LONESOME CROWDED WEST
It floated on westerly winds, a beckoning, a tidal flow that swelled towards me,
encompassing me, pulling me back with it. The quintessence of wild and free, of the art behind
beauty and the love that binds it all; the desert.
With the mountains in Colorado covered in snow and silence, it was time to nourish my
soul and drive west. My forever companion, the pilot of our tiny Tacoma, loaded with water,
gasoline, cameras and our cozy bed tucked in the back, accompanied the crusade towards
solitude. We had plans, minimal though fervent plans-to visit the parks-oh the National Parks!
Bryce Canyon, Grand Canyon, the promised land of Zion. We intended to explore the wonders of
Antelope Canyon and feel the sacred stories of Monument Valley. Except however, these places
when encountered were disastrously disappointing.
Zion; place where god lives, wonderful feeling. No doubt, cars idling on paved roads,
colored brown instead of grey, attempts to conceal mans invasion. Fifty dollars to enter The
Gates of Zion, no not quite angelic, instead, greeted by swarms of greedy tourists. The feeling of
entitlement, I bring back a feeling of enlightenment, one with the echoing mosaic walls, feeling
of belonging, connections to the ancient immeasurable uncaring, forgiving rock. They bring back
magnets. Overwhelmed by the masses of selfie taking tweens, the smell of diesel, the glare of
glass and eyes as they quickly enter and exit yet another completely packed chain burger store.
Not quite defeated yet, this is the township, the money making scheme, head towards the dark
canyons full of promises.
Access denied into nirvana. The simplicities of life, hiking in our worlds natural wonders,
backpacking under the sun and the stars. Our dreams were abruptly crushed as we learned about
the perilous permit system. We were unable do what we set out to do-to be free and explore the
We continued on our journey, faster than expected, giving no time to wondrously
misleading Zion, on to Page, Arizona and Monument Valley, where we found the government
towns to be constructed around the monstrous Glen Canyon Dam, a toxic Coal Plant, 16
churches and paid tours through the spiritual canyons and valleys of the Navajo’s. We sped past
these tourist traps, past the destruction of the primitive land and disappointed monoliths. We
drove until the sky regained oxygen and breathed azure once again, we drove until we found
Welcomed by wash-board roads and grazing cattle, the endless horizon of low sage brush
and juniper trees, the shy hues of green and pink blending into oblivion. Grand Staircase-
Escalante National Monument. Hugely controversial, hugely beautiful, magnificent,
commanding, the place we called home for 28 days.
The heart of the West, almost 2 million acres of protected land of glowing canyons,
emerald rivers, bamboo forests, enchanting slot canyons filled with shoulder high freezing water.
Rewarding in open temples filled with light and color and the sound of echoing waves against
rock, the sound of balance between elements. Caked in dust and solitude, we showered in the
open plains as the sun burned the horizon and illuminated the dome of scattered clouds. I fell in
love with the land around us and the world beyond. I learned that a dirt road is a road to freedom,
and that is how it needs to remain. This land speaks for itself with quiet enchanting words,
begging for peace and solitude, heard by ears willing to stand up for the beauty behind those