On monument time
Less than two hours from the Grand Valley, the remote park straddles Colorado and Utah.
We wander down the gravel Island Park Road — “Impassable when wet,” a sign warns — to Rainbow Park and a simpler time of not so very long ago, days without cellphones or Internet.
Early autumn paints the Green River’s banks in splashes of gold and red. We listen as the whistling notes of bull elks bugling echo off the canyon walls.
At night, the 100 billion stars of the Milky Way glitter over our heads in a sky that is one of the darkest and clearest in the country.
Wisps of morning mist curl from the river’s surface in the mountains’ shadows as rafters quietly paddle toward thundering rapids downstream.
Travel back a thousand years more. We search the cliffs for petroglyphs where the Fremont people chipped out strange figures with trapezoid bodies and antennae in desert varnish. Carvings of lizards, big horned sheep and odd symbols silently stand guard over the monument’s canyons and creeks.
We wander along the edges of cliffs where the Yampa and Green rivers coil hundreds of feet below through layer upon layer of multi-colored rock that dates to the dinosaurs, back to the trilobites.
We are so out of touch with the world, yet so in touch with the land around us.
Suddenly, the outside invades our solitude and drags us back to the present. As we move to the Colorado side of the monument, we discover the government locked the gates.