When I stepped off the train in Green River, Utah in the middle of April, the train conductor expressed surprise – “I didn’t think anyone would get off here.” I can understand her doubt; the town has a dusty, back-of-beyond feel of slowly being reclaimed by the high desert and withering away to ghost town status. I walked past crumbling, abandoned old beer and pizza joints, their sepia-weathered neon signs clinging to their sides, to reach my old-school, tired motel. When I stepped out to explore, a huge piece of tumbleweed lazily rolled across the highway bisecting town. I felt like I’d stepped into a cliché.
But there’s more to Eastern Utah than just wide, empty high desert spaces and ghost towns. In Green River I found pockets of vibrant life tucked back from the main road – an oasis of green and recreation around the wide, lazy river the town is named after, locals who came back to live in town and raise their kids, and a taco truck that set up at the Shell station at twilight, serving a steady stream of highway traffic and dog-walkers.
I was only in Green River one night, a necessity to catch the local bus service south to Moab. The next afternoon I boarded the recently commenced bus line, Elevated Transit, to Moab, a burgeoning center of adventure sports. Many come here for the off-roading and mountain biking, but I was here for the hiking in nearby Arches National Park.
I’ve already blogged about my adventures in Arches – being adopted by a local family of outdoors men and women, hiking to Delicate Arch and off-roading to a forgotten patch of dinosaur footprints baked into stone along the old and abandoned original road into the park. It was a fantastic day. Some advice for those visiting Arches – go in the spring or fall when daytime desert temperatures are bearable, carry 4 liters of water, and if you must bike the 18 mile road through the park (many do), make sure you rent a light-weight road bike, not the monster of a mountain bike I did. It was so heavy that pedalling up hills felt like my knees and lungs would fall off. I also recommend pacing yourself if you’re not adjusted to the high altitude.
Below is my photo slide show of this often overlooked corner of the West: