September 23, 2017 – Zion to Provo
Update: Dad is improving. He is in the hospital still and has had visitors. We are so thankful that he is feeling better.
Today was Sunday, and Ken and I spent it in one of God’s most beautiful cathedrals; Zion is majestic and holy. Sanctuary is also used as a word to describe it, but since Zion is the 5th most visited national park in the system, attracting nearly 5 million visitors a year, it’s hard to find a quiet, contemplative spot without someone or many someone’s coming around the bend. As a national park, it is 98 years old, but it possesses a grandeur that is typical of the other top ten parks and almost overcomes the mobs of people, including Ken and I, who love this park and want to experience its glory.
As I wrote in my blog about Bryce, we actually drove through Zion yesterday on the Mt. Carmel-Zion Road. The minute we were inside the park, awe began. Our first stop was at Checkerboard Mesa, a white cone of slick rock with distinctive cross hatching all over it.
However, our attention was attracted by cars and people gathering around the bend. As I started to drive through the parked cars, Ken said, “Bighorn Sheep.” I pulled the car over as quickly as I could, and we were able to watch bighorn sheep navigate one of the white cliff cones. It was a rare gift.
After spotting the sheep, we followed the red road to a mile-long tunnel with six cutouts along the way. It was built between 1920 and 1930, and was spooky to drive through–so dark between cutouts!
After negotiating the tunnel, we emerged into a canyon with towering cliffs of overwhelming mass and height. At this point, we saw cars parked everywhere, but at that moment we weren’t sure why. As we drove further, the crowds and people increased. Later we discovered that part of the park, starting in 1997, has been only only accessible by free shuttle bus to try to preserve the natural landscape as much as possible from its throngs of human fans and their vehicles.
War Story #3: As you know from last night’s blog, we spent the night in Hurricane. The Super 8 in Moab was nice and reasonably priced for Moab, so we decided to try the Super 8 in Hurricane for $120 a night. More than we wanted to pay, but probably a bargain for Zion accommodations. What a mistake! It was a dump. I don’t recommend it at all. The room decor was indescribably awful (truly) and needed replacing, especially the tub. The bed was broken down so Ken and I kept rolling into each other all night, but worst of all was all the thumping and banging that went on upstairs into the wee hours of the morning. The manager was not helpful at all, and it was the worst hotel we stayed in, and the only one that we made a reservation for!!!
In fact our night was so bad, we almost left for home without going back to explore the scenic drive at Zion. Good thing our good sense prevailed, and we returned to Springville, found the shuttle, and took off for the park. I was bundled up with many layers because it was very cold, in the high 20s and low 30s.
There were several stops along the scenic drive, but Ken and I choose to get off at the Court of the Patriarchs. Abraham, Issac, and Jacob are memorialized here in massive cliffs of sandstone.
After that we shuttled up to the Temple of Sinawava. Along the way, the shuttle bus driver pointed out hikers. They were hard to see because they were so small against the towering cliffs. Many of them had exited at the Grotto stop to hike the dangerous trail to Angel’s Landing, 1, 500 feet above the canyon floor. The shuttle driver said that at times on the trail known as Walter’s wiggles, the path is only several feet wide with a fixed chain railing on both sides for hikers to grasp as they cross a fin with sheer walls on either side to go to Angel’s Landing in Zion Canyon. 15 people have lost their lives on this trail not to mention the countless other hiking mishaps that have occurred over the years.
At the Temple of Sinawava, Ken and I decided to take the mile-long walk along the Virgin River to a place called the Narrows. Here people wade into the river and just keep walking as the canyon narrows. Honestly, it was way too cold to get into the river. Along the way, we enjoyed the rocks, the hanging gardens, the sound of water, squirrels and turkeys, and the absolutely gorgeous Zion Canyon.
The shuttle bus driver said that the Virgin River was not big like the Columbia, but it was powerful for its size. The Virgin River is the reason why the canyon exists as the water has deepened the canyon floor by hundreds of feet over many years. Much of the canyon has a high desert climate, but the water flowing down the canyon has created the perfect place for water-loving plants, such as ferns. We also saw natural hanging gardens along the River Walk and water flowing out of cracks in the sheer walls. It was a beautiful walk, and Ken walked the entire way with me. I was so proud of him.
At the Museum, Ken and I watched a film about Zion, and then we went on to the Visitor’s Center and shuttled our way back to our car in Springdale.
Then we hurtled down I-15 at 80 miles an hour for 260 miles to Provo for the the night. We just had to have another meal at Crackerbarrel, and honestly, the fried chicken was absolutely delicious tonight. Our room is so nice at half the price we paid in Hurricane and other stops. However, no matter what, Ken and I have had a wonderful Grand Circle.
Mosquito Update: It was the ants who were prevalent today especially around the Museum. You definitely had to be careful where you stood or put your bag down.
Beehive Commendation: Honestly, tonight I have to give my thanks to Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps. During the Great Depression in the 1930s, Roosevelt had a plan to put young unemployed men to work on projects in public lands to gain employment skills. In Zion, as in many other parks, they build roads and camping grounds, fought fires, made trails, and helped construct buildings, bridges, and tunnels. We all appreciate their hard work in Zion today, as well as in many other national parks. Hurray for the CCC!
And, oh yes. The weather here today north of Zion.