A day and a half after my car died in the Wasatch Mountains above Salt Lake City I was on the road again. The new radiator resting under the hood of my Ford Explorer promised that I could drive anywhere, do anything. With that I left Interstate 15 behind me and took the backroads into the southern half of the state. The road led past farm after farm and into a range of hills. The sun slipped lower on the horizon and soon I found the lights of my car guiding me down a dirt road through long lost canyons. Hour after hour I drove without seeing another car. Finally, near two in the morning I pulled off the abandoned road onto a little dirt track. I popped open the back of the Explorer, pulled out my air mattress, flicked on the air pump, then tossed it onto the roof of the car.
Ah! Sleeping out under Utah’s summer stars. It doesn’t get much better than that.
I laid down on my back, crossed my arms under my head, and after staring at the stars for a few minutes drifted off to sleep.
I’m still not sure what woke me. There was no sound, no phone alarm, no passing car . . . nothing. And yet I woke and glanced around. Far to the east a hint of gray grew on the horizon. Dawn was coming.
I slid off the roof of the car, stretched, and threw my still deflating mattress into the back of the Explorer. Bryce Canyon awaited. How many miles away it lay I wasn’t sure, but my hope was to be standing on its rim when the sun’s first beams cracked the horizon.
Half an hour later I drove through the still sleeping town of Tampico, Utah. A yellow hue lay on the horizon. How long did I have? Twenty minutes? Ten? I sped up a little and soon found myself parking at an overlook on the rim of Bryce Canyon National Park. I pulled out my camera, checked the memory card and batteries, and jogged toward the edge of the canyon. Five minutes later the first beams of a glorious, warm, summer sun peaked over the edge of the world and ignited the reds, oranges, and golden yellow cliff walls of the park. I couldn’t capture the scenes fast enough. After firing off frame after frame, after recomposing the picture and firing again, I paused and swung the camera back down to my hip. For a few minutes I paused to take in the awe-inspiring beauty of the vista in front of me.