Photos by Darren M. Edwards
From a distance the hills and brush that rise from the base of Southern Utah into magnificent rusted bluffs look welcoming, like you could pick any shady spot to lie down for an afternoon nap. Having spent years hiking and rock climbing in Southern Utah, I know better. Those bunches of green brush that look like piles of dyed cotton are actually poking, snagging, obstacles to avoid. Up close, the crafted red hills are coated in loose dirt that always seems to find its way into your eyes. The landscape that seems to pop with color is often popping with allergens.
These added details, the kind you get from dirty, up close experiences with a place, are important. They make a place more real. They aren’t always pleasant—I’ve never enjoyed the feeling of a branch raking across my leg—but they, in the end, are meaningful. After all, the Southern Utah wilderness isn’t dissected by hiking trails because people only want to see the area from a distance.
Sometimes my favorite thing to do after a day rock climbing is to sit on the hood of my car and take in the view of the area I’ve just been in. It’s not that one view is better than the other, but rather that the experience cannot be complete without enjoying them both.