On our 40 day trip, we visited southern Utah to see the rock monuments made famous by early western like Stagecoach (John Wayne’s first movie). This place is powerful, both in size and scope. We cane directly from the north and descended over 1,000 feet into the valley below on one of the scariest switchback gravel roads I have ever encountered. Valley of The Gods is near the four corners area, a place where, during The Red Scare, plutonium was mined and shipped all over the south west to sites like Los Alamos for use in atomic war machines. The land is naturally saturated with the ore, and reverse osmosis technology is utilized to make drinking water safe for the local population.
In the pictures I share, you might notice smokey haze all around. Even in a desert, we are still feeling the forest fires from Idaho and Yellowstone. The sunrise above is red for this reason. By our second day here, winds picked up and carried the smoke another direction. Though the people who live in and around this valley have little fear of fire, they are aware of drought which has gripped this region for over 15 years. August is usually the time of monsoon rains all over the south west, but here in southern Utah, there has been little rain during this month, and no sign of things changing any time soon.
The Navajo once wandered this range with their sheep, left by the Spanish explorers in the 1600s. The tribes have moved on, as without rain nothing will grow and the animals starve, then the people. In this valley, there is only one house, of stone, a bed and breakfast operated by a wonderful couple who are passionate about ecology and the environmental movement. They chose to live here for many reasons, the view alone is incredible. They also love the remoteness; their nearest neighbors are some miles away and you can see no other human built structures from the house. But the drought is starting to pressure even them. After 25 years, the house is for sale, only to the right people of course. Whom ever does try to take on this space will contend with a low producing well, having to haul water from 45 min. away each day, and lots of alone time.
All over the southwest, drought is taking a deep hold. We noticed hardy plants like willow dying back, and even cacti were struggling. Our hosts informed us that in the past five years, they have watched most of the vegetation in the region turn brown and wither away. The bastion of green around the house is maintained through grey water systems. Their roof catchment cistern never fills, and they must haul a tank back and forth on a truck which at least runs of vegetable oil. The writing is on the wall, deserts are becoming deserted. For people who watch weather for 25 years and have some experience with ecology, it is impossible to deny that the climate here is changing, and not for the better.