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Published: October 11th 2010
We're still amid Utah's gorgeous national parks. We have progressed from Zion to Bryce to Capitol Reef, and now are in Moab to enjoy Arches and Canyonlands.
At the end of my last blog, I commented on the women I had seen wearing unusual dresses and hairdos. They looked like people out of a movie about Mormons. Well, the next day a woman who had moved to that area from New Hampshire launched into a big chat with us. About 20 miles south of that store, on the boundary between Utah and Arizona, there is a large known enclave of polygamists (Warren Jeffs, etc.) She assured me that I had seen polygamist wives. I find the idea unsettling.
We have been puzzled, as we travel around this state, at how seldom we see people out in their yards. Especially in the mornings, when it is relatively cool. We can understand staying inside after noon, as the temperature rises from the high 80's to the high 90's. We don't understand. Of course, here in Moab we see plenty of people outside, since this is a locale which draws mountain bikers and other outdoorspeople from all over the world.
We had a second day in Zion. It was still very hot, so we abandoned one trail that had no shade. Visited the Human History Museum, walked another short trail, enjoyed a beer with an Italian honeymoon couple.
On Sunday, we drove north to another part of Zion, Kolob Canyon. Took a nice little hike to more awesome views, then continued north to Panguitch, poised to visit Bryce the next day.
I have seen so many photos of the various national parks that I should not be surprised when I see one in "real life." But my reaction to Bryce convinced me that everyone must visit these places; however gorgeous they might be, photos just can't capture enough. When I looked down into Bryce Canyon Amphitheatre, I was stunned because I choked up, unable to speak for several minutes. I was overwhelmed, and I hope all of you will get to visit this magical place.
We hiked down into the canyon, through "Wall Street", past very tall trees suddenly rising up, and past the hoodoos which look as if their tops will topple. We loved the down part of the hike; a lot of it was actually in shade, and at each turn there was a new astonishing sight. But then we had to climb up... It was hard, especially because it was in the high 90's and unshaded. Even experienced hikers were challenged. Next we drove the 37 miles out to the end of the canyon road (with the car's air conditioner running), and the views were wonderful, but nothing was as wonderful as that first real view of the Amphitheatre.
Tuesday was a serious challenge for me. I have learned that if a road is labeled "Scenic Highway" it will most likely be twisty and perilous. Scenic Highway 12 goes past the entrance to Bryce NP and continues east, then north, for another 110 miles. We drove more than half of it, to Boulder City. Shortly before Boulder City is a short stretch named The Hogback; there the road is fairly narrow with steep 1000-2000 dropoffs on BOTH sides. No shoulders, no guardrails, nothing! Even in the little Corolla, it took all my grit to drive that. We were rewarded with delicious Reuben sandwiches on the shaded patio at a sort of hippie-ish restaurant in Boulder City. And then we drove 16 miles (each way) on the Burr Trail, with massive red cliffs looming above us - that was spectacular. I drove back across The Hogback, with the massive cliffs again below us, but the second time was not quite as terrifying.
There are lots of "animal" warning signs along the roads out here; elk, deer, buffalo, etc. We got a chuckle out of the ones with cows on them - until on our ride across 12, we saw a cow carcass in riger mortis in a ditch by the side of the road. Yuck! It was gone by the time we passed back by, and we now slow down for ALL animals.
Between Panguitch and Bryce, on 12, is Red Rock Canyon, which is beautiful too. At the visitor center there, I bought a book about Butch Cassidy, etc. and look forward to reading it. He did hang out at a lot of places we have been or are going. This book was written by a guy who was a member of the outlaw gangs, then reformed and became law-abiding, even a justice of the peace. It is certainly easy to imagine how people could elude capture among these canyons and wild lands in southern Utah. (Butch ranged much farther than this, though.)
There is a wildfire, ignited by lightning, which has been burning since July 20th somewhat north of where we were. The Forest Service wants to contain it, let it die out naturally because fires clean out the undergrowth and allow what remains to grow in better conditions. But nearby residents are getting tired of breathing smoke, and insist that the fire be doused. It is a struggle between nature's regular cycles, and man's desires to control the cycles.
After three nights in Panguitch (we keep planning to stay one night at places, then find ourselves extending that to a second or even a third night), we headed to Torrey, which is just west of Capitol Reef National Park. The cliffs there face west, so it is best to visit in the afternoon or even to watch the sunset. Just outside the entrance to the Park Drive are the remains of an isolated Mormon community, Fruita. It is renowned for the thousands of fruit trees, and they sell fresh pies in one of the preserved buildings. I visited the little one-room schoolhouse. It was built very close to the sheer red cliff, and the ranger told us the outhouses for the girls and boys were out at the base of the cliffs. How different that all seems for me.
Then on to Moab. Again we followed advice to take a "scenic highway" and I really had trouble with the portion down along the Colorado River. Being up high in the motorhome, and closest to the outside of most cliffs, has been a constant misery for me, especially by midafternoons. Poor John has to coexist with my gasps and squeals, and the tension I inject into the car. People who do not experience these terrors should be everlastingly grateful.
Today (Saturday) we headed up to Arches National Park, and drove all the way out to the end of the park drive. We took a couple of short hikes and a lot of photos. I had expected Arches to have arches at every turn, but that is not the case. The ones we have seen are awesome, though, and we plan to return to explore a bit further. The temperatures are predicted to get lower in the next few days, and that will make me happier, and John ecstatic.
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