Bluegrass in red rock country


This past weekend, the HCN interns took a road trip out to nearby Moab, Utah, to experience some of the West's most dramatic landscapes and hear some good ol' tunes at the yearly folk festival.

The sunset faded as we left Colorado, cruising through darkness on I-70 to the Cisco exit. On Utah State Route 128, we passed the historic Dewey Bridge, its charred remains illuminated by the rising moon. At the Fisher Towers campground, the dry, warm air swirled around the sculpted canyon walls and Orion seemed to rest his mighty form along the ridge line.

Rosy-colored marbled spires of rock greeted us with morning’s light. We spent the day out at Canyonlands National Park, climbing down to the valley floor where monolithic rock sculptures hang suspended in time.

Sunday we trekked into town for the Moab Folk Festival, an annual event featuring “traditional, contemporary and multicultural folk music” to help “foster awareness of socio-economic and environmental issues affecting our local, regional and national communities,” with artists like the duo Indigie Femme. Composed of musicians Tash, of the Bitter Water Clan on the Navajo Nation, and Elena, of Maori and Samoan heritage, Indigie Femme performed songs about uranium mining, Native traditions and female empowerment. Alaskan bluegrass band Bearfoot brought some young talent to the stage with their mix of old-time instrumentation, new grooves and beautiful vocal harmonies. The Jimmy LaFave Band rounded out the festival with mellow jams and a few classic covers like Bob Dylan’s “Just Like a Woman,” sharing the stage with another festival performer, the Burns Sisters, for the last few songs.

The outdoor stage was framed by red rock hills behind, where mountain bikers and OHVers have been battling for the past few years--forcing the BLM to step up off-road regulations.

Leaving Moab behind, we meandered back along the Colorado River, thankful that the U.S. Department of Energy has finally started moving 16 million tons of uranium tailings from the riverbanks, and watching somewhat sadly as the bold, soaring canyon walls melted into sweeping plains before reaching the interstate again.