Monday, June 18, 2012

Zion National Park - An American Treasure

Zion National Park is in a canyon carved over thousands of years by the river that runs through it. Although a small stream during the summer months, during the winter snow runoff it's power is evident by the height of the solid rock walls that surround you. As the rock is exposed by the force of the water the elements go to work on it carving it into fantastic shapes. The layers of earth built up over almost incomprehensible ages are also exposed creating stripes of bright, often otherworldly color. Extraordinary grandeur and beauty greet you from every angle.

After depositing our bags in the cabin we drove back to an area we had seen when we entered. There was a small area where we could park the car and access to the river down a short scrub brush covered slope. The cool shallow water rippled over a rocky river bed. We sat on stones feeling the water wash over us enjoying the stunning views that surrounded us. On one wall an arch had begun to form. Wind had driven sand into the red sandstone chipping pieces of it away creating another amazing formation to add to the virtually countless others in this area of the country. The eons spent on the carving of these natural wonders gives one a feeling of almost endless time. Quiet and serene, we relaxed in the midst of this remarkable enviorment, enjoying the gentle and delicate sounds of the stream which had a hand in creating the landscape around us. Feeling calm and peaceful we returned to the car and drove back to the cabin.

We had reservations for dinner at the restaurant in the park's inn. Showering the river's silt from our bodies and rinsing out our swimsuits, leaving them hanging to dry, we fixed cocktails and pulled two chairs onto the porch. A family of wild turkeys, a tom and hen, with several waddling chicks in tow, wandered by. They came up the side of the cabin, walked in a circle between our cabin and the one across from ours, then wandered off the way they came, heads down feeding on the bugs in the grass. We returned the chairs to the cabin and took the short walk over to the inn for dinner. A circle of lawn sits in front of the inn. On the edge of the lawn stood two juvenile deer. Through the brush across the road appeared the doe and stag, the stag sporting a magnificent crown of antlers. Suddenly the juveniles faced each other, reared up on their hind legs and briefly sparred with each other, rehearsing for the mating rituals they would engage in later in life.

We shopped in the inn's store then continued upstairs to the dining room. In the restaurant a wall of windows faces a formidable and muscular cliff wall. Not yet sunset the eyes of all of the diners were fixed on this breathtaking sight. Those chairs that would normally have had their backs to the windows had been adjusted by those sitting in them to take advantage of the stunning view.

Night fell and we walked back to the cabin after a tasty and thoroughly satisfying dinner. Looking at the fireplace we had a moment of inspiration. We turned it on, set the camera on it's tripod on one of the beds, set the timer and posed. It got warm fast. we turned off the fireplace and crawled into bed at the end of what would prove to be a string of wonderful days.

The mornings in Zion stay cool until the sun climbs far enough in the sky to rise above the stone walls and penetrate the canyon. I shower, dress and go to the inn to get coffee, leaving my friend asleep. I have to don a light jacket I brought with me, the only time I wore it on this trip. My friend is beginning to stir when I return to the cabin. We have breakfast at the inn then board one of the shuttles to travel deeper into the park. Along the way we pass the "Emperor's Throne", a rock formation the height of two Empire State buildings, one stacked on top of the other. Getting off the shuttle we hike back on a path that runs alongside the river, which is wider at this spot. Growing by the path are plants displaying enormous white blossoms that resemble morning glories on steroids. On one rock wall thrives a type of small snail found nowhere else on earth. The river, although still shallow is extremely cold. Very little sun reaches this narrow portion of the canyon. Several teen boys are wading in an icy, waist high pool. One pulls out the waistband of his board shorts, checks his male appendage and then announces to his buddies "It's still there". My own appendage was shrinking at the mere thought of the frigid water. Eventually the canyon narrows to a point where further travel is not possible. We return to the shuttle and ride it back to the area of the inn.

It is still somewhat early in the day and, as it was midsummer, we still had a number of hours of daylight ahead of us. We decided to linger for a while before setting off to our next destination. Across from the inn the river becomes a tiny stream only a few inches deep. We soak our feet sharing the cool water with tiny baby rainbow trout and dozens of tadpoles, their leg buds just beginning to form, before getting in the car and setting off.   

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