“It don’t rain in Green River” – the desert

After leaving US50 (which was pretty dry) it got really dry. Interstate 70 was an unexpected pleasure. We’d thought it was simply the quickest was to get to our next destination but it travels through some amazing scenery – including the San Rafael Swell, an eroded anti-cline (hope my geologist parents are impressed) with fantastically coloured layers of rock.

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Thunder clouds had been gathering all afternoon and we could see lightning and rain the distance so when we got to the Green River State Park campground Eddie asked the camp host if it might be going to rain. The man looked at Eddie in disbelief, “It don’t rain in Green River – it’s the desert”. “Ever?” asked Eddie. “No.”

Eddie’s conversation-opening gambit of making an observation about the weather isn’t working here. A comment like “What a great day” is met with blank looks and several times a surprised laugh. The weather is pretty much the same from one day to the next so Eddie is going to have to come up with another tactic to get people talking.

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When we arrived at the Green River campground the temperature was 105 F, way too hot to do anything, although I got wilting down to a fine art. We couldn’t even start cooking dinner until after it went dark. It was pretty cosy in the van that night. An unexpected pleasure the next day was the John Wesley Powell Museum. Green River is only a small town so I wasn’t expecting much (how often do people think this about Hokitika Museum?) but it was excellent. Powell was a one-armed civil war veteren who in 1869, with a party of tough men, explored the previously unknown and uncharted Green and Colorado Rivers in 16ft long wooden boats. The journey from Wyoming to downstream of Grand Canyon took months and included many terrifying rapids. Three men, who thought that carrying on was suicide, left the party to try and walk out but were killed by the local tribe. The rest made it but most of the men never wanted to see the river again. Except Powell, who went back in 1871. It is a great story told really well through an audio-visual which recreates the journey with men paddling replica wooden boats through the rapids – frightening to watch!
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From the museum we drove to Canyonlands National Park. I was worried about how hot it was going to be but thankfully it was cloudy and the temperature didn’t get much above 90 F. We loved this park, lots of great rocks and it was cool enough to do a few walks though basically it is like a long scenic drive with overlooks (lookouts) and interpretation panels.
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Late in the afternoon we drove to neighbouring Arches National Park which was quite different considering they are close. We drove into the Devil’s Garden Campground and were initially a bit disappointed with our site – it was opposite the toilets and not flat – but we sorted that out and had a good night.

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Next day we checked out some of the arches themselves. The light wasn’t that great but we took lots of photos anyway, along with everyone else. There must be many millions of photos taken of the arches each year! Next stop – the land of the ancients.
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About Julia Bradshaw

Historian and writer living in Hokitika, New Zealand. Special interests are the goldrushes, the West Coast of New Zealand, crime and the stories of women and Chinese on the goldfields. Also keen on tramping (hiking) and involved in the Mt Brown Hut Community Project.
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