The book formed my reward for a long day's walk. The book and a pizza. One cannot live on books alone.
The bookstore on the main drag of funky Moab, Utah (Back of Beyond Books) naturally, features the work of Abbey, who worked as a ranger in the area in the late 1950's.
Abbey wrote this about Arches National Park:
"The air is so dry here I can hardly shave in the mornings. The water and soap dry on my face as I reach for the razor: aridity. It is the driest season of a dry country. In the afternoons of July and August we may get thundershowers but an hour after the storms pass the surface of the desert is again bone dry."
Desert Solitaire, p 142.
Bonus travel tip: Even in the busiest and most popular national parks, we found that by hiking a few hundred yards down nearly any trail*, we could leave most of the seething mass of vacationing humanity behind.
Sad truth: few tourists do more than meander to overlook, snap a photo, and then roar off in an air-conditioned car.
Edward Abbey was right: "What can I tell them? Sealed in their metallic shells like molluscs on wheels, how can I pry the people free? The auto as tin can, the park ranger as opener."
Desert Solitaire p 290.
Some markers odder than others. To a certain sort of thinker, this is an ambiguous sign:
A series of verbs: follows + goes + cleans.
Er, nope. Because, you know, why? But interesting. Return to this thought later, I told myself, tucking the camera back into my pocket.
I stopped for a sip of water a hundred or two hundreds yards later. The words transposed themselves: Trail Wash Leaves.
That seemed nearly probable: maybe the trail had a new name. The National Park people seem to engineer their signage so that visitors can have a more genuine park experience, complete with navigational anxiety and an understanding that maps are imperfect representations of the truth.
Maybe. But probably not.
It's a long walk, and I kept puzzling over these three peculiar words. Wash. Trail. Leaves. Perhaps I was a little dehydrated, guzzled gallons of water notwithstanding.
Most human language follows a predictable formula: Noun verbs an Object. Dog bites man. Woman reads book about a desert.
Leaves. Trail. Wash.
For the rest of the walk, series of words started presenting themselves. Triangular structures, each side a simple word that goes both ways: One can trail one's hand on the trail. One can leave the leaves behind, one can wash the wash.
Stone Ride Ice.
Rein Plant Saddle
Mount Slide Hollow.
Chant Riddle Stop.
Then we arrived back at the start of the trail.
And in the blink of an eye, we were addressing ourselves to pizza and cold beverages and a bookstore on the funky little main drag of Moab.