Veggie Voyagers

Couple travelled 30 states and 3 Canadian provinces between 7/07 and 5/08 running their 1987 Ford truck on straight veggie oil. The blog continues with a focus on the natural world and energy politics from a personal perspective

Sunday, March 30, 2008

to Nevada

After we left Zion we dropped down to LaVerkin and Hurricane, towns that are growing fast, as is St. George. Fruit trees were blooming and the weather was perfect but the hot spring we were looking forward to no longer had hot water so we scooted on through as fast as we could and went up the Silver Reef dirt road (Dixie National Forest) to camp and then continued to St. George that way. We provisioned in St. George which took a chunk of day to get food, propane, showers, water, veggie oil…After that there was no way other than to get on the Big highway (15) but we only made it as far as the Virgin River Gorge Recreation area which was interesting but the rough dirt road going the other direction was what pulled us up into the Beaver Dam Wilderness area (Arizona) and a Joshua tree magical forest where we spent last night.
Now we are in Mezquite, Nevada, on the state line. It is blustery but we’ll continue down toward Lake Mead after we leave here. Michael was able to pick up more veggie oil at a Chinese restaurant here so we feel confident we can make it to Death Valley with the veggie oil we have.

Friday, March 28, 2008


We just rolled into the busy town of Hurricane, Utah after two days in Zion and much longer in very small towns and wide stretches of farms or wildness. Today we were on the Kolab Road, the little visited west side of Zion which is still blocked by snow. This little niche of Indian Paintbrush in the gently layered and eroding sandstone, high above the sage brush valley below, was just one more indication of spring in the high country.

In the Zion canyon we saw trees leafing out and a few early flowers in bloom along with phantom waterfalls and the Virgin River (along with her lofty patriarchs.)
We hiked until night overcame day and it was really spectacular. We very much liked the shuttle system in the park that is a radically practical way to move people to the trailheads and scenic areas without individual vehicles. Now, if they'd just get rid of the snowmobiles on the Kolab Road!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Back up to Bryce

We are at an ATV trail head near Hwy 12 into Bryce Canyon. Michael is processing oil and I have been out exploring through the crunchy snow patches and muddy desert just up to the first line of junipers. There were mountain bluebirds, prairie dogs and the songs of meadow larks.
I was thinking of what might be interesting to you since I’ve left so much out (due to a lack of wifi in this part of Utah.)
First would have to be the accident. An 18 wheeler carrying a full load of hay bales went over on its side on a too fast curve and we stopped to check for injuries. Michael did the initial assessment then left me with the driver while he and some other samaritans shoveled dirt onto fluid spilling from the cab. The driver told me he wished he was dead and I felt he meant it. I held the pain of what he was going through while we waited for the ambulance and found no helpful voice even though I knew that having his life was what mattered…
Then there were the starving cows. Three dead cows had been noted in the trail log by Wolverine Petrified Forest trailhead and the cows we saw there were lethargic and just skeletons and hide. There was nothing for them to eat out there. We went on to the next trailhead at Little Death Hallow and the cows were skinny but not emaciated although we did see one dead along the trail. As soon as we got out of the backcountry we went to the BLM and reported what we’d seen. It’s not that the employee didn’t care but when I was able to pull out magic (glib) words, “If this was happening somewhere else that guy would be behind bars for animal cruelty,” I felt like I’d gotten his attention and he said he’d go out and contact the owner. (I was glad I’d seen Animal Planet a few times and knew the standard of care for animals. ---I just wish sometimes it was as stringent for humans to receive mandatory assistance.)
Bryce Canyon hoodoo country, that we just popped in and out of yesterday, is amazing and it’s also amazing to see how many people are already visiting, despite the snow that impedes a lot of the area. (It’s 8000+ feet.) They come in by the busload from all over the world. It felt like being at Niagara Falls. What stings the mind is watching all these gas and diesel powered vehicles zip by us out there on the highway from St. George or Las Vegas or however far they have come. What sustainable way is there for people to see the great and dispersed wonders of the natural world? The age of travel is soon to be ending for all but the most wealthy and that certainly will shrink some part of who we have become.

(My last name is Nelson...)

Monday, March 24, 2008


We’ve been away from wifi for a number of days. I wrote out blog pieces a couple of times-- Once to greet spring and another on “Good” Friday. (You are spared.)
The wrap up is that we went to Capitol Reef and to Escalante. Spring is still aways off for most of this part of Utah but the cool climate makes it somewhat worth it for hiking in the dry air.
We spent Easter hiking a canyon called Death Hollow. Pretty cheery, heh? (I'll skip the story that goes with the name...)
I’m including some of the best shots from a variety of places… lots of variety and few words, probably is best.
And, Happy Spring!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Lisa's family

We have been in Salt Lake for a few days visiting my old friend Lisa Shavers and exploiting the comforts of her home. Michael is fixing something with her electricity right now so I’m staying calm by writing this.
It was wonderful to see Lisa who I have known since we were both lost Juniors in a St. Louis county high school, both having come from the east coast to Missouri that year. Long story short, she and her husband moved to Salt Lake area in 1967 and I went with them while I was waiting to hear from VISTA. They stayed, had two children, divorced and developed interesting lives, while my life took me west..
Lisa is now retired after 20 years in corrections. (To see my gentle friend with a gun blew me away back in the day she was a parole officer.) John got a PhD and was a psychologist but has retired from practice and now is volunteering with a non profit sending material aid, especially computer parts, to Uganda and elsewhere in the world of need. Their son Andy is off in L.A. but we got to see daughter Laura, her husband Tony and their son Max both at their home and at a fantastic Vietnamese meal last night.
Seeing the generous, sweet dispositions of Laura and Max interacting was really heart inspiring. Knowing people through four generations (I knew three of Lisa and Johns’ parents too in the time we were all younger,) is just like being part of the fabric of something durable and fine.
For many people this is commonplace and unremarkable but for me, who moved around and disconnected from the thread of the past at each new turn, this long friendship is unique and special and treasured.
(We also appreciated the respite from the road. THANKS LISA and doggy Franky and kittie Cheba.)

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Wearing of the Green

My delight was complete when we got to midtown Salt Lake and found the emergence of spring in my friend’s yard. Then the next day we went to this fantastic new library downtown and the daffodils and crocuses were just ON and I couldn’t contain my happiness. There’s something so joyful about flowers unfurling from their protective earth and the color of green mixed with the early whites and yellows of the first flowers...

Monday, March 17, 2008


St. Patrick’s Day. Last year I spent the whole day arriving back to S.F. from Guatemala on St. Patrick’s Day. This year we are dropping into the urban core of Salt Lake for the saint’s day to visit an old friend.
Today we went to Arches National Park and wandered around looking at Arches and I tried to take their photos without humans in their windows. Its spring break and it was unnerving how many people were out on the first cold, then warm, day with us.
After that we drove to Green River where Michael picked up veggie oil at an Arby’s that was part of a truck stop. It was grey rock and grey wind out there. The whole trip up, angling toward Salt Lake has been gray after we left the park. The only remarkable thing was, as in Colorado, hundreds of mule deer grazing the flanks of the roadways. I’m including a photo of the sunset from where Michael processed veggie oil and where we will stay tonight. Not bad, great horned owls are calling for their mates. Hoo hoo happy St. Patty’s Day. Sorry I’ve no green to share with you.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Ides of March

Ah, the Ides of March! We started off innocuously in Moon Blossom Canyon which is a red rock shallow box canyon with sleek sandstone walls and a spring that feeds a small creek so cottonwood and willow. After seeing the rock art there and driving up the main canyon further to see the birthing rock, we headed for one more panel of Ancestral Puebloan history before heading up into the north-eastern section of the Manti-LaSal National Forest to do some skiing. (So Michael and Sasha wouldn’t have some sort of withdrawal symptoms.) The snow was icy and the weather was sharp, in contrast with the Moab Valley. On the way down, heading toward the Colorado River, there was a small bit of weather that made the already dramatic scenery look almost biblical, or Ansel Adams, anyway.
That night, the night we celebrated the 8th month of veggie voyaging, we were awakened in the night and given a 75$ fine for not being parked where camping was allowed. We were parked at a deserted trailhead aptly named “Poisonous Spider.”

Friday, March 14, 2008


This morning I popped up for the dawn. It is easier now that it is less cold.
Soon after, clouds started to squeeze in from the west and before we had gone far it was snowing. Michael, at that point, had to change the veggie oil filter.
Forty miles later we got to Moab, Utah and it was warm and sunny. Michael had success at both a Szechwan and a Thai restaurant. I went wandering on my way to the library and I saw the Don’t Trash mural painted by children with the trash in the foreground. So much for hip Moab...all our communities suffer the same.
One thing’s for sure. The war for our Public Lands is being waged here between the non-motorized and the motorized. The motorized are sponsored by Honda, Harley Davidson, Yamaha and major mining, gas and oil companies. There's a big JEEP hoopla here this weekend so we will process veggie oil, do laundry, provision and get on.

Indian Creek

24 hours. We spent the night above the town of Monticello in the Manti-LaSal National Forest. At dusk we headed up the mountain road past these confused travelers.
Once at the end of the plowed road we skied up further into the mountains on the crusted snowmobile track. The snow was icy and loud but it was good, as always, to get in the scenery and exercise.
The next morning we went into Canyonlands National Park at the south eastern “Needles” area. We walked a number of short trails over the sandstone slabs following cairns that marked the loops we traveled on. We saw fairy shrimp in potholes, an Ancestral Puebloan granary cache, a “newspaper” rock, all manner of shapes and colors in the rocks and in the clouds.

At dusk we left the park and headed into camp on BLM land. It is certainly almost as beautiful but here ORVs have tracked the fragile soils. The silence is as magnificent as the vastness of the land.