If you would have asked me a week ago, I would have said there are definite detriments to living in Utah again.
And, no, I’m not talking about the winter temperature inversions or even the fear factor that comes with driving through the perpetual construction project that is Interstate 15.
No, the real problem almost is worse. It’s the fact that all of a sudden, everyone wants to visit. And the commercials for the “Big Five” national parks aren’t helping.
I know you probably think I’m nuts, but hear me out.
My best friend from college and his girlfriend met me in Moab this past weekend and wanted to see the sights in Arches and Canyonlands national parks, the petroglyphs and dinosaur tracks along SR-279, and the spectacular views from Dead Horse Point State Park and the La Sal Loop Road.
Those would all be great if it hadn’t been for the fact that I’ve seen them all hundreds of times.
At least, that’s probably what I would have said before I decided to see if the grass was indeed greener outside Utah’s borders.
There was definitely a period of time where I never wanted to see Delicate Arch again. Too many elementary school field trips and hikes in 100-degree heat with family visiting from out of state over the years, gave me the attitude that the image on my own license plate was as close as I ever wanted to get.
How many times had I driven SR-128, Moab’s iconic “River Road?” Or walked through the town’s seemingly limitless supply of souvenir shops while friends and family members looked for yet another Kokopelli refrigerator magnet?
Needless to say, by the time I left Moab after graduating from high school in the early 2000s, those things had become all too routine.
It still felt that way as I tried to avoid dying of boredom while driving through the drab wasteland that exists between Price and Green River on my way to Moab on Thursday.
But somewhere along the line, I had a change of heart.
Perhaps the words of wonderment coming from my friend and his significant other changed my perspective.
They both come from Minnesota, a beautiful place in its own right. If you’ve never been there, imagine the pine forests of Utah or Colorado without the mountains.
My friend, Cameron, and I have been on many an adventure together over the years, from San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge to Barcelona’s Olympic Stadium and numerous points in between. He’s seen far more of the world than I have, given his father’s career in the airline industry that opened up travel opportunities that most people can only dream of.
However, Utah’s unique landscape left him and his girlfriend, Kelly, in awe.
I drove them along the River Road, a drive I’ve made countless times past Matrimony Spring, past the trailhead for Negro Bill Canyon and on into Castle Valley, where several of my childhood friends used to live.
But as Castleton Tower came into view, for some reason, it no longer felt routine.
“This is home,” I thought.
For too many years, I’d taken the landscape that surrounded me for granted. What was routine for me was something that people saved up money and vacation time just to catch a glimpse of.
Even the tourists themselves had become just part of growing up in Moab. The annual influx of visitors and the landscape they came to enjoy weren’t anything new or exciting for me when I was growing up.
But as the three of us drove our way up the La Sal Loop Road and saw the red-rock landscape stretching to the shores of the Colorado River in the distance, it was a different feeling.
I was actually excited after we stopped at my parents’ house in Moab to take my friends to see the rock art and dinosaur tracks. And despite the countless dozens of times I’d done it, I was actually glad to start hiking up the trail to the Delicate Arch viewpoint as the sun began to set and the blue moon rose.
Though the novelty started to wear off — despite having grown up in Moab, I’d forgotten just how important it is to have plenty of water at all times, leaving me parched and sucking for air — the view of the arch certainly was well worth the pain.
It sure beat the one on my license plate.
Vaughan is a veteran journalist from Moab, Utah. It will be months before he can get all that red dirt out of the carpet in his car. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.