When Facebook friends meet in a ghost town in Utah.

Wednesday May 22, 2013

Two weeks. Two weeks is how long it took for me to forget how to put on makeup. Today was our “mellow day”—all we had planned was a scenic couple-of-hour-roundtrip drive up to Kolob Reservoir on the top of a nearby mesa and meeting our Facebook friend Jacqueline Whitt in real life. She wanted to show us the ghost town of Grafton, where scenes from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid were filmed. So in honor of interacting with another human personally, we both cleaned up.

Mike shaved (complaining of having to use my pink “lady razor”) and I put on makeup. Or tried to. I put on mascara first, then put on eye pencil, and gummed up both.

I came to show Mike. “I forgot how to put makeup on.”

He looked. (This is the man who has an incredible eye and yet never seems to notice anything about my appearance.)

“What happened? You might want to do it over.” (I looked like Tammy Faye Bakker, eyelashes clumped and askew, chunks of black on my cheeks.)

I had to do it all over again, in the right order: sunscreen on face. Coverup on eye bags. Eye pencil. Eye shadow. THEN mascara. Voila! (I hardly recognized the glam queen in the mirror, I’d gotten so used to naked face) Anyway, we did our scenic drive and saw a few really wonderful things: a field of grain with red formations in the background.

Amber waves of grain. I cut some for Jacqueline on the side of the road (it's not in the Park.)

Amber waves of grain. I cut some for Jacqueline on the side of the road (it's not in the Park.)

A blue reservoir like a wind-ruffled gem with a couple in a bass boat, fishing (we were jealous) and a lot of real estate signs on the summer cottages in the tiny community of Kolob. Didn’t hike (the one we were interested in, “the Subway” was a seven hour hike) but did have an excellent lunch at the Majestic View Lodge (boasting an alarming taxidermy museum, complete with polar bears and wolves taking down a moose, all realistically posed and creepily dead) before meeting our new friend Jacqueline at the turnoff to Grafton.


We were both excited to meet our Facebook friend IRL “in real life”and I presented her with the sheaf of grain (or weeds, not sure) I’d cut on the side of the road, and big Hawaii hugs. We took off together in our Jeep for a graveyard where her four-times removed uncle was buried.

The sun was directly overhead and we chased a photophobic foot-long lizard called a “whiptail” through picturesque pink Navajo sandstone gravestones, and then went on to what was left of the village of Grafton. Settled by hardy and determined Mormons, Grafton was wiped out by flooding of the Virgin River several times, not to mention an Indian attack in the 1800’s (that took her uncle’s life.) After these setbacks, the disheartened settlers pulled up stakes and moved on, leaving sturdy buildings in brick handmade from the red-clay soil of the Virgin River.

The desert heat seemed to have preserved everything very well, and we enjoyed wandering in the old buildings and having a look at a lifestyle that proves people were tougher a hundred years ago.

On our drive to see an abandoned barn for a photo op, we passed a berry field where a family of “polygamists” as Jacqueline called them, were picking fruit. They wore the long dresses and traditional outfits I’d read about in the big People magazine article on them. Mike already had his camera out, and when they saw that, the whole family ran behind a big clump of berry bushes.

It was weird to have this moment, spotting a group I feel strongly against as a social worker due to their sexual practices with young girls and violation of childrens’ rights, out doing something so lovely and natural—picking berries in their traditional garb, in an antique setting. (The only jarring note was a big twelve-passenger white van they’d driven right into the field and parked, and Jacqueline pointed out they were trespassing, too.)

Well, this is Utah after all, where taxidermy hasn’t gone out of style.

We said goodbye to Jacqueline and she tootled off in her awesome VW van. We drove back to Springdale, and the Zion Hawaiian Shave Ice stand was open!

I confess to a touch of homesickness brought on by the desert, the graveyard, and the polygamists. It was cured by a “real” shave ice and the lovely lady who served it to us—said the owners were in Volcano Park on Big Island and are real Hawaii people. It felt good to hear that.

Back at the Lodge we took a two hour nap; woke up and decided to hike to the Emerald Pools since this was our last night and Mike wanted to see the spot where I’d had such a God-moment. So, we did, and it was glorious again but in a different way: the pool was filled with a deafening chorus of indigenous native frogs, all beeping and rebeeping and having an orgy everywhere you looked in the sacred pool. It was strangely emotive and totally unique, and we spent a long time there photographing and videoing, too.

We didn’t get “home” (three nights in the same bed makes Zion Lodge home!) until almost 9:00 p.m. We drank wine out of hotel cups and ate sandwiches from the cooler out on our little deck in the gloaming. Mike aimed his camera on super-slow shutter speed at the spot where Google said the moon would rise above the shoulder of the mountain—and it did, sliding out like a coin trick into the warm night filled with bat-song and a smell like cotton candy that our new friend Jacqueline says is a tree that blooms by the river.

Utah is profoundly beautiful and full of surprises—frog orgies, shave ice, new friends, cults and every kind of taxidermy.

I’d say we fit right in here.

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