After driving through the Rocky Mountains, Mike and I watched the landscape turn dryer, the rocks and dirt became a burnt red and orange. Small bush-like trees grew across the desert. And if you looked towards the horizon, the land continued for miles and miles in every direction. Flat and sparse and rocky, shadowed by giant mesas, we were just accessories to an already finished masterpiece.
This was the Utah that first greeted us. We drove for miles with no one around, except for the sparse trailer or house dispersed across the barren landscape. We drove through a good portion of the Navajo reservation and much of the landscape was the same; houses dotted a flat landscape of orange, red and brown.
Whoever lives here must drive for an hour to reach the nearest grocery store, or a half an hour at best to reach the nearest gas station. Little huts which promised finely woven Navajo rugs and pottery and jewelry, started to pop up every couple of miles alongside the highway.
We felt awed by the difference of this landscape compared to what we were used to back home. Upstate New York is green, the mountains are gentle hills, breezes tease the trees and rainstorms nourish. Here in this desert landscape was a harshness and a palette of colors we had never encountered before.
As the we drove into higher elevations and then drove back down, we kept our eyes out for eagles, and looked for big-horned sheep. We saw a few horses, and the occasional grouping of cattle, which chewed on the brown-yellow grass.
During our journey, I’m thinking about Star Wars, about a lonely teenager longing for adventure his desert home doesn’t provide. I’m thinking about science fiction stories of life on Mars, or a desert planet much like this one.
I fell in love with the desert’s stark beauty in a harsh and unforgiving landscape. Of dirt, and hot wind and a sun that blazes so hot and bright, it makes the sand burn underfoot.
I’m already in awe and we haven’t even made it to Zion National Park yet…and as we soon discovered, it’s always beautiful in Zion.