Left Is Often Right
It’s often the left turn you take at the unexpected fork in the road that takes you into the most vivid memories of an adventure. I wonder … is often the preface to the thought and the corresponding snap decision that gets you lost and found again.
I was standing beside a creek in the bottom of a steep canyon talking to a group of cowboys and ladies. They had just finished driving a large group of yearling cows out of the valley and into the higher country to graze. It was my JOB to photograph the cattle drive and their ranch covering a large area around the LaSal mountains of south-eastern Utah. It’s tough work, I know, but someone had to make the sacrifice. As the riders watered their horses and discussed the drive, the lead rider told me of a road I could take to get me into the mountains where they had driven a different group of cattle the previous day. His smile told me that this would be a trip worth my while. Later that day, I took his advise … I’m glad I did.
I’ve seen the LaSal mountains before, but they have always been in the distance serving as a contrasting background to the arches and redrock formations of the valley below. Clif Bar, banana and bottle of water consumed, I turned right onto Upper Two Mile Road and started up the hill. A couple miles in, I ran into the inevitable fork in the road. The sign said that each of the forks led to a pass and a lake or two. The right fork looked more promising for finding grazing cattle … BUT … the left fork headed straight toward the highest peaks and there was no way I could keep my truck from taking it. I could always take the other fork later if I was wrong and I was pretty sure I was.
Passing through some brush and crossing a rather swollen river the fun way, I headed up a wide canyon covered with large aspens and evergreens. Looking left and right for grazing cattle, pole fences, brush corrals and cow camps I instead found spring flowers and green meadows stretching through what seemed to be an almost manicured forest. At nearly any point, I could pull over and walk either direction into the trees without having to negotiate the thick brush and downfall typical to most forested areas. Smaller roads branched off to ridgeline views of the valley below or flower covered clearings to wander in. I did run into several primitive corrals and camp areas but none were yet occupied by the ranch livestock. The road itself was picturesque; lined with trees and crossed by small streams. As I approached LaSal Pass at 10,000 plus feet, the road passed through snow drifts not yet melted and broke out on top. The broad pass was bare and covered by beautiful high-altitude meadow and a couple small but stunning lakes. AND, I had it all to myself.
Nothing against the mind-blowing and other-worldly canyon lands I had been in the days before but the cool 65 degree mountain air and green landscape just emerging with its spring newness was a much needed deep breath. I am very grateful for that left turn.
On a side note. I did take the right fork on the way back. It was beautiful as well AND there were cows. Success.
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