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

untouched land.

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


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