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KINDNESS across AMERICA - Chapter 07: Dune

KINDNESS across AMERICA - Chapter 07: Dune

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Published by Kirk D. Sinclair
Chapter 7 about our journey across America along the American Discovery Trail
Chapter 7 about our journey across America along the American Discovery Trail

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Published by: Kirk D. Sinclair on Aug 27, 2012
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CHAPTER 7: DUNE Notom, UT to Colorado Border; Days = 15 (2 rest); Distance = 197 Miles; People Met = 56There are times when you seek and expect beauty from the natural landscape. Cindy and I expectthat from the mountains, particularly when one is above treeline feeling like they are on top of the world.After passing through Capitol Reef National Park, we now expect that from the red rock canyon lands of Utah. Yet there are times when the beauty of the natural landscape is found unexpectedly. As we headedout east from Notom we had such an experience.Both the landscape east and west of Notom is canyon country. West of Notom was dominated bydraws and gorges; east of Notom featured a broader landscape with mesas and spires. This might havemade the landscape we now passed through similar to what we would find around Moab, with similar flocks of people coming to tour the area. However, another key difference in the landscape we nowtraveled was the stark grayness of everything that surrounded us.The dirt road we traveled on first out of Notom was as barren as the landscape, virtually novegetation, virtually no color, only the imposing topology one imagines from the moon. That gave me asensation similar but different from my accustomed experience from standing on exposed ridges andmountain tops. Instead of a “top of the world” experience, I felt “apart from the world” as we traversedthrough that faux moonscape.Add in the constant heat from the early August sun and we might have been visitors to thefictitious desert planet Dune, though I've always imagined Dune to feature more tones of brown thangray. On our previous two desert stretches we climbed above one hundred degree heat once each time,with mountains somewhere in the background to serve as a reminder of cooler climates. On this stretchwe experienced one hundred degree heat every day, and the background once we got to Utah 24 and beyond was either more moonscape or simply more open desert. This created an aura of “no escape”from our desert planet, even though by this time we were fully acclimated.We passed through Hanksville, reported to be both the hottest and coldest town in Utah. The
 
desert can be cold indeed, I remember a winter evening spent in a New Mexico desert that got down tothe single digits. That was not the case in Hanksville or throughout this stretch. The evenings wereuncomfortably hot, in a way making sleeping more difficult than walking.At one point a woman from the Utah's Department of Transportation stopped to see if we weredoing OK. We looked fine as far as I know, no viruses or heat exhaustion adding a pathetic touch to our appearance; we had recovered fully since Nevada. Yet the DoT woman was concerned because of someinformation she shared with us: the road temperature where we were walking was 132 degrees.In response to this heat we regimented our walking as we learned on US 6 in Nevada. Now wewere up to four miles per interval, with 5-10 minute rests. Putting one foot in front of the other along theroad shoulder was simply automatic, something the body could do with no greater effort than lying downon scorched earth. Of course Ky provided support, which meant water was never an issue for us.The biggest problem in a sense were mosquitoes. Yes, mosquitoes in the desert! We arrived atthis “desert planet” just after abundant rains, which of course hit us while we were still in elevatedmountain country. We even encountered an emergency road sign declaring “Flood Area,” though not adrop was in sight by the time we walked by. The mosquitoes apparently made a home in whatever dewyvegetation they could find and attacked our legs with a vengeance.We could minimize mosquito encounters with a stiff pace away from the edge of the road, and asthe day progressed the mosquitoes were less abundant overall. Worse than the mosquitoes were the littlegnats that loved to float around in the shade of our visors. At times I would take my cap off just to getrid of these pests, but exposing one's bald top to the afternoon desert sun is not an ideal solution either.Fortunately, the deer flies were not bad now or ever during our journey. I've come to hate deer flies with a passion. Brisk walking at least cuts down on mosquitoes and black flies; deer flies just keep buzzing and biting along in preference to your movement. I killed 73 deer flies during one 50 mile dayon the Appalachian Trail in Connecticut, which eventually I will submit to the Guinness Book of WorldRecords. I have witnesses.
 
As neared Green River the landscape because less alien and more monotonous. Yes, there werespires and mesas you can't see back in Connecticut, but even these were developing a sameness to them.Between bugs, heat and monotony this section was not doing wonders for our mood.While we were hiking through the Dixie National Forest on the previous stretch, Barrett andBuster were somewhere south of us, eventually getting lost. They knew about where we should be andhitchhiked to meet us, joining us in time for the Notom Bed and Breakfast Ranch. Cindy and I hiked outof Notom without Barrett and Buster, as Barrett had a lead for work provided by Ky's friend Jenny.Hiking the whole ADT was no longer feasible for him; he would make his way across the countryalternating between hiking, working and catching up with us.Barrett and Buster next caught up with us in Green River, melon capital of the world, where he joined us as we backpacked through remote country to Moab. We only had to pack for one night spent inthe backcountry, but with no sources of water until we reached Utah 191 that meant loading up our packs.I carried about 1 ¾ gallons; Cindy, 1 ½ gallons. Barrett carried around two gallons but he was also packing for Buster. I found a romantic, pioneering appeal in being dependent on only the water wecarried through the desert.The appeal of this stretch was enhanced by antelope. We saw more on this two day stretch thanon the rest of the journey combined. I remember first watching antelope while hiking through the GreatDivide Basin in Wyoming. They are the fastest hoofed animal in the world. Think about how Secretariatmade the second-place finisher in the Belmont look slow. An antelope would in turn make Secretariatlook just as slow. One is reminded of the Road Runner cartoons as blurred legs and clouds of dust arekicked up while the head and body seem to be gliding along effortlessly.On this journey the only thing that surpassed the spectacle of antelope was what we witnessed inone Nevada box canyon. We were passing though the floor of the canyon, covered with pasture grazedon by both wild animals and cattle. We came upon a large flock of big horn sheep. When they saw us

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