Something's not quite right about this road trip. I'm having a good time, but it doesn't feel as carefree or liberating as I had expected.
It's mostly my own fault -- the idea of a month with a jeep and no concrete plans was a romantic one. The reality, though, is that I spend a fair amount of time and mental energy figuring out what to do next. And last-minute planning is inevitably more complicated or expensive (or both) than planning in advance. The travel world is biased against spontaneity.
It doesn't help that I have a personality that is paralyzed by options. I fixate on what I might be missing by making a choice. I've yet to decide where to head tomorrow -- if I don't go to the San Rafael Swell on this leg of the trip, I might lack the time to explore it as much as I want. But if I choose to route through the swell, I will miss out on the Needles section of Canyonlands and White Canyon. And in studying the map to decide, I discovered the Dark Canyon Wilderness, which I'm now fascinated by. Too many options!
I'm also bothered by recurring sense of guilt. My parents have been worried sick at the prospect of me alone in Utah. Faulting them for their love and concern for me would be truly callous, and instead, I'm sending them daily messages with my itinerary for the day. Prudent? Yes. But it does kind of dampen the sense of adventure and freedom. I also left A. and the cats in San Francisco to gallivant across Utah -- feeling some guilt about that, too.
Whining aside, I am enjoying Utah tremendously. After dropping my parents off in Salt Lake City on Monday, I treated myself to two nights at the swanky Falcon's Ledge lodge, where I took fly-fishing lessons. Fly-fishing is challenging but engrossing, and I now have another activity to aspire to improve at, although I did catch four fish!
I also visited two interesting little museums in eastern Utah: the Prehistoric Museum of the College of Eastern Utah, and the Western Mining and Railroad Museum. As far as dinosaur museums go, the Prehistoric Museum is small and reeks of the 1980s -- but because of it's size and sparse visitation it's quite intimate. It's the first time I didn't feel trapped in some kind of dinosaur amusement park. Eastern Utah is among the world's most rich source of fossils -- in part because of a local predator trap with so many raptor bones they named the species after the state (Utahraptor), and also because the desert used to be the terminus of a flood plain, so that the bodies of dinosaurs killed by devastating floods all washed up in a particular location (now known as Dinosaur National Monument).
As for the Mining and Railroad museum, I'd charitably describe it as a work in progress, but it is a touching attempt by the small town of Helper to preserve it's tumultuous and sad history, including the Castle Gate Mine Explosion, which killed nearly 10% of the town's population. One exhibit in particular stood out for me:
Finally (for now), I spent the last two days in Moab and visiting Arches and Canyonlands National Park. Both are uniquely amazing, and I was particularly wowed by the four-wheel drive Shafer Trail (trivia: the trail was where the final scene of Thelma and Louise was shot). Driving the road gave me a real sense of the scale of the canyon-within-canyon-within-canyon nature of Canyonlands.
I'll leave off now to figure out where I'm headed tomorrow. More pics to come once I've had a chance to curate a bit.