HARVARD SQUARE COMMENTARY

June 11, 2007
Harvard Square Pictorial

Utah 128, A Surprise Delight

John Turner

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I doubt that most visitors to southeastern Utah, when they decide to take Route 128 out of Moab northeast towards Interstate 70 and the Colorado border expect the scenery they encounter over that forty mile stretch. That's because, unless they study their map carefully, they don't realize they'll be following the Colorado River valley through some of its spectacular canyoning.
It's a remote area, but every six or seven miles you come across a camp or a ranch tucked among cottonwoods down along the river. One, in particular, reminded me of the place Joan Didion fantasized in her essay about John Wayne in Slouching Towards Bethlehem. They let you believe there can be a places of perfect peace and security.
The river is fairly broad during most of the course. At one point I went down to the bank and told myself it would be wonderful if I could bounce a rock off the canyon wall across from me. But, sadly, I could make it only about a third of the way. To tell the truth, I doubt even Roger Clemens could chunk anything all the way across.
The juxtaposition of a great river with great dryness produces the feeling that somehow magic has taken hold of the landscape. It transforms a strip into Eden, which is then protected from incursion by huge slices of remoteness. It's a fine place simply to be, and convinces you that at times pure existence is more than enough.