Moab in November

Paul E. Anna
High Points

Talk to people in Moab and you’ll hear a lot of the same stories that you hear from folks in Aspen. Largely the theme is, “It ain’t what it used to be.” Even before the influx of folks in “The Great Pandemic Migration” there was change in the wind and the locals were starting to feel it.

Just like here.

But the thing about here and there is that nature still reigns supreme. Sure, the towns themselves may be compromised by the tenor of the times and the wealth and the greed that has come to own them, but just beyond the borders of the towns the majesty of the mountains and the beauty of the valleys is still largely intact. The actual lure of these places remains unchanged.

It was on a drive this past week on what is known as SR 128 (Utah State Route 128) from Cisco, through the Castle Creek Valley into Moab, that I had a moment to contemplate the state of the state in our two connected areas. Moab has long been the offseason desert getaway destination for Aspenites looking for a little hit of sunshine and warmth on either end of the ski season. For generations, the drive to Moab and the crossing of the Dewey Bridge (until 2008 when it was burned by kids playing with fire) was an Aspen ritual. Camping in the sand aside the muddy Colorado river and taking a hike up the sides of Fisher Towers or a bike ride on the slick rock is so closely tied to us here in Aspen that it almost seems like we are sister cities.

And what a beautiful sister she is. As I cruised down the highway at magic hour on a 60-degree November afternoon, the light and the lengthening shadows painted the most incredible tableau. To the northwest, across the river, the immense walls of rock formed by the centuries of the flowing river were aglow in the last sun of the day. The rock formations cast shadows that were taller and longer than the biggest buildings on the planet. And through it all the river flowed in seeming silence, just as it has done for thousands of years.

Stunning. Like a sunrise at the Maroon Bells or a morning atop the Highland Bowl, it felt like we were in a place that was as special as it was timeless.

Alas, when we ended the 44-mile scenic drive, known as the Upper Colorado River Scenic Byway, and took the left turn into Moab, we were back in civilization. The Friday afternoon traffic, even in this, the offseason, was thick as weekend visitors flocked to the markets and the state sanctioned liquor store that, by law, closes at 6 p.m., leaving the region high and dry for those looking for something harder to drink than a 5% ABV beer.

The moral of the story, and the lesson learned once again, is that as the world has changed, we need to reinforce the notion that the beauty remains just beyond the borders of the resort towns that play host to the visitors. We may not like the crowds that pour into our desert and mountain oases, but if we just get out among it, 99% of what is beyond the borders still is home to eternal natural beauty.

You just have to make the effort.