another car on the road I come to Cedar City. I pass my motel and continue on in search of some food. When I finally check in the lady there is "courteous" and not at all helpful. I am glad to be in a room with four walls around me. I am getting weary, I am ready to be home. Part of me wants to skip the rest of my trip and just go home.

1 comment:

  1. If I understood I and God my life would be a lot simpler...