Tag Archives: Utah

You Are Here. (But I’m Not!)

Western United States Landscape

I hope to see sights like this one!

By the time you read this, I won’t be here. No, I haven’t quit or been fired, at least as far as I know. I will be on vacation. And being a conscientious employee, as all our library staff members are, I prepared this blog post before I left.

Currently, I’m somewhere in the mountainous western states. Beginning in Salt Lake City, Utah, we plan to drive in a big, somewhat lopsided circle through the states of Colorado, Wyoming, South Dakota, Montana, Idaho, and back to Utah again. Along the way we will stop to visit as many National Parks and Monuments as we can fit in, including Arches National Park, Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Jewel Cave, Mt. Rushmore, Craters of the Moon, Little Bighorn Battlefield, Golden Spike, Grand Teton, and, of course, the ultimate National Park – Yellowstone.

When preparing for this trip, I did what any good librarian or library user would do, I consulted the library’s travel section. Here are some of the guides I found to be most helpful for planning this trip:

Fodor’s Complete Guide to the National Parks of the West – I probably could have used the book  that also covers the area a little south and east of this one, but this had everything I needed for Yellowstone. I had already made a list of must-see places in Yellowstone from miscellaneous state-specific travel books. In its Yellowstone chapter, this book includes a small call-out box of “Things Not to Be Missed.” I was delighted that everything on my list was also on their list. Even better, they mapped out a two day itinerary that includes all of the hot spots, how to get to them, in what order to see them, where to park, and how long to plan for hiking. By a happy coincidence, two days was exactly how long we were planning to spend in Yellowstone. I am assured that we will have enough time to see what we want to see.

Off the Beaten Path Idaho & Montana & the Dakotas – This series helped ensure that we were not only seeing what is most popular, but what we should see. Included in these books are lots of nifty little places that not everyone knows about. I would liked to have looked at the books about Colorado, Wyoming, and Utah, but they were checked out. If I had started my search sooner, I could have put a hold on them. I plan, but that does not mean I plan far enough ahead.

Roadfood: The Coast-to-Coast Guide to 700 of the Best Barbecue Joints, Lobster Shacks, Ice Cream Parlors, Highway Diners, and Much, Much More by Jane and Michael Stern – I don’t know about you, but when I travel I like to try local food, and avoid national chains. I prefer to dine where the locals do, eat what they like to eat, and generally learn as much as I can about a place through its food. This book reminded me very much of the show on the Food Network, Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. (P.S. I also checked out this web site for local restaurant ideas.) I have a feeling that more than a few good meals in interesting locales are in my future!

I also looked through Moon Handbooks, Fodor’s and Frommer’s travel guides for the states we planned to visit. These series are always a good source for consistently reliable information.

So I hope you got to go someplace good this summer, even if it was your own front porch. Remember, the library always has materials for planning your next getaway, even if you just need a good read for the trip to the sunny spot in your backyard.

-Melissa M.


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trespassing in the desert

Remember back in June when I was trying to decide whether to read  The Devil, the Lovers, and Me: My Life in Tarot by Kimberlee Auerbach or Trespass: Living at the Edge of the Promised Land by Amy Irvine, and I wound up choosing Trespass?  Well, I finally finished it, and it’s my new favorite book.

Trespass captured me from its first line:  “My home is a red desert that trembles with spirits and bones,” and Irvine’s arresting prose continues throughout this unrelenting memoir that chronicles the period of turmoil in her life following her father’s death and during her marriage to a man she describes as the “lion man.” 

Irvine frames her experience against the history of her homeland, the desert of Utah, structuring it with sections named for archaeological terms that summon the symbols and archetypes of the Southwest’s prehistoric inhabitants.  These terms gather increasing weight as Irvine relates them to her own life, continually adding and peeling back layers, as though excavating an archaeological site.  As she refers to the past to inform her present struggle, she summons not only the Anasazi and Basketmakers, but her own ancestors, including her great-great-great grandfather, who was among the founders of the Mormon Church.  Mormon history and doctrine also add dimension, as Irvine outlines its place in the history of San Juan County, Utah, part of the Mormon promised land called Deseret.  The most acute conflict in the book stems from Irvine’s opposing desires to both establish community with her neighbors, and to identify with her belief in wilderness protection and the land’s sacrality—convictions that place her at odds with the rest of the population who are largely religious and culturally conservative ranchers.

In this interview, Irvine discusses the book’s shift in intention and its evolution from an “environmental rant” to an exploration of our shared culpability and responsibility to our environment. 

Trespass is a narrative infused with tension, as Irvine details the internal pull she feels from the conflicting lifestyles and beliefs of the centuries of inhabitants who share only the land in common. Ultimately, the desert is as much the focus as the author herself, and she conjures its images with fierce passion and intimacy, unafraid to implicate herself among those who inhabit it, living imperfectly and seeking transcendence.

Irvine’s intimate knowledge of her home’s history and landscape inspired me to learn more about mine.  If you enjoyed Under the Banner of Heaven, The Dance of the Dissident Daughter, nature writing with edge or tough, intricate memoirs, you should check this book out, and even go ahead and listen to Amy Irvine read an excerpt.


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