Brand building through storytelling

A Joni Mitchell moment on my winter vacation

Red Mtn Rona On Wedding RockHere I am astride a boulder in southern Utah, the land of red rocks and blue sky. I’m a dark speck in the middle of the photo. It seems appropriate that I should disappear into the scene, given that these rocks have been standing their ground for at least 10s of millions of years while I, a sunlight-starved urbanite from Canada, am just passing through in search of a morning’s airbrushed adventure. I don’t carry a pack, I’ve never pitched a tent in my life and I’ve signed up for a massage once this hike is over. So begins another day at Red Mountain Spa, where the slogan says it all: “between a rock and a soft place.”

This boulder has a name, Wedding Rock. A few years ago, a couple took their vows right where I’m standing. The bride had to duck behind a bush to slip into her wedding dress, which she had stowed in her backpack. She and her groom had met on the trail at Red Mountain. As they said, “I do,” their guests looked on from the other side of a canyon, in the very spot where a hiker from Wisconsin snapped my photo.

IIn the decade or so that I’ve been coming to Red Mountain, subdivisions have steadily encroached on the once-pristine country that draws me here. This winter, while admiring a view so stunning that all the hikers whipped out their cameras, I inquired about the small red flag that fluttered in the wind beside us. If you didn’t stop, you wouldn’t even see it. Our guide scowled for the first and only time that morning. “More tract houses on the way,” he said.

Not far from the entrance to the spa, there’s a traffic circle. At the centre of the circle stand gigantic red rocks that weren’t there the last time I came to Red Mountain. I just had to ask: what did it take to move those rocks? Or has a new road been created to showcase a natural sculpture? Neither, I was told. Those are faux rocks, produced by a company that creates the rugged, God’s-country look for retirement communities and golf courses.

Joni Mitchell Ladies Of The CanyonNearly 38 years have passed since Joni Mitchell released “Big Yellow Taxi.” At the time I thought it was a catchy little number. Now I’m struck by the song’s visionary power. In 1970, when the Concorde was enrapturing the media, Joni Mitchell saw where the quest for “progress” was leading. Now the Concorde is history. Hiking the canyons around Red Mountain, I found myself reflecting on the scale and sweep of history. Before white people came to Utah, native people recorded their struggles and ceremonies on the canyon walls. What these petroglyphs mean is anyone’s guess. The last people who knew are long dead, and their descendants, who might have a clue, are not keen to speak with white anthropologists. I’m told they don’t trust outsiders.

Posted by Rona

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