By John Hales
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Extra info for Shooting Polaris: A Personal Survey in the American West
I’d been experiencing the plateau up close all summer, foot by foot, mile by mile; I was hungry for the long view, the big picture. Nothing, of course, is what it you expect. In the first place, you can see very little in any direction from the actual summit of Navajo Mountain, a place too flat and too wooded to allow much of a view. But if you walk a half mile or so through the woods in a northwest direction, things open up, the orange sandstone brought to light by the slow volcanic blistering that created Navajo Mountain falls away suddenly beneath your feet, and you find yourself staring into what’s left of the narrow gorge carved by the Colorado River over the last several million years, and seeing as though from an airliner the intricate web of the Escalante River and its 16 Shooting Polaris tributaries.
Line was what we followed, what we spent our days honoring, what we cleared safe passage for, what we left engraved into the face of the planet. We did it because it was difficult and inconvenient. We did 38 Shooting Polaris it because we were human beings operating in the world of the Enlightenment, the uncompromising and cruel world of applied perfection. Much of Utah’s landscape cannot be physically occupied by a human being. Sometimes the space is already taken by a centuryold ponderosa pine; sometimes by a forty-five-degree hillside of shale fragments slippery as marbles.
Understandably hesitant to add the smoke of huge coal-fired power plants to the already toxic mix that floated above Phoenix and Los Angeles, the powers-that-be planned to build their generating station close to the source of its fuel, on one of the heretofore undeveloped benches of the Kaiparowits Plateau. All this gave me pause. After all, as anyone who knew me would tell you, I loved nature. As the antiwar movement wound down in response to Nixon and Kissinger’s all-too-successful efforts to sneak out of Vietnam without actually admitting either defeat or culpability, I’d been inclining my political efforts more toward environmental concerns.