I’d moved out to the Four Corners so I could savor the solitude, 11 miles from the nearest town (pop. 1,000), five hours from the nearest city. But that wasn’t solitudinous enough. So I drive out to Escalante, hundreds of miles from home. But that’s not enough aloneness. So I muck along a wet dirt track for 57 miles. But no, that ain’t enough seclusion. So I hike four miles to the very end of the road, just so I can escape YOU. But that’s not enough sweet desolation either, because there are so many of you, you might drive up in a car and find me, you my adoring public. So I hike out over a sea of stone after road’s end, exposed to the driving rain as I tramp in the jaws of headwinds over roiling waves of the white froth of Navajo Sandstone, to the edge of a cliff.
And finally, finally, finally I have reached a spot miles and miles from the nearest person. And as the bolts of sun pry apart the steel ceiling of rain, and pour its numinous fallstreaks over Navajo Mountain, I hear a rumble, several diagonal miles below. And I peer down, and there is-, there is…a motorboat. A little while later, a giant houseboat chugs up. Someone cups their hands and yells up at me: HEY! And waves.
I can’t escape you, no matter how hard I try.
I spend the day contemplating the mountain, dodging soaking showers as I take shelter beneath natural alcoves when the rain falls too hard. Scarves of gray, snow-making clouds swallow Navajo Mountain. Thunderstorms build my way from its summit. It’s tempting to use the alcoves as shelter, but all rock is to some extent conductive. Better to make for lower ground. I head to the blowouts between sandstone domes. There, gardens of paintbrush and bunchgrass and the occasional mountain mahogany invite me into a gentler, sheltered world.
After the thunder passes overhead, I wander back to the cliff’s edge. Sandstone islets shimmer in aquamarine sleeves of water. Their tawny shoals extend below glittering waters in spectral fingers that seem like till suspended in the lake. Across the water, Cottonwood Canyon wends east. The San Juan Expedition continued their trek there through galleries of cottonwood, until I can no longer see the trees, the canyon, or the Mormons as their story and their trail disappear into the past.
Rising north, thousands of giant amethyst blocks, broken yet smooth and polished, lay like potsherds that will never be reassembled. Somewhere in that direction, the Escalante Canyons are buried behind cliffs and hillocks, beneath hogbacks and arches in the foreground. On that horizon, the sharp, diamond white shapes of the Henry Mountains jut their summits just over the orange brink of land.
I spend the day here, looking at a mountain. The idea comes: what if there were others who wanted to escape the public’s prying eyes? Maybe, like those in Area 51, they wanted to conduct experiments. They might build a site under a mountain, a vast excavation, like NORAD did. And the mountain itself would need to be remote, in the middle of nowhere. In the novel, The Mind Altar, that’s exactly what the government did. Went out into the desert, to a remote mountain, and began conducting experiments on the world’s most dangerous men. In this novel of horror and mystery, the results may surprise you. It surprised them.
To get to Hole-in-the-Rock Road: The way is easy. As you head into or out of the town of Escalante along Highway 12, take the well-signed Hole-in-the-Rock Road which comes in on the south of the highway about 5 miles east of town. Do not confuse this site with the tourist trap of the same name along Highway 191 just south of Moab.