Travel Photography Great Basin
specifically, I am on the edge of Forty-Mile Ridge, plunging vertically
into the Escalante River, which at this point, is still-water. Lake Powell,
Glen Canyon Dam. Edward Abbey imagined blowing the dam to bits. Man, after
all, can't micromanage nature. Damning the main drainage of the west coast
has wreaked havoc on the Southwest, on Desert Mexico, on the Sea of Cortez.
I like Edward Abbey. Sometimes I wish he did blow it up.
sky turns black. The storm from Baja has arrived, ahead of schedule. The
temperature drops. Rain.
are no trees on the plateau, just miles of slickrock. There is no shade.
If lightning strikes, I am the tallest object in ten miles. I also carry
40 pounds of metal on my back. I begin to run. It is about four miles,
all uphill slog through sand, to the mesa where I have parked the truck.
The first lightning strikes on Fifty-Mile Bench, ten miles away.
second strikes just past the mesa, near the Mormon trail.
third lightning strike is just a flash of white light all around me, a
white that turns my hair on end, shocking my pupils. I run, like a mad,
stupid coward to the truck, and jump in.
see myself in the truck's mirror. But the face I see is black with sun,
drenched in rain and sweat, the under-eyes are blue, with veins popping,
and the nose and ears are rutty and exposed from sun. I am panting like
a dog, my nose is bleeding. Things could be worse, I could be sitting
on a couch, with three or four guys with their hands down their pants,
watching the Lakers, talking about mortgages and the prices of cell phone
the clouds pass over the Escalante Canyons, and the evening desert sun
again beats down on the mesa, I walk out and look in every direction.
The south - mountain. West and east - bald rock. It is fifty miles to
Escalante, and because of the rain, I am trapped here until the road dries.
walk around the truck, throw some rocks. Try to pick up trash around the
trailhead. There is none. I boil five potatoes, more than I need. And
cut onions, garlic, red peppers. I am a chef deep in the desert, and waiting
for my unsuspecting patrons to appear from the end of a dark hollow. They
will be a large group, and bored of each other's company. They will desire
nothing more than fresh food, a break from freeze-dried Thai chicken soup,
protein bars and gorp.
will be ever willing to serve up their meal. And would you like some green
onions with that?
the young clan never shows, the sky clouds over, and I am alone on a mesa,
with a small flame illuminating the slickrock, watching the storm and
an occasional lightning strike move on to Moab.
sit in the sand for some hours, waiting. But for what, I do not know.
Solitude is like shadow-boxing. The more you fight it, the more you realize
you are bullying your own conflicts. Then the coyotes start, their howls
echoing off the slickrock, the canyons. I am haunted.