The Colorful City of Moab, Utah

Hilary, Claire, and I under Delicate Arch doing our "victory" pose. This shot really demonstrates the scale of this monstrosity!
          On Friday, May 27th, we arrived in Moab, Utah. Best known to the thrill-seeking adventurer as a sports Mecca, Moab's natural beauty and geographical uniqueness is also complemented with a fascinating human history. From the beginning, the city's history has been inextricably intertwined with Mormon influence. Efforts to construct a permanent Mormon settlement began in 1878, and by 1881, Moab had erected farms, ranches, and even a community school. The small town received an unprecedented boost in the 1950s with the discovery of the city's plentiful natural resource: Uranium. Workers came from far distances to mine the substance, and Moab experienced an unparalleled surge in its population, nearly quadrupling from 1,275 residents in 1950 to 4,682 in 1960. As the United States frantically engaged in an arms race with Russia, Uranium became its backbone and one of the most vital components to the United States’ nuclear weaponry. In 1964, however, the Atomic Energy Commission dealt Moab’s Uranium-based economy a fatal blow when it released this statement: “it is no longer in the interest of the Government to expand production of uranium concentrate.” Quelled by the ending of the Cold War, the United States – the greatest purchaser of Uranium in Moab – was no longer interested in stockpiling the radioactive resource.

         Many mining cities that had sprouted during Uranium boom of the 1950s collapsed with the loss of their biggest client. Those cities, however, that possessed alternate economies were able to survive. In the 1970s, the Uranium market had become saturated, and the boom was over. It soon became apparent that Moab’s survival was at stake. The hope of the revitalization of the economy was then placed in tourism, and in the 1970s, Moab began to wholeheartedly endorse this platform. Moab began to capitalize on its natural beauty and produced an image as one of the most geographically-unique places on Earth. With over 2,000 sandstone arches and the contrasting colors and textures of its landscape, Moab has become a sportsman’s Mecca. By the 1980s, Moab had attained worldwide fame for its hundreds of miles of Ssickrock trails, a destination to which avid cyclists flock for its unique contact medium.

         I arrived in Moab with certain expectations due to the aforementioned research. Imagine my surprise when I arrived at a laundromat to wash my clothes, only to discover that it is was connected to a bar! In fact, an invitation was posted on the laudromat’s wall to walk next door and enjoy a beer while your cycle finished. Whoa! Moreover, I browsed an extensive wine and spirits list at Pasta Jay’s (where we ate dinner) and saw numerous advertisements for alcohol – both on billboards and in store windows. Furthermore, I also noticed a great ethnic plurality in the downtown area of Moab. These observations contradict my traditional understanding of being Mormon. I arrived with the expectation that I would have to scrounge to find any alcohol whatsoever and also to find great ethnic diversity amongst the population. Moab’s downtown, however, appeared to possess the same pulsating dynamic of that of any other thriving city. I have a couple hypotheses as to why this is. Given Moab’s mining history, this field of work recruited the rough-and-tumble sort of worker, possessing a character probably not completely aligned with Mormon dogma. Secondly, Moab’s booming tourism industry recruits thrill-seekers from varied cultures and nationalities, and as a result, this creates a climate of diversity.

        On Saturday, we got a taste of what keeps sports junkies returning season after season to Moab. Arches National Park, known for its soaring, majestic sandstone arches, proved to be the most memorable experience of History on the Move thus far. The trail to Delicate Arch tested our physical stamina, but the sweat (and couple of tears shed) proved rewarding when beholding the first sight of the 60-foot arch. I was struck by how unreal everything looked, somewhat like a backdrop to a play. The shades of red, varied depths, and seemingly otherworldly rock structures all conspired to create one of the most unique experiences of my life. I thoroughly enjoyed what Moab had to offer and look forward to tomorrow’s adventure: hiking the Northern Rim of the Grand Canyon.

                                                                                                                                   - Kristen Hunter

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