Nick has spent a year researching places to go, sites to see. We know we will cover a comprehensive set of venues and will pack a lot into our 3 months in USA. Occasionally we will stay overnight in a place simply because it is geographically convenient, rather than because it is a site of interest, but this is rare. Yet despite the great benefits that this meticulous approach can bring, it is sometimes the completely unplanned that can bring the greatest rewards. Bluff is such an example.
We were due into Bluff at around 7pm, by which time it would be dark. It was just a place to stop en route to the next park to be explored. However three days of rain prior to this meant that we had had to scrap several hours of sightseeing, and that we had been too long with either unusably slow internet access, or none at all. As a result, we rolled into Bluff before midday, hoping to be able to check into our motel, dry some stuff and get connected.
It was too early to check-in so we drove around and stumbled upon Bluff Fort. Like many such places we have visited it is run by volunteers, almost all retired folk, and in common with these other places the staff were very welcoming and genuinely interested in their job, and because of this were genuinely interesting. Bluff Fort commemorates the founders of Bluff, Mormon pioneers and tells their story – which is a quite remarkable one. We were shown around by Jed, whose great grandfather-in-law was one of the founders.
The Fort has a superb picture wall. Several of the pictures are actually videos that interact with each other. They represent the pioneers, who “came to life” at the touch of a button and told us their story. It was very well put together. There are also replica cabins in the fort grounds with audio telling stories, each narrated by a direct descendant of the character involved. The narration is available in several languages. We also talked to present day volunteers who were using hand looms to create blankets etc. The whole exhibition is funded on a donations only basis. We spent about 90 minutes there and could have spent longer.
In the afternoon Gonul and I took a stroll around the town and spotted a lady gardening. Gonul was interested in her garden so we said hello and asked if we could take a closer look. Sure she said, and come and have some wine too. We sat down with Sue and she told us more about Bluff. Population 180 once the tourists had left (bar us they had!). Sue comes from Boston (2500 miles away) but had relocated to Bluff to be closer to her daughter. Her mission now was to make the garden beautiful and she was doing a fine job. Her latest achievement was a dry well. It doesn’t rain often here (except when we are around) and so when it does it tends to flood rather than soak into the ground – the dry well ameliorates that.
Sue’s daughter had quit her profession some years earlier to re-train as a teacher and having stated a preference to work with those unable to afford private tuition found herself assigned to Bluff. This was a wonderful bonus for the previously only other teacher assigned there, as he now had some company. Romance blossomed, followed by marriage and children. A little later it led to the relocation of grandma!
The house she bought had belonged to a couple who after many years in Bluff decided to move to Seattle. After only 9 months they decided that they had made a mistake and moved back to Bluff, securing a house on the other side of town (i.e. very close by!). Later, due to developing health issues, they felt forced to move again to a city but only 5 months later the lure of Bluff was too much and they moved to Bluff for the third time.
Sue chatted away, offered more wine and even lodgings for the night and we enjoyed a wonderful example of the benefit of travelling in another country and doing so on foot. Irrespective of the politics or religion associated with a country, people are people and there are many good and friendly people out there. Wherever you are and wherever you come from.