Last fall, Lissa and I spent a couple of days in and around Lee’s Ferry. As the linchpin between the upper and lower Colorado basins, it’s central to storytelling about water, drought and the west, which is part of my attraction to the place. But it’s also magnificent country in a stark and powerful way. Making a life in Utah was a tough go for the Mormons who immigrated in the mid-19th century, but nowhere was it tougher than the dry canyon country of southern Utah and northern Arizona. It’s beautiful country, unless you’ve got to grow your own food to make your own life there.
I’m no Wallace Stegner, so I’ll defer to this description, which I ran across last night in his Mormon Country:
The tiny oases huddle in their pockets in the rock, surround on all sides by as terrible and beautiful wasteland as the world can show, colored every color of the spectrum even to blue and green, sculptured by sandblast sinds, fretted by meandering lines of cliffs hundreds of miles long and often several thousand feet high, carved and broken and split by canyons so deep and narrow that the rivers run in sunless depths and cannot be approached for miles. Man is an interloper in that country, not merely because he maintains a toehold only on sufferance, depending on the precarious and sometimes disastrous flow of desert rivers, but because everyting he sees is aprophecy of his inconsequent destiny.
It is a big place, and we are small.