Elegy, With a Sworl of Snow Inside

That's It For Articles

A few weeks ago I took a road trip to southern Utah, St. George to be specific, and the trip summed up in so many ways what I have come to love about this job. At the time I knew I was leaving Utah.com, and all along the way I kept doing things and seeing people and taking notes and snapping pictures and kept wondering all the while if it was the last time I would ever do this.

Fourteen years ago I moved to Utah - I was 18, a freshman at the University of Utah, bound and determined to succeed on the university swim team and as a meteorology student. By the end of my first year I had quit the swim team and changed my major to journalism, and my life had changed accordingly.

After a year in the dorms at the U. I moved to the Avenues neighborhood of Salt Lake City and fell into a sort of rhythm that would dictate my life for years to come: hard study, lots of reading, and travel and skiing every chance I got. Oh, and not much work. Those first few years I skied 30 days a year; a few years after that I was up to 50 days a year. At the same time, I was reading more than 100 books annually and getting acquainted with Utah's West Desert and the fantastic badlands of southern Utah, a region that to this day I still struggle to understand but never fail to enjoy. I graduated from college, had a string of stupid jobs in the city, traveled across Africa and Central America, and eventually landed a job as a newspaper reporter in Tooele, a small town a half-hour west and south of Salt Lake City. That job led to this, and today, Friday, April 12, 2002, I am quitting both.

This job has meant to me more than almost anything in my life. By that I mean there is no way to replicate the experience of writing for the state, and about the state, and arriving at some place like I did that Saturday morning in St. George at Coral Canyon golf course and being received like a guest, not a mere interloper. Or checking into the hotel that night and not having to say a word about whom I was or what I was doing - they knew already. Or the next day, being able to bike with pros on Gooseberry Mesa and ask whatever I want and know that they knew I was asking because I was a writer, not merely a nosy, curious creature.

Some of my greatest memories at Utah.com the past few years: skiing three feet of fresh snow at Snowbird, driving down Beaver Canyon on an irreplaceable Sunday afternoon, setting my kayak out on Great Salt Lake as a huge storm bore down on the Great Basin, talking to Jay Banta, the manager of Fish Springs National Wildlife Refuge, as though we were long-time friends, checking in to the Gonzo Inn in Moab and being treated like a true guest. Those things and more I will always hold close to my heart.

So what is it that is drawing me away from this job? My good friend Laura and I are taking a yearlong around the world backpacking trip. We start in Dublin, end in Papeete, and plan to see most everything in between. We will, to answer your inevitable questions, be safe, and travel very cheaply, and have a great time, and send the occasional post card into Utah.com central for a random posting. Porter? He'll stay with my Aunt Carol in Brenham, Texas, where he stayed for six months the second time I went to Africa. He likes it there.

As of today, Friday, my email address at jeff@utah.com will no longer solicit a response from me. This morning I will take my laptop and digital camera, both of which have traveled so faithfully with me, back to Utah.com headquarters in Provo. Letters sent to me at that address will not be answered. Questions about Utah will have to go elsewhere. The pictures and long format stories and rambling discourses will go, too. It's a brave new world we live in; I will now be a part of it, no longer an interloper.

Utah has been kind to me, more so than I deserve. I am an outsider here in a way, and wrote and traveled fully cognizant of that. I'll let this spill now - my goal as a writer for the state was not necessarily to tell you about any specific place, but instead write a story that elicited an emotional response. A few years ago, while driving one winter afternoon through the wide-open Rush Valley, I finally came to understand fashion advertising, and decided to apply it to this job. In fashion advertising, for example, they are selling jeans but have a picture of a naked woman. Why? They are selling an emotional connection. Long ago I realized your basic visitor to Utah was not interested so much in a specific town, canyon or mountain as they were in finding an emotional connection to a time, a meteorology, or a feeling. That's what I've tried to emulate here. That, combined with the simple fact that most travel writing these days is criminally boring. A new example needs to be set.

I wish to thank everyone who took the time to talk to me, to teach me about Utah, to pose for my pictures, and to not get upset when Porter barked at them or peed on their lawn. I wish to thank, too, the Utah Travel Council, who gave me this computer and the camera next to me and let me essentially do what I wished with them. And I wish to thank the good folks at Utah.com, who rarely complained when I stepped over my boundaries, called the Utah Legislature bad names, or created huge run-on sentences when describing a particular piece of geography, and who paid me generously to wander about and poke my nose into other peoples' business.

This, as you now realize, is not a travel column, or a story. It is a story of loss, or remembrance, of things accumulated over the past three years. I have not taken a bit of it lightly; I always understood it was the reader who I was subservient to. And I loved every minute of it. What I can say about my time at Utah.com is this: I never regretted one moment of it. Not one second. So goodbye.

Jeff's Bio

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