Careening across the desolation of Nevada and Utah is perhaps the closest Abby and I will ever get to a moon landing. We listened to a podcast about asteroid impacts and the extinction of the dinosaurs as we sped over the bone dry rainshadow of the Sierra Nevada, and onto the post-apocalyptic wasteland of the Great Salt Flats. We waded into the toe-deep brine-bath which housed a perfect facsimile of the mountains ahead. We were overcome by subliminality; beauty that does not comfort, but instead hits you like a freight train of inconceivable alienation. It's a beauty that left me hollow, small, alone, afraid.
And now we're supposed to play a show in Salt Lake City? In the middle of a moon landscape? Do they have spacesuits for us to wear? Because I don't see how we can do it.
But holy smokes, we were enveloped by such warm hospitality that soothed our desert skin and made us feel at home after eight hours of wonderful dystopia.
The house show was set up by Taylor, one of the most joyous humans in existence, and Mallory, a lovely host with an apartment full of stained glass windows, pizza, and a chandelier. We played well into the night, and the aftershow included covers of John Prine, Beyonce, and Miley Cyrus.
We made a new friend at the show named Dale Forrister who offered to take us on a hike in the mountains the next day. He's a Tree Ecologist, and yes his last name is actually Forrister. Unintentional puns are the best.
This hike was so mind blowing, y'all. Since Abby and I have been meditating on senses lately, I'm going to use each of the five senses to describe it to you. And even then, I may not do it justice.
First off, smell. There was sagebrush and decaying aspen leaves. There was abundant Alpenfroid (see the post on Smellelegance), and the cold refreshment of newfallen snow air.
Sound: Quaking aspen leaves shivering in the wind. Aspens are called Populus tremuloides, and if you've ever seen an aspen grove in even a light breeze, you know that they sure do tremble. It's like ocean waves, or falling sand, the original static. It's one seemingly unanimous sound that is really the composite of millions of individual quivers. And we really were within this sound.
Also, the sound of echoes. The mountains all around funneled and reflected yells and hollers into fractal patterns of gullies and crevasses, sending them back in waves of ghost songs.
Taste: Sagebrush doesn't taste very good, turns out.
Touch: The alpine sunlight bathing our skin. The talcum-powder consistency of Aspen bark that we used as makeshift sunscreen (SPF 5, holla). The pounding of our feet on the dirt and rocks as we went racing down the trail playing tag. The icy daggers of a well aimed snowball.
Sight: Oh. My. God. I saved the best for last. Neither I nor Abby had ever seen the mountains in autumn, and my oh my we could never have predicted just how incredible the sight would be. The aspens turn everything to gold. Swaths of gold leaf swaddle the mountainsides. Walking through a grove is like swimming in a sea of liquid gold. The air itself turns to honey. I'm a huge Tolkien fan, and I imagined us entering the woods of Lothlorien. Every shade of yellow was represented simultaneously, in solid, liquid, and vapor form. And we, by some unbelievable blessing, got to experience it.
But it's not JUST yellow. From the top of the little crag we hiked to, we could see every hue imaginable. There are scrub oaks (Quercus gambelii, thanks Dale) that turn orange and red, geranium leaves turn crimson and purple, the mountains themselves are topped with a dusting of the purest white snow. Your whole damn field of vision is overwhelmed by too many colors to possibly distinguish.
This is beauty that comforts and warms, friendship and camaraderie that break the isolation of the open road. We are so filled up.
Until next time, SLC
PS: We named the crag we spent time at "Mystery Poop Mountain" because we saw this unidentifiable scat on top! Can anyone ID it??