In praise of place: the dry lands (part 12): Island in the Sky
When I first read about Island in the Sky Mesa it was probably in something written by Edward Abbey — could have been Desert Solitaire, though I wouldn’t swear to it. Regardless, if you were a lad filled with wanderlust, how could you not get excited about a place with a name like that?
Most places with wildly exotic names, I’ve come to learn, don’t live up to their nomenclature — but Island in the Sky proves that some do, and gives us cause to keep seeking them out.
When I first traveled here in the late 1970s, the road atop the mesa was unpaved graded dirt. Though prime summer vacation season, I found that I had the campground all to myself — until a small group in a travel trailer pulled in near dusk and disturbed the natural order of things by playing John Denver on their tape player loud enough that one might have heard it from the White Rim Trail halfway down the cliffs below.
These days, the mesa road system is paved, and the tourist flow is steady and strong. But the mind-expanding views are still stunning, making a visit to this magical place as desirable as ever.
As these photos show, mid-afternoon on a sunny summer day is not optimal, either for creature comfort (it gets really hot, and good luck finding shade) or photography. But don’t let that stop you from going if that is your only window of opportunity.
From these expansive heights, the future looks bright — almost anything seems possible.