Southeastern Utah—especially Moab—is full of converts, and not so much in a religious sense. These are people formerly of suburbs or cities who cut through this country once on a road trip or came here long ago for a family vacation. They spent a few days surrounded by the vast, unpeopled desert and the clean, welcoming rivers, and the land became a part of them. Years or decades later, they have rejected the urban lifestyle and now work remotely by Internet; own restaurants, breweries, bike shops, or galleries; or do seasonal work—whatever they must to stay here. As much as the red rock, big sky, and nearby mountains, the rich, pioneering energy of these residents makes this part of Utah what it is. For them, this is a place to be reborn.
Although the towns tend to be visually unstimulating in this part of the world, the beauty that surrounds them is off the charts. You can hear about the canyons, arches, natural bridges, and such, but no words come close to their enormous presence. Not even pictures do them justice, and once you’re standing in front of the famed Delicate Arch or riding your bike on an endless stretch of red slickrock, that will become crystal clear. It’s probably why many people come here, actually—to see this place for themselves. Ostensibly, visitors arrive to run the gorgeous stretch of the Colorado River near Moab or to explore the unique landscape of the area’s national parks and monuments. Or perhaps they are history buffs, excited about checking out the ancient ruins and rock art left behind by various Native American tribes. Truly, however, most tourists must come out of curiosity, to find out if this landscape is just as special and disarming as they have heard it is. And although that sort of thing is a personal matter, it’s more than likely that after even a little while in this environment, you’ll understand how it can be so hard to leave.