Thursday, October 1, 2009

Mud Heart

This past weekend I spent some time in southern Utah: Capitol Reef country. After a year in the Ruhrgebiet, there's a lot to be said for the red rock landscape. As much as I enjoy Germany, the frequent rain, overcast skies and urban "betonscape" can have a long term effect on my mood, and it's not a positive one. More than once I found myself in the position of trying to explain to a German citizen I met at a dance class, or in a local Kneipe, why I was spending a year in Essen and invariably their reaction was confusion. I came from where? And I had decided freiwillig to come to Germany for a year? Und warum?

Travel in the other direction is far easier to understand and I saw plenty of it in Capitol Reef. At times it seemed I was visiting Düsseldorf an der Fremont as I passed people on the trail or heard visitors pulling up in the motel parking lot. To be sure, German wasn't the only language being spoken, but French was more common than English and Italian ran a close fourth. I was delighted to see that not everyone has been scared off by the draconian visa process we put the rest of the world through and was happy to hear familiar expressions like, "Verdammte Scheiße!" sprinkled in with the ubiquitous "Oh my heck!"

We were doing our part to build the tourist economy, since we were in Capitol Reef to meet two friends from Essen who were making a grand tour of the American West. They arrived directly from the Grand Canyon in a massive black Dodge rental that looked as though it had been designed for a pair of professional hit men. They were delighted with the auto, so I didn't ask about gas mileage or if it came with an integral gun rack. The vehicle wasn't exactly my style, but I could see that it would be a good choice for cruising Route 66.

We spent time in the Pleasant Creek area discovering new petroglyphs and also hiked the Sulphur Creek canyon. The latter begins as a broad, open drainage but quickly narrows to a dramatic slot canyon that requires some climbing. No ropes or technical gear are required and it's an ideal hike for the last warm weekend of the summer season. As we walked to the creek from the trail head, we passed areas of drying mud that were cracking in familiar patterns with the exception I photographed above. It seemed a fitting valentine image and expressed our feelings about the weekend eloquently. Now we get ready for snow.

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