Author and historian Steve Allen will be the keynote speaker at the Museum of Moab annual membership meeting and dinner. [Photo by Bud Evans / Courtesy of Steve Allen]

You can learn about the Museum of Moab’s plans for building a new, larger museum and hear keynote speaker Steve Allen, author of “Utah’s Canyon Country Place Names,” talk about the process of interviewing “old cowboys” in Utah’s small towns – at the museum’s annual meeting and dinner on Wednesday, Jan. 18.

While it’s not necessary to be a museum member to enjoy the catered dinner and keynote speaker, those who wish to attend must RSVP a week prior to the event, museum director John Foster said.

Allen said he has been hiking in southern Utah since the mid-1960s. For the past 30 of those years, he’s been backpacking nearly full time. He disappears (without cell phone service) into the backcountry for eight to 12 months of the year, seeking “history on the ground,” he said.

The Durango, Colorado-based author and historian will often find cowboys grazing cattle on public lands, where Allen hikes, searching for old trails. For his two-volume work “Utah’s Canyon Country Place Names” – available at Back of Beyond Books – Allen sought the memories of more than a 100 old-timers to learn the stories behind the names of places like Negro Bill Canyon and Warner Lake.

The 65-year-old Allen said he’s hiked somewhere between 60,000 to 80,000 miles across southern Utah. He estimates that he spends 75 percent of his time in the backcountry with friends and other historians, while hiking solo the other 25 percent of the time.

During his keynote speech Allen said he will talk about some of the old trails he’s found, and the process of putting together the book – how he arranges a half day, or full day interviewing old cowboys.

“The way it works, I need to know enough to know the questions to ask,” Allen said.

That means he may ask specific questions regarding an old ruin he’s spotted somewhere, for example, to help spur ranchers’ recollections.

Allen said he would also talk about how he became a person interested in history, and someone who is willing to spend most of the year backpacking.

In addition, he’ll talk about “staying alive in the desert,” he said.

“We’re pretty excited to have him speak,” Foster said. “The event should be a lot of fun. We hope people get excited about the museum’s future project.”

Anyone interested in becoming a member of the museum can fill out an

application available at the museum’s front desk, or on the night of the meeting and dinner. A basic annual membership of $25 gets you free museum admittance all year, plus special events, and a newsletter. Members also receive copies of the Canyon Legacy Journal, a natural and cultural history journal of southeastern Utah.

The museum has 300 members, including people from out of state and overseas.

Museum of Moab to hold annual meeting on Jan. 18

“We’re pretty excited to have (historian Steve Allen) speak … The event should be a lot of fun. We hope people get excited about the museum’s future project.”

When: Wednesday, Jan. 18, from 6 to 9 p.m.

Where: Grand Center, 182 N. 500 West

Cost: $40 per person; Non-members are welcome to attend

Information: 435-259-7985; You can also register for the dinner by stopping by the museum, 118 E. Center St.