I should have been on the road by now. Instead, I had spent the morning procrastinating awaiting the Gifford House bake store to open so I could indulge in one last breakfast of oven-hot pie and fresh-brewed coffee. While lazy campers spent the best parts of the morning sleeping in, I was up strolling the campground savoring my last quiet moments here. In the orchard, leaves and grass shimmered with sunlit dew. A handful of deer nibbled peacefully in the picnic area. I stood streamside taking in the tranquility of the Fremont running its banks. Time had seemed to stretch during the past week, and I wasn’t yet ready to leave Capitol Reef.
Of course I knew that all good things must come to an end. My time in Utah was expiring, and I needed to be getting back home. I studied the detail of the surrounding orange cliffs one last time, and I reluctantly climbed into my car to head east on State Highway 24 bidding a fond farewell to the Waterpocket Fold (until next time!)
After driving for several hours, I eventually reached the Colorado State line to embark on my final destination of the trip: Colorado National Monument. Here is preserved one of the grand landscapes of the American West, a semi-desert land encompassing 32 square miles of rugged plateau and canyon country.
I arrived with just enough time to take in the famous Rim Rock Drive, a 23-mile serpentine roadway boasting magnificent rim-top views of sheer-walled canyons and fascinating rock sculptures stretching from the distant Colorado River valley to the city of Grand Junction and the Book Cliffs mountain range.
This land is home to pinyon pines and Utah junipers, ravens, bighorn sheep, and a multitude of other desert species such as cottontails, coyotes, and lizards. Below the rim, rock formations named Independence Monument, Pipe Organ, and Kissing Couple rise from the canyon floor like skyscrapers erected from stone.
As I sat on the rim’s edge admiring the iconic view, a gusty breeze snuck up from behind and tried to steal my cap. I sat in quiet contemplation listening to it swirl down the lonely canyon in the same way I imagined it must have done here for ages untold. Time had the final word here, taking millions of years to carve the massive rock spires, domes, and pedestals that spread out before me.
I let my mind wander in reflection of the past week’s events. The concept of Time had turned out to be an overarching theme of this trip. During the past week, I had witnessed Time’s effect on these great landscapes. I had stood above deep canyons cut by meandering streams; walked under artistic arches hewn from stone; stared awestruck at towering monoliths shaped from the soil. All of these made possible by the slow-acting forces of wind and water working beyond the perception of our senses. I had been afforded a precious gift: a view through the lens of geological constructs, enlightened by its omnipotent perspective that all things – given enough time – are temporary and ever changing.
Even the makings of humankind are not immune to Time’s effects. I had walked in the footsteps of mysterious ancients who passed before me, the secrets of their civilizations now known only to the wind. Even today, Time continues to weather away the vulnerable bits, its relentless process unconcerned with the trifles of man.
“And what effect will Time have on me?” I pondered, my mind puzzling to find something meaningful in all of this.
Though I had been here for just one week, I felt that I had already been changed. In the same way that it lays bare the most vulnerable parts of the land, the time I had spent here had eroded a few of my own vulnerabilities. Revealed to me the insignificance of my worries. Opened my mind to new possibilities. If allowed more time here, I wondered, how else might it change me? Would I ever be the same? Would I be able to tell the difference?
Maybe someday, Time will grant me a chance to come back and find out.
* * *
Dear Readers, Thanks for hanging in there with me throughout this saga. I never intended for this story to drag on for almost two months!
Next time: Back to Montana! I’ve been busy checking out some rarely visited locales in-state. Stay tuned!
In the meantime, you can relive the trip at my Utah Trip Gallery
- What’s in a name? Try Colorado Canyons National Monument (denverpost.com)
- Heading out- Moab? No…Grand Junction! (mtntownviews.com)
- Travel: Explore Colorado canyon country (summitcountyvoice.com)