Friday, August 21, 2009

In Park City, Utah. Visited Salt Lake City last night to see Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Driving west at dusk one emerges over dark side of mountain into sunbathed urban valley. Stunning to sit in massive conference center auditorium, awash in clean, expansive sounds of great choir. At rehearsals audience is sparse and allowed to come and go. I felt like a pilgrim entering room from where I had been.

Two nights earlier was sitting on desiccated log, eating tuna out of pouch, isolated at far end of Upheaval Dome at Canyonlands NP. I had turned around to see something resembling four-inch scorpion sneaking by in dirt. Assumed deadly but later picked up Audubon Field Guide to Insects and Spiders at bookstore and found out it was Jerusalem Cricket. Next day hiked four hours to get back to car, up and over craggy breaches in canyon walls, getting inkling of what Brigham Young and Co. encountered pushing westward into this territory. To go from dusty, prehistoric-feeling southern Utah into pristine religious complex was exhilarating.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

At the Lazy Lizard Hostel in Moab, Utah, binging on free wi-fi after a week of not touching a keyboard. My concerns lately have been along the lines of "do I need a bear canister for back country camping at Canyonlands NP?" Local store clerks say no. One said she slept out in the open with a bag of food next to her and nothing happened. At Rocky Mountain National Park they require you to rent a canister. The ranger there told me leaving so much as a crumb in an untended tent would ensure its destruction by wildlife. (As a crazy coot a Cormac McCarthy book says, "this (that) is a hungry country.") The canyons north of Moab aren't so hungry.

I'm laying on a scratchy bedspread in a small room with walls painted to look like clay. The smell of ramen noodles drifted under the door an hour ago. Somebody's watching a documentary about arlo guthrie downstairs. The TV is pretty loud but somehow not annoying. I feel at home here. I know that the fun of hostels is supposed to be meeting other travelers but I really don't care to go downstairs and sit on the couch. People are generally more perceptive than I have been giving them credit for. When I force myself to be friendly, what an intelligent person sees is a guy forcing himself to be friendly. Where's the joy in that?

The McCarthy book is Blood Meridian, what I consider the dark twin of McMurtry's Lonesome Dove. Both books were published at around the same time and both brought mad literary skills to bear upon the Western genre. Blood Meridian is so violent it makes the story line for No Country for Old Men seem like Dr. Seuss. I'm not giving anything away. Hard to say if McCarthy is telling an untold true story or really just exploring dark psychological territory via 19th century Texas history.

Time for bed. There are crickets in Moab, but not in the woods at Rocky Mountain National Park. There are screech owls there, at first I thought it was a shrieking child.