Jenya and I took the 4runner out to southern Utah for six days, making up our itinerary as we went along. One early evening we decided to head into some nearby BLM land – where it’s always free to park and camp and you can do whatever the hell you want, pretty much.
We aimed for this geological feature called Parowan Gap, not knowing anything about it beforehand. It’s a waterless wind channel cutting through the Red Hills which also hosts some interesting petroglyphs. We inspected those at a small turnoff as we entered the Gap, then headed up off the road onto some steep, rugged dirt path. We found a lookout flat enough to park our vehicle so we can sleep in the inside of it tonight and not mess with our tent.
The area had this mysterious weight. It’s an uncommon destination on the way to nowhere, so we saw no signs of other living humans except for a few cars passing in the valley below before night fell. But given the carvings in the walls, and the faint clues of previous campers and automotive adventurers, the Gap certainly contained a force, or spirit. We felt alone and exposed up on our hill, yet not alone. We cooked up some dinner sitting on some rocks, watched the stars come out including one that shot across the heavens. Whoa. We felt the winds pick up, then crawled inside the 4runner and went to sleep.
In the middle of the night I woke with a start. A sound. I felt something. What was that? My heart pounding, I remained montionless thinking I was simply experiencing the rush of a nightmare. But then it came again.
The vehicle rumbled as I heard the thing again: something between a sickly moan and an approaching chainsaw. I sat right up and looked out through the fogged up windows into the moonlit haze shrouding our vulnerable 4runner. Nothing is out there. Everything is out there.
The rational part of my brain spun through its roledex of simple explanations. As I lay back down the creature cried out again, shaking the car once more. Sleeping deeply just moments ago, the semi-active dreamy corners of my consciousness pulled out all the stops. It’s a UFO. It’s an earthquake. It’s some native american god angered by our presence. It’s distant nuclear war. It’s the revelation. It’s a gamma ray burst. It’s the Nothing. I spent several long minutes having a nigh religious experience. Am I even alive anymore?
But as these very real sensory waves kept washing over me I became solaced by two things: First, I’m still here – if there was something “out to get me” it would have done so by now. Second, Jenya was peacefully snoring next to me this entire time. She is okay, and therefore I am okay.
Now calmed by these conclusions, I was finally able to sort out the reality with some clarity. Given we’re parked on this hillside in this range that exists inside an otherwise very flat expanse, we are getting bombarded by winds which just so happen to be sliding underneath the vehicle at the perfect rate to rattle the undercarriage and resonate the frame. So that’s what I’m hearing. And that’s what I’m feeling. I calmed down. And, eventually, I could sleep again.
In the morning I left the car and rejoined the world. Now outside of my cocoon I almost laughed as I got gently nudged by the breeze, as it now seemed so very common and weak. So be it. You haven’t really lived until you stared down the demons until they back off – and then perch yourself outside under a wide sky, vulnerable and alone, and piss right onto the face of the earth.