I'm now in Kanab, Utah where the one reason to be here is to score a permit for a hike to the "Wave." My lottery chances are slim. Less than one in fifteen applicants walks out of the morning drawing satisfied. I needed a backup plan for other play options. With that in mind, I headed over to the local Visitor Center for hiking advice.
I walked in and saw an elderly gentleman with a glint in his blue eyes.
"Hello Sir! Would you be kind enough to suggest a few nearby hikes for tomorrow?"
"Sure! We have a few brochures on four hikes right out of Kanab."
I gave them a quick glance over. The distances were kind of piddly and the route descriptions weren't Grand Canyon exciting.
"Can you suggest something longer and more interesting? Please?"
At this point, I could tell he was sizing me up and sort of warming up to me.
"Well, you could hike along the Escalante River and explore all the slot canyons along the way like I did."
"What! How long did that take you?"
"I guess you had someone drop you provisions along the way. Right?"
"Nope! I killed what I ate. Rattlesnakes saved my life."
Eating rattlesnakes might have been a payback for the time he was bit by an irate one in a hay loft. He was six years old then.
"My Mom took a plug of tobacco and chewed it. She took the wad and put it on the bite. She tied it with a piece of cloth. She told me to go sit down. You know? I didn't get sick."
Eureka! I struck a Pot of Gold of western wisdom. Jerry began pouring out stories, photos and maps of "must see" places for me to visit.
He went on. "I've discovered a lot of ruins. They were intact and there was no plundering of the contents. I told museum and university people about them and showed them a few. They dug them up and took the artifacts away. Look at these photos."
He showed me photos of ruins that looked like they were constructed yesterday. From a folder he pulled out more pictures of exquisite pots, digging tools and lovely petroglyphs.
"See this panel? My wife dangled me from a rope so I could get a better picture of it."
What a guy!
"I hiked in the Maze area before it became Canyonlands National Park. (That was in 1964). I sure got turned around in there."
"Where did you find water? There's none there unless you hike down to the river."
"Dig two feet below a green plant and you'll find water. I used a plastic sheet to collect the moisture from evaporation."
Can you believe this? And Jerry is 80 years old!
We spoke about the legacy of Everett Ruess, the controversy of taking artifacts away from the sites or leaving them in place and other western topics. Our opinions varied, but we respected each other's thought processes.
He once mused, "A lot of our artifacts went overseas. That really steams me. I would rather see them in our museums."
I suggested a few books for him to read on subjects we spoke about. He jotted the names down and thanked me.
"Jeff! Stop by before you leave town. I'll show you a few more photos and tell you about a few more canyons to visit."
Indeed, I will.
So...I am back behind the Zion Curtain of Utah. As usual I came prepared. Photo Two.
I'm staying at the Hitching Post RV Park and I will observe the Quiet Hours. Photo Three.
I'm kind of warming up to Kanab after sizing it up too!
Enjoy the rest of your weekend,