The first time I traveled through Utah was in the summer of 1962 with a busload of Junior Classical League kids from Arizona on our way to a convention in Bozeman, Montana. Back then, there was no Interstate 15 severing the heart of Utah from north to south; just US Highway 89 which snaked from one small Mormon town like Kanab to another like Manti until we rolled into Salt Lake City, where, if I remember correctly, the only high-rise was the Mormon temple built from 1853 through 1892. Most of the country was high plateau covered with sagebrush or cliffs of red or gray, and mountains blanketed with conifers. The most prevalent mammal was of the bovine type.
Today, while Betty and I traveled from Boise down to Torrey, Utah, and Capitol Reef, Interstate 15 barged past town after town jammed with new housing, and there was close to a hundred miles of express lane and freeway construction, harbingers of more people, more growth, more towns and cars.
I don’t begrudge folks moving where they want. I do, and I don’t begrudge them seeking better jobs, a better climate, a landscape more remote than California or the east coast, but still, way down inside, I just hate to see what is happening to the corridor running on the west side of the majestic Wasatch Range. The temple in Salt Lake is now dwarfed by high-rise buildings that surround the pinnacles that used to announce one’s arrival into the Salt Lake Basin.
Once we got through Nephi, traffic improved and we finally cut off the freeway and encountered deer and lakes and farms, old barns, tiny towns with old stone houses the color of the local cliffs…pastel yellows and russets.
We arrived in Torrey as the sun was cutting a low swath in anticipation of its setting, and the rays lit up the red rock hoodoos and made them almost luminous.
Tomorrow, day two of our journey to show BRAVO! COMMON MEN, UNCOMMON VALOR, across the US, we investigate the Capitol Reef country sans traffic and high-rises except for the ones that have been towering here for several million years.