Travel Photography Great Basin
Coalpits Wash, Utah
Is travel during a global recession thoughtless? Is a dad who is away, wandering aimlessly, a bad dad? Is to travel to sin? Maybe these questions seem silly to readers of travel. I think it’s the right time to ask.
It’s a sunny day in Canyonlands National Park, in Eastern Utah, and I have the whole day ahead of me, and it’s March, which means the desert parks around Moab are still nearly empty; tourism season starts next month.
I drive the rental to a campground near the Green River Overlook, and find a nice spot to park under the shade of a pinyon pine. Here, I see barefoot footsteps in the sand, and decide to kick off my own shoes and do the same, following a ridge. I find a welcoming outcrop of sandstone and open a paperback book.
I spend most of the day on this outcrop. Having the time to get lost in a book is so hard these days. I wonder if I should consider it a waste of time to spend a traveling day doing something that I could just as easily do at home. But actually, I’ve begun to realize that reading while traveling is a reward. Reading a book in unfamiliar territory, under a sweeping vista, under the sun – it’s more than just reading a book – it’s a way to keep your mind racing through the combined territory of fiction and destination.
The paperback is by K.J. Parker, a pseudonymous author who writes fantasy without wizards and orcs. In The Folding Knife, she constructs a world, with its own geography and history and states, and then, through the eyes of a small city-state’s king, creates an economic and political thriller.
I cannot help but wander from the novel, and to imagine an imaginary city-state built right here, above the towering cliffs and canyons. I imagine big stone structures, with small windows, and people moving among the buildings.
Then I remember that city-states did once exist here. Rows of corn might have been planted down there, along the Green River, and perhaps the Ancestral Pueblans built settlements in the shade of those canyons, a thousand feet below my perch. I note that of the little we know of the Americas’ prehistory, we know that many of its significant moments are the catastrophic failures of its many agriculture-based civilizations, such as the one that once thrived here, and also for the remarkable adaptability and success of the New World's wandering people.