Today we were back to our favourite park, the under-rated, rarely visited Canyonlands. After haggling a little with the trailer park owner about ATV rental costs ($299 for four hours?! No way), we went to the national park for the stunning vista points.
Canyonlands is especially dramatic but – as explained by a friendly ranger Nathanial, whose geology talk we attended and hi-jacked – the park doesn’t have any of the iconic images which its sister parks have adopted as logos eg south rim, delicate arch, Zion canyon. Plus, it is less accessible – there is no fancy lodge, no restaurants or motels or gas stations. Just how we like it.
We kept the ranger talking far too long about dark tourism and ghost towns and Chernobyl (he expressed his interest in going and we reminded him that there was a war on), so much so that he missed the start of his next talk. After a few short hikes along the rim and some photos of massive, prehistoric ravens, we headed back to our ghost town for more exploring.
On a creaky old sign at the edge of town was a crude, hand-drawn map suggesting a route to Indian pictographs and Sago, another ghost town. We drove our car as far as we dared along the town’s dirt-road, passing more creepy half-inhabited houses, including one whose fence was adorned with what I can only assume are the pelvis bones of unlucky female hikers, then parked up at the side of the road to hike the rest of the way.
The Indian pictographs were interesting but also quite disconcerting – there seemed to be a trend among drawing what are undoubtedly aliens. Tall, elongated figures with hollow eyes who hold serpents and all manner of other creepy paraphernalia. Maybe the X Files was on to something with all that Anasazi bullcrap.
A further two miles from the alien landing stop, we found the remnants of Sago. A small mining town obviously fallen to ruin, with interesting wooden bridges and little mining huts. While exploring one of the huts, I noticed the unmistakable smell of death (after my work with the SDPD, I know what dead bodies smell like). I saw a dark suited man standing by the ruin. He disappeared the second I noticed him. My first ghost in a ghost town!
We found a few collapsed houses, some bullet-ridden Bonnie and Clyde cars and a stone building that may have been a bank. I love ghost towns, especially when you come across a piece of humanity – some clothing, a cup, a scrap of wallpaper lovingly chosen. A place of hope now left as sad, lonely little memories, trapped in time because their owners have fled.
On our way back to the car we found more ruins and what may have been a cemetery. Jack-rabbits followed our drive back to the trailer, where the sun was just starting to set. As the evenings grew colder, we grew more anxious about the dropping temperatures and whether we’d freeze to death on our camping trip. I guess it depends if the mountain lions eat us first.