A Journey in Images through Utah’s Canyonlands National Forest

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You’re heading to desert country. From Monticello, Utah the 191 North goes through a Martian desert landscape all the way to Moab, an oasis of a city in the middle of the canyons. Before Moab, though, you turn left into Canyonlands National Forest and take the 22 mile drive to Needles Overlook. As you’re driving you come across a deer, or more like the deer comes across your car, and you pull over to follow it with your camera. You don’t want to cause it too much anxiety so you keep your distance.

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Every few feet you walk it walks one, but keeps an eye on you. At some point, it determines you’re safe despite the odd clicking noise you’re making. It continues to eat as you step on a cactus.

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And what a beautiful cactus it was, you reflect. On your way back to your car you take a lingering glance at the rock structure only to be overwhelmed by the weight of it. For miles, you’ve been driving through this Martian landscape and have yet to see a single soul, save the deer.

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You wonder when, if ever, you will get to the end of this back country road. All of a sudden you get a call, despite the persistent feeling of isolation out here. It’s from an 855 number. It’s your debt collector.

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“Hello?” She asks.

“Um… Hi?” you respond.

“I’m calling about a personal business matter, can you confirm your identity?”

You confirm.

“So I’m actually from a debt collection agency. Do you have a moment?”

In fact, you assure her, you’ve been having lots of moments. You’re living out of your car traveling America and, on top of this debt, you have college debt you have to think about as well. No, you don’t have a job. The little money you saved up you are using to pay for gas and peace of mind. Right this moment you’re driving through the desert in your underwear with your heater on full blast to cool down your transmission, as it works like a generator and it really is quite hot out here and how did she manage to call you anyway?

“Oh, I see,” she says. You can hear a slight chuckle.

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You tell her you’re surprised her call even went through.

“Well what about your parents?”
“What about my parents?”

You think you hear a nod of agreement.

“Right. Well. I’ll call you back in 30 days, is that alright?”

You both laugh.

“It was nice speaking with you,” she says.

You’ve been avoiding that call and hanging up on this woman for months now, trying to avoid this emergency room bill you received when you couldn’t afford health insurance and got denied Medicaid. After this call, a weight lifts off your shoulders and you drive a little faster and let out a long, trailing scream. It sounds more like a laugh.

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For a moment, you were pulled back to Earth, back to reality, and the relinquishing of it for a second time has your feeling of lightheartedness exponentially increasing. Your heart rate feels like one long beep. Funny, how no heartbeat and a constant one can both feel like a straight line heading deep into the Canyonlands. You go commando.

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Finally, you reach Needles Outlook.

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You remain there for a while, fixing your car, talking to bikers, eating out of cans.

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A touring older couple with the most massive wheels you’ve ever seen on a Jeep Cherokee picks up conversation with you. For five years they have been searching for a Spanish horse carved into the red rock somewhere in the park. You don’t ask where it is. Asking would be a paradox to the journey of finding it. You don’t even look it up on google. Instead, on your way back to the highway, you fantasize about finding the massive sculpture, about the five-year journey through the desert it took the couple to find it. You’ll be back one day.

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One thought on “A Journey in Images through Utah’s Canyonlands National Forest

  1. Mark Caudill June 5, 2018 / 12:26 pm

    Beautiful pictures and a very interesting story, I hope everything works out for you.
    Sounds like you are enjoying the journey of a life time.
    Have a super wonderful day.

    Liked by 1 person

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