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08/01/2011
Rediscovering the old west

“Go West, boy…”:  the byword of the heroic deeds of the frontier, of the epic clashes between the white colonists' greed for land and wealth, and the native Indian civilisation. A clash of contrasting cultures, which developed in one of the most fascinating and variegated areas on the planet, culminating in the disappearance of tribal societies whose existence had centred around a balanced and respectful relationship with the environment. A kind of “preface” to our contemporary history, which now faces us ever more pressingly with the choice to voluntarily take a few steps back in our hysterically frenetic consumption of the natural resources of the planet we live on, so as to leave at least some hope for future generations, or to accept the inevitability of our probable and imminent extinction, by our own hands. “We labour under the illusion that we are masters of time and space, and we fail to realise that nature will live on here after we're gone.” These are the words of Michele Dalla Palma, speaking of his trip from Denver to the Pacific coast and the legendary setting of San Francisco Bay.

Perhaps more than any other region of the planet, the Western States embody the immense power of nature, with their extraordinary scenery, capable of dominating equally “grandiose” examples of man's domineering attitude.

Established as from the mid-nineteenth century, the US National Parks, and particularly those in the western part of the country, today offer one of the best examples of how it is possible to maintain and protect heritage that belongs to the whole of humanity. Dalla Palma's journey is an intense adventure: from the jagged barrier of the Rocky Mountains he travels down into the region of the canyons, many of which lie within the state lines of Utah. These include Antelope Canyon, a sacred site for the Navajo Indians. “The magic of this place is revealed between 11 am and 1 pm every day… The light sketches fleeting works of art, which disappear as soon as the sun abandons the narrow scar cut into the upper rocks”, gushes Dalla Palma.

Arriving in Grand Canyon, the size of the biggest fracture on the earth's crust leaves you speechless: in just a few million years, the Colorado river has created this gigantic work of art, eroding away the coloured sandstone of the plateau to form a chasm kilometres long, which at sunset is transformed by the fleeing rays of light as they glide up towards the highest ridges of pinnacles and crests. Whilst, crossing Monument Valley, you can breathe in the entire history of the West in a few short miles.

The last target of the pioneers, California… perhaps the most enchanting region of the States, with all its contrasts. More than the “tropical” feel of its coast, from San Diego to San Francisco, for lovers of outdoor pursuits, California means Yosemite, a climbers' paradise, and a legend in the imagination of all who love magnificent treks through scenes that seem to belong to bygone times, when the encounter with nature was honest and equitable.

 


Michele Dalla Palma