The week of the fires in San Diego gave us the opportunity to remain indoors, doing some genealogy and paperwork, chatting with Laura, and observing with respect the absolute tyranny of nature over humans. There will be fingerpointing between various governmental agencies -- of course that has already The massive red mountain is silhouetted against a light blue sky Utah scenery begun. Television coverage showed us the chaotic wind patterns; we could well understand how unpredictable the fires were, and how they manufactured their own weather.

On Friday, Halloween, we ventured into the nearby shopping center just in time to encounter hordes of tiny trick-or-treaters. Possibly because all of the schools were closed, each merchant had set up a candy stand at his store entrance, and Snow Whites, dogs, skeletons, pirates, Harry Potters, and various unidentifiable creatures streamed past. The tiniest children wandered in a daze, in their rabbit-eared pajamas, while the teenagers disdained costumes except for occasional cobwebs or bright makeup. And that night we opened the door many a time to neighborhood trick-or-treaters. Some customs survive even natural disasters.

The night before we left, the weather broke with a rainstorm and much cooler air. Our trip through the Nevada desert showed us some of the loveliest sights we have seen, because the air was crystal clear and the varied geology could be seen for many miles.

With a little more time in our schedule, we're making two-night stands, to give us more time for sightseeing and continuing our family history work. We stayed two nights in North Las Vegas, near Nellis AFB, and the next two nights in Green River, Utah.

East of Las Vegas we took the Interstate, a major variation in our driving routine. Interstate 15 through Utah is relatively lightly traveled and winds through some spectacular canyons. In mid-Utah we turned onto Interstate 70, one of the few Interstate Highways which is designated as scenic. And The massive stone reef, with long slanting lines of geological significance, arises out of a sandy tan valley in Utah A red stone reef in fact the many pull-offs afford the tourist with breathaking views of Utah's canyons and rock sculpture, views that would not have been accessible before the freeway was built. We chased snow showers across Utah, with interludes of bright sunshine, with air so clear you could see forever. We oohed and ahhed as breathtaking rock formations came into view first on one side of the truck, then the other. As much as we've traveled, we still get excited by this lovely scenery of Southeastern Utah.

It took the explorers until late in the 19th century to thoroughly map this region. The best known explorer of the canyons of the Green and Colorado River was Major John Wesley Powell, a Civil War Veteran who lost an arm at Shiloh. Powell's two expeditions, the first in 1869, discovered much of the breathtaking grandeur of this river system, and led to the formation of the U.S. Geological Survey, of which Powell was the first director. There's a museum in Green River about equally devoted to Powell and the early river explorers and to modern river exploration camping trips, featuring whitewater rafting thrills.

The rafting season is generally in the summertime, so Green River in early November is a sleepy desert town. But next summer will bring river adventurers from all over the world to sign up for some rafting expeditions. If you come through this way, the Best Western has extra large, comfortable rooms.