Just got back from kayaking on Lake Powell. Eight of us escorted by guides from Hidden Canyon Kayak. We spent the week exploring the now flooded Canyonlands of Arizona and Utah. The highlights were the skies at night, the slot canyons by day, and the alpenglow at the edges. With the clarity of the stars, planets, satellites, and the moon, and canyons with their array of sunlight-decorated, endless meanders of orange and pink, we felt like we were in another world.
The Colorado River that John Wesley Powell explored was 500 feet below us, below current lake level (more on his trip can be found in Saving the Places We Love). But we got some sense of the barrenness and the beauty of the Colorado Plateau that he encountered on his trips between 1869 and 1872. When we did see signs of life it was a big deal: lizards, red-spotted frogs, ravens, herons, rock wrens, bats, and a canyon wren. That was about it, except for fish in the lake. The timelessness of the desert set the stage for an inspiring week.
As the sun came up each day, sharp arrows of light and shadow pierced the highest mountaintops. Puffs of cloud-mist rising from the valleys, masked the lower peaks. The bright underbellies of dark clouds were a fitting backdrop to the bright red mesas. As the sunlines dropped down desert-varnished cliffs and their alluvial skirts they brought the frozen pink aeolian sand dunes to life, with alternating layers moving back and forth reflecting the prevailing winds at the moment, two hundred million years ago, when they were locked into rock…
As Evie disappeared into the shimmering waters that diffusely captured the cliffs and skies and Nick started the coffee I remember contemplating the provenance of a grain of sand along the lakeshore, realizing it started its journey a billion years back and is now on its way to some collision of the future.
Why are these wide open spaces so important to us? Why do we save them and not let others exploit them in any way they choose? What I hear over and over again is that these experiences always seem to rejuvenate, to center, to focus humans in a way that helps put all things into perspective. Something we all need a regular dose of in our busy lives.
So let’s keep these places open and free and accessible to all. Let’s make sure we consider the wild places of our planet in all the decisions that we make. Let’s realize that some of our actions such as the overuse of fossil fuels harms these areas as much as they harm us. Let’s consider the impacts of our actions on ourselves, on others, and on the places we love.
Photo credit of slot canyon: Heather Dorst.