Fantasy Canyon
October 15th, 2017

Half a century ago I was blessed to have Goblin Valley all to myself—long before the general public caught wind of it. Nowadays it’s a state park, staffed by rangers whose duties include crowd control, litter removal, and outhouse maintenance. Sure, the colorful rock formations are still there, but it’s tough to take a picture without someone wandering into the frame.

Last week I found my way to Fantasy Canyon, which is smaller, grayer, but equally otherworldly. Happily, I had the place all to myself, which is just the way I like it.

fantasy canyon sign

Fantasy Canyon is hard to find because it sits in the middle of an oil patch. Drill pads, pumping stations, storage tanks pipes and access roads are everywhere. At regular intervals you come to a fork, and because there is precious little in the way of signage, you have to make a decision. Following the advice of Robert Frost, n followed the path less travelled by, and as a result—after only three wrong turns—found the one that leads to Fantasy Canyon. Facilities there consist of two picnic tables, one information kiosk, and an outhouse. On the door of the outhouse is posted a warning sign—something about pygmy rattlesnakes.

pygmy rattlers sign

I opened the door with great trepidation. Where might a pygmy rattlesnake by hiding? I know that snakes inhabit holes, but surely not privy holes. Nonetheless, I took a seat with great caution, ready to spring clear at the first sound of a rattle.

At the information kiosk, I learned that the strange rock formations are the result of prehistoric sedimentation, followed by eons of erosion. Indian legend has it that the twisted rocks are the petrified remains of subterranean demons. More recent Anglo examination has identified no fewer than two dozen cartoon figures, ranging from Mickey Mouse to Dumbo.

fantasy spooky head

I hate myself for saying so, but I wasted an inordinate amount of time in a futile search for Mickey Mouse and Dumbo. Instead, I found mostly gargoyles and screaming witches. A psychiatrist once explained that this is an indication of mental depression, which probably explains why no one ever wants to accompany me on my road trips, and why I once came within a whisker of jumping overboard halfway through The Small World boat ride at Disneyland.

Finding my way back to pavement proved to be a challenge, as I had neglected to lay a trail of bread crumbs. Time and again I would come to an unmarked fork in the road, only to take the wrong fork. At each wrong turn, my GPS unit would commence recalculating, advising me to drive to the “highlighted route.” Problem was, there was no such highlighted route. Night had fallen by the time I finally blundered onto highway 45. Pavement was sweet; even sweeter the breathtaking harvest moon rise over the Colorado Plateau. All’s well that ends well.

Moonrise Hwy 45 copy 2
-Richard Menzies