Barnyard Saints

Trekking the high desert in Moab, Utah.

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Walker gets some painting done with all the downtime that comes with camp hosting. —Danielle Mulcahy

Island artist duo Danielle Mulcahy and Walker Roman hit the road at the beginning of October, armed with a renovated fifth-wheel trailer, all of their possessions, and art-making materials. Their goal is to make art, sell art at different venues and pop-ups, educate about art making, and live more simply, responsibly, and Island Images and Crossroads Gallery ownersqin the present. See more at barnyardsaintsart.com.

Nestled in a valley carved over millennia by the Colorado River lies the town of Moab, Utah, the outdoor mecca of the American West. Travelers from all corners of the continent make their pilgrimage to Moab to bike, kayak, climb, hike, BASE jump, rappel, raft, 4×4, Jeep safari, tightrope walk, and zipline through the grand mesas, canyons, and natural arches. If it involves outdoor recreation, physical skill, and some degree of danger, it can be found in Moab.

A shelf in the Moab Rock Shop with some (slightly) radioactive antique glassware for sale, from back in the uranium boom. —Danielle Mulcahy

The town of roughly 8,500 hasn’t always been this way; founded in the 1940s, Moab began as a uranium boomtown, fueling the military’s new hunger for radioactivity. After the fixed-price contracts expired, so did the mining, as Moab’s extreme isolation made transporting ore prohibitively expensive. The next wave of industry came in the form of natural gas, as new extraction technologies granted access to previously inaccessible fortunes. Within time this market too dwindled as reserves were depleted. Moab’s current reincarnation as an adventure tourism hub would have been hard to imagine in such an inhospitable climate if not for one of its most ardent supporters, Edward Abbey. During the early 1970s, Abbey published numerous books dedicated to the protection of Moab’s untamed wilderness. In a cruel twist of fate, it seems that his romantic writings have contributed to the influx of “industrial tourists” Abbey so despised.

At the Moab Made fashion show during Art Walk, a local costume designer shows off her work. —Danielle Mulcahy

Moab is home to a large transient population, one that we had become a part of. While we towed in our customized trailer, we saw a vast array of homebrew camper solutions, ranging from converted Chrysler minivans to pickups with tiny houses built over the bed; one camper even towed in his small motorboat and slept in the cabin. Moab’s permanent residents have built a vibrant community, centered around the arts, sciences, and an inventive DIY spirit. Public parks are plentiful and lush, the library hosts its own comic convention, and multiple co-op and employee-owned businesses provide groceries and secondhand goods. We made quick friends with Cathy O’Conner and Rosie Boone, owners of Desert Thread, the only yarn and fiber store in town. They opened their doors and AC to us, and even started carrying Danielle’s prints and Skein Scarves. We were invited to spin yarn on Saturdays, and even participated in the Moab Art Walk with the storefront. The very first person we met, Sharon Brussell, our Bureau of Land Management volunteer coordinator, embodies the playful enthusiasm that defines the entire community. Rebecca of Moab Made, a rapidly growing shop on Main Street featuring fine art and handmade crafts (and now some Barnyard Saints inventory), acts as an expert intermediary between Moab’s local artisans and ever-rotating tourist population. The store even hosts fashion shows during the monthly art walks. We got to play scientist for a day with Tim Graham, an entomologist we met at the library. Tim invited us to his home and lab to sort and count bugs for an ongoing study. We got to use sample tubes, magnifying glasses, and a tiny fishnet. We felt pretty cool.

Moab, with its two neighboring national parks, Arches and Canyonlands, occupies high desert, where humidity rarely reaches over 20 percent and temperatures fluctuate by 50° within a day. During our time there we saw multiple cases of dehydration and heat exhaustion. Remembering to drink water was a constant activity with our porous mammal bodies. While consuming so much water in order to stay hydrated, we also had to eat extra salt after experiencing symptoms of desalination. Without running water at our campsite, each day began to revolve around acquiring and storing water. While we served as camp hosts, the local BLM office provided us with a large tank to keep in our truck. Even with this luxury, we made sure to have a few spare gallons with us at all times. The last week we spent there, temperatures stayed in the 100s all day, and our tiny mobile garden essentially fried except for the rosemary; it was high time to move along.

Delicate Arch in Arches National Park is the most popular attraction in the park, but they don’t tell you about the steep climb to actually see it up close. —Danielle Mulcahy

During our time as campground hosts for the Bureau of Land Management. we felt we had become part of Moab. We recognized folks in the grocery store, made friends, had our paintings recognized by locals, and knew the thrift stores as well as Chicken Alley. The grand natural wonders of Arches National Park had brought us to Moab, but it was the people and community we felt a part of that made it hard to leave.