By the mid 1950’s Moab was bursting at the seams with thousands of prospectors for uranium. They came to make millions, but few did. The price of ore fell and the miners left. A processing plant for uranium ore opened in 1956 and closed in 1984. What the prospectors left on the landscape is a network of ugly and rugged roads to their would-be mines, to their lost fortunes. Today, jeeps venture these dare-devil roads. The perfect wedding for me would be to a jeeper, because he can pick me up along some jeep road where most of the trails end. Open for proposals.
“The desert is a good school in which to observe the cleverness . . . of survival under pitiless opposition. Life could not change the sun or water, so it changed itself”—John Steinbeck
This country has lured me in, captured me, and after twenty days, has not let go. From the edge of this island in the sky it is possible to gaze down on the backs of soaring birds, and I shall go there tomorrow for more of it.
Plants and animals with remarkable adaptations for desert survival greet me with apathy. Some escape the average hell and live in nooks where the desert is less harsh—cottonwoods, single-leaf mahogany. Some live only when the desert relents its cruelty—the annuals—and resign their species to seed for the harsh times of year. And some, like the juniper, just stick it out in some crack in rock and simply die back if rain delays its blessing.
Along the great river, everything changes. Anything can grow. But just a hundred feet from the river, life in all its starkness resumes.