Day 8: Following the Colorado River

Cliffs tower over the Colorado River in Utah.

Cliffs tower over the Colorado River in Utah.

Route 128 is a scenic drive worthy of being a national park unto itself. The first part in is flat yellow landscapes speckled with clumps of light green brush, which give way to reds and grays.

Then we meet the Colorado River, and enter the chasm it has carved out of the soft sandstone. Sheer walls rise on both sides for long twisting miles, looking as if we are driving through a city of stone, crumbling and decaying away. There is the odd ranch here and there, isolated specks of green hunkered down next to the life-giving river, but everything else is dry and alien, the red rocks coated with a black desert varnish of manganese, iron reds or even more strangely, green oxygen-deprived iron mineral deposits.

There are towers, spires and pinnacles tempting us to pause and admire the scene all too often, not to mention some road construction, and it is after noon when we arrive in Moab, the bustling outpost of this corner of Utah. In the boom years, it was a major mining town for uranium. That lasted from the 1940’s to the 1970’s when the demand petered out and the mines closed. Then tourism took hold – there are plenty of bicyclists, rafters on the Colorado, hikers, horse riders, and goodness knows what else.

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