If I had moved to the sagebrush plains of The Great Basin, I don’t think that I could have handled the change in landscape, but moving to the Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area was sort of like stepping through the wardrobe into Narnia. The first time we skirted around the frozen blue reservoir through the crimson rock formations with their white caps of snow, I knew that if any of my previous friends had had any interest in nature they surely would have liked this place. Water was in abundance and we were nestled up against the tree-covered north face of the Uintah Mountains.
We lived in a town of about 300 residents called Dutch John. The town is like four blocks of suburbia cut out from a regular city and plopped down in the high mountains. The town was formed during the construction of the Flaming Gorge Dam. In order to live in the town, you had to be an employee of the United States Government (it has since been privatized and is now open to anyone who cares to live there).
The reservoir is the heart of Daggett County. On the east side of the lake is Dutch John, rich in red rocks and evergreen juniper trees with their squat bodies and stringy bark. On the west side of the lake is Manila, the county seat. Manila is in sagebrush land with homegrown hicks and three paved roads, including the two highways that meet in the town. I have always described Manila as a glorified trailer park. They have a couple of gas stations, a restaurant or two, a church, an “old” school with a “new” school next door and rodeo grounds.
My parents told me that my future school laid behind the rodeo grounds. There was no football field, just the big wooden bleachers and a sign that said, “Cow Country High.” I was soon to learn that tourists were not the only ones who got trapped in this burg.
My parents allowed me to stay home for a couple of weeks to get adjusted. I also had a cold and I was downing a lot of Nyquil. I spent most of my time laying in bed, watching PBS, listening to the Red Hot Chili Peppers and reading Robotech in novel form. In the dark days of winter with a foot or so of snow in the yard, it was comfortable, but soon to be shaken up by my return to school.