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'Max Tracks': In the tracks of movie stars and rescued pigs

Posted at 10:13 PM, Jun 04, 2024

KANAB, Utah — Hello, Max here!

For the first exploration in my new series "Max Tracks," I asked for the guidance of three children picnicking with their mom in Sugar House Park.

Rocky, Letty and Dezi did their job with gusto, blindly pulling 12 numbers out of a cup. Each number is a quadrant of FOX 13's broadcast area. The quadrants are rectangular sectors drawn out by the U.S. Geological Survey marking the boundaries of topographical maps. (I love maps. I could, and sometimes do, spend hours just studying them and looking up unfamiliar places.) The quadrants are a great way to split our region into digestible areas to explore.

Rocky, the oldest, wrote down the 12 numbers on a that which he spun, Price is Right style, until it stopped on the place I would travel: Area 74.

In our numbering system, area 74 is home to Kanab, portions of Zion and Bryce Canyon, Hilldale, the exotic canyons of the Paria River, Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, and Best Friends Animal Sanctuary.

In other words, it's an outdoor playground that could have kept us busy for years.

But we had two days, and some guidelines:

  • Do new things, even if I (Max here🙂) have spent time in the area before.
  • Stay somewhere I've never been.
  • Meet new people.

When the number for Kanab came up, I knew I wanted to see Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. It's been on my list for years and I was hoping to travel with Chaco, my recently adopted black lab.
I reserved an RV spot and anxiously waited for my Kanab weekend.

Photographer Eric Brown went with us. Eric was a good choice. He's not just a talented photographer, but he is an organized thinker who naturally forces me to think ahead. I tend to be a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of traveler.

Best Friends is located in a canyon adjacent to Highway 89, just north of Kanab. They've built facilities that complement the environment while performing their functions as homes, clinics, cafeterias and workplaces for animals and their humans.

On our first day, we went into town. A friend recommended the Rocking V Cafe as a place to find friendly folks with local knowledge, and I knew it was a good idea when I sat down with co-owner Delia Robinson.

"My great-great-grandfather was the second settler of this town," she told me, and went on to describe her stint working at the Parry Hotel as a teenager. The Parry was the unofficial movie star HQ in town. Along with the stars of all the Westerns filmed around town, she told stories of the Rat Pack partying at the Parry — stories learned from an older waitress who was there when Sammy Davis Jr. and Frank Sinatra came to town.

At the Parry, we met an amateur Utah historian proudly wearing gear proclaiming his place in the Sevier (County) Chapter of the Sons of the Utah Pioneers.

Carl Holmes likes driving from Richfield to Kanab to soak in the history and get a good burger. I asked about his favorite among the constellation of Western heroes who spent time here.

"John Wayne, of course!" he told me without hesitation.

If you want to have fun on YouTube, check out the movie "Stagecoach." It's John Wayne looking like a 20-something heartthrob, and of course, it was filmed in Kanab.

On Day 2, we went to the animal sanctuary and couldn't have been in better hands — or hooves — starting with our tour guide Chrissy Rollyson.

At Pig Paradise, Chrissy wouldn't let us leave until we said hello to Cami (short for Cameo). Cami is a 300-pound potbelly pig who looks perpetually angry with a scrunched-up nose, but whose countenance is about as sweet as an old St. Bernard.

"Hey mom, I brought you people," she announced before we opened Cami's enclosure.

Cami is the matriarch of a crew of pigs, including some newcomers, cared for by Horse Haven and Pig Paradise manager Jen Reid.

"All of this group came in sick and emaciated and pregnant," Reid told us. "Getting to be there to get them back to health, have their babies and go on to be adopted and have great lives — that's pretty awesome."

Chrissy's tour took us to new facilities for horses, and the adoption centers for dogs, cats and bunnies. If you could overdose on cuteness, this place would be dangerous!

After the tour and some cuteness detox, Eric headed home to the Salt Lake area, and Choco and I explored a place in the same canyon as the Sanctuary called Hidden Lake.

Hidden Lake is hidden, but it's not really a lake. That's not a critique, because it's super cool to see and unique in my experience. It's basically a year-round pond in a cave. My main disappointment was that I love to jump in water, and Hidden Lake would have been scary and probably not the healthiest body of water to occupy.

Still, Kanab gave us great memories and stories, and I experienced some added hospitality when my truck overheated on the day I was supposed to drive home.

Sometimes getting stuck is a good way to learn about a place and its people. As with the rest of the trip, Kanab didn't disappoint, as you'll see if you watch our first installment of "Max Tracks."

You may wonder, "Does Max know his next destination?"

Yes, I roped some colleagues into another weird game to randomly choose a destination. But you'll have to tune in on the first Tuesday of July to see where I go!

Thanks for watching and reading!