JUST SAY WHOA
Astride the 7,000 foot saddle at the southern base of the Manti-La Sal mountains, sits the sleepy little cow town of La Sal, Utah. The township is a small corral of 400 residents, divided between Old La Sal, with its scrub oak and ponderosa pine and New La Sal with its late-summer blooms of rabbit brush and sage.
Local lore has resident cattle companies owning the largest U.S. Forest Service grazing permit for 6,780 head in 1927. In the fall, cattle drives often slow vehicle traffic along Highway 46. Ranching remains a significant economic factor here, but recreation and mining now ride herd. Its frequent multi-year droughts and distance from basic services make year-round living in La Sal a challenge.
My front door in New La Sal opens north to South Mountain, with the Henry Mountains to the west, the Abajo Mountains to the south, and on occasion, a faint, yellow haze from the Navajo Generating Station, a coal-fired power plant near Page, Arizona.
Off the back porch to the south, I can see the top rung of Three Steps Hill with Lone Dome – the sentinel for the San Juan National Forest in Colorado, as well as oil storage tanks and gas drill rigs to the east.
Dismounting from the eastern stirrup of the saddle, a dusty rider would step down near Bedrock, Colorado where the Dolores River runs perpendicular to, rather than parallel with, the Paradox Valley.
A scratch under the saddle reveals the underground grid of the uranium and vanadium Pandora Mine Complex.
A dismount towards the west lands the traveler in the sandstone canyons of the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park. In 2012, Canyonlands withstood bucket list-induced treads of over 900,000 human hooves.
A bucked throw north, up over Mount Tukuhnikivats, sends the launched rider into Moab, home to whatever wheels you. Barrels of bicyclists, jeeps, trail bikes, and other off-road vehicles spill into the desert annually.
The purview from atop this high horse could easily spur an apocalyptic gallop, yet despite our worn-out Western tack, we hold the reins.
Pull back and just say Whoa.
Author: Deborah Hughes
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