Kanab & Alton, UT – Whoa!!!

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Kanab and Alton, Utah

July 15-19 (and again August 21-26, 2008) - We left the cool pine

woods of the North Rim of the Grand Canyon in Arizona, and

descended into the flat, hot desert floor of Utah to the north.  Kanab,

Utah, is the only town of any size (pop. 3,800) between several

national parks:  Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce Canyon and Grand

Staircase Escalante.

It is a charming community tucked up against a row of red

rock mountains.  At this time of year the town is loaded with

rental RVs and foreignors.  Groups of Europeans were

caravaning in their rental RVs, hanging the flags of their

homelands off their radio antennas and in the back windows.

Our weeks in the woods at

the North Rim had emptied

our shelves completely, so

we stayed for a few days to

replenish everything.  We

were fortunate that the

monsoons were still very

active.  Even though Kanab is

at 4,900 feet elevation, it was

blazing hot in the sunshine.

The cloud cover and

downpours in the

afternoons kept us

from sweltering.

Kanab's city park

features beautiful

gardens and a brand

new huge swimming

pool and water slide

that was packed to the

gills with happy kids all

day.  While we strolled among the flowers, the park's longtime caretaker

described the boisterous family fun of the Mormon Pioneer Days that are

celebrated with an enormous city-wide barbecue in the park's barbecue pit.

Hundred of kids and families spread out on the grass on the July 24th

weekend to celebrate the unique heritage of the Mormons who settled

Utah with great purpose in the mid-1800's.

Behind the park, Squaw

Trail climbs up a canyon

to heights way above the

city, passing steep red

rock walls along the way.

We clambered up the trail,

shouting "hello" at the

tops of our lungs as the

trail took us ever deeper

into the canyon.  I have

never heard such a

perfect echo with such a long time delay.  As we

shouted, it was as though the canyon walls were

shouting back at us, each word enunciated with

absolute clarity.

The bird's eye view of Kanab from the top of the

cliffs was worth the sweat we lost getting there.  We

had often hiked similar trails around Phoenix in the

olden days, but this trail was unique because it was

utterly quiet.  We didn't pass one other person on

the entire trail.  From the top of the mountain we

could hear the town's internal workings below:  a

tractor in a distant field, a motorcycle rumbling down

the main street, kids playing ball in a back yard.

The air around us was perfectly still, and these quiet

murmurs from the town's streets drifted slowly up to

us on sun-drenched air currents.

The rocks were every

shade of orange and

red.  Some faces were

rainbow streaked, with

stripes formed over the

ages, offering a full

array of orange-hued

swirls and bands.  As

we climbed back down,

we found furnace-hot

rock faces were now

baking the spots where

there had been cool

shade during our ascent.  The beauty filled our senses, but this red rock

desert environment is unforgivingly harsh in the sun.

The road leading north

out of Kanab is

stunning, without being

showy.  Crowded in

among tourists and

locals hurrying along

this busy stretch of

road, I caught myself

gaping at the exotic

cliffs that lined its

edges.

Over eons, the darker hues of

some red rocks have dripped

lazily down the lighter colored

cliffs, leaving dribbled stains on

the rock face like an old paint can.

August 21, 2008 - We saw a small

road on the map leading away

from the highway to a dot marked

"Alton."  Accepting this open

invitation into the hinterlands, we

hoped no cars would want to

share the one-lane road with our

behemoth truck and trailer as we

approached the town.  We arrived

unscathed, but found ourselves

hopping out of the truck each time

the power lines crossed the road,

worried that the buggy would snag its

roof on the low-hanging wires.

Tucked away, far from anything, amid

farmlands that stretch as far as the

eye can see, this picturesque tiny

town charmed us with its "Whoa" stop

signs and warm welcome from

people working in their yards.

We asked a man in a cowboy hat

where we might find a place to park

for the night, and he suggested the town hall parking lot.  "Really?"  we asked.  "I'm the mayor,

and it's okay with me!"  Another fellow, Paul, set his shovel aside for over an hour to chat with us

about the town and its history.  He told us the mayor, Claren Heaton, was the great-grandson of

the town's founder, and that the name of the town was drawn from a hat, back in 1908, by two-

year-old Gwen Heaton, as the citizens of the new town looked on.

He said it is not unusual to see a horse

strolling down the street, and that no one

minds.  With just 134 people in town,

there's no such thing as a strange face,

human or equine.  100% of the citizens

are Mormon, he said, adding, "probably

80% are related to each other too."

As we talked, Paul's fifth cousin three

times removed, Victor, pulled up.  He

parked his truck in the middle of the

road to join our conversation.  We

were on the main drag, and Mark and

I looked up nervously when a truck

approached in the distance.  Paul and

Victor laughed and assured us there was no need to move: the truck would go around us.

We watched in amazement as the man in the truck, marked "Sheriff," waved "hello" to our

little group, and then drove off the road into the dirt to get past.

We rode our bikes throughout

the town, utterly delighted with

the prettiness and happiness of

this little community.  We eagerly

jumped off the bikes every few

minutes to snap pictures.

Without being backward or old

fashioned, this miniscule hamlet

seemed untouched by the rest

of the world, living in peace, and

removed from time.

So we had to laugh when we discovered we had a wi-fi signal in the trailer.

But the joke was on us.  Mark popped off an email to his cousin, describing this wonderful town we'd discovered.  Almost instantly,

he received a reply, complete with a link to the Alton, Utah, website showing the long line of Claren Heatons' ancestors that had

been mayors of the town before him.  Mark's cousin also included a link to Alton's satellite photo on Google Earth, detailed enough

to see the shed next to where we were parked.

At peace, yes.  Removed from time, perhaps.  Out of touch, hardly!

We spent the summer of 2008 bebopping around southern Utah.  Two of our most heartwarming experiences were the

discoveries of two unusual Utah animal sanctuaries:  Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, a no-kill domestic animal sanctuary in

stunning Angel Canyon, the Southwest Wildlife Foundation which rehabilitates and reintroduces native fauna.