|Riding on salt is weird|
This little detour had taken me further north than I had planned so now I was unexpectedly heading East to Salt Lake City. I didn't stop, turned south and found a lovely little campground near a dam with excellent showers all for $10 – and I had the whole place to myself. I wondered if these excellent facilities were something to do with Utah and/or Mormons?
The next day I made it to Zion. Wow – NOW we're talking history. Zion has been evolving for at least 250 million years and has created some of the tallest sandstone mountains in the world. But I wasn't only impressed with this I was also very much taken with the way the park dealt with visitors. Since 2000 they have forbidden cars from driving in the canyon and now you have to take a shuttle bus up the gorge. It stops at all the trails etc. and gives you all the information you need to have an informed experience. I was very impressed. Even the 20 minute DVD in the visitors centre (which I usually ignore as they just go on about how wonderful the place is without giving you the details of the geology) was impressive. I especially liked the fact that every time the narrator mentioned that something had happened millions of years ago the two women (wives?) in front of me tutted and shook their heads. Only when the Mormons were mentioned (for “Discovering” the park in the 1860s) did they nod. That's why it's called Zion and the peaks and canyons have names like “Court of the Patriarchs” “Mount Moroni” “Angels landing” and “Altar of sacrifice”.
|Weeping rock. The water that weeps here dropped as rain on the summit 1000 years ago.|
|Tracy - I was really brave taking this shot.|
|Some of the tallest sandstone cliffs in the world.|
I checked into the campground for two nights and spent the following day “hiking the trails” or as we say “walking”. It was great to get off the bike, get some exercise and then have an excuse to eat a lot! And there was even something to do in the evening. Camping is getting a little tedious in the evenings now as it gets dark and cold at around 7 and I'm getting a little bored of spending 12 hours in my tent (Although I am reading the “Girl with the dragon tattoo" trilogy at the moment and it really is good) Every night at 8 at Zion they run a “Ranger talk” and I went along on my first night. The talk was on noise pollution and Zion National Park and the ranger spent an hour explaining how they had set up microphones all over the park to monitor noise. She played some of the noises of the animals they had recorded and explained why it was so important to keep noise pollution down in a NP. In fact she proudly announced the Zion was the first NP in the US to create a noise pollution policy! Actually it was really interesting and I enjoyed it. Surprisingly, although there must be 500 people camping in Zion and hundreds of others in the lodges, only about 10 of us could be bothered to get out of our RV's, turn the TV off and learn something about the place we'd driven too (at 8 miles a gallon!) On my second night the talk was on Mountain Lions or Cougars. Again very interesting and this time I was awarded a Park Ranger sticker for answering a question right! It's already been stuck onto my pannier with pride.
|I hiked up to scout lookout - 1500 feet up|
|Big drop - no rail|
Zion also wins the prize (so far) for having the best night sky. In fact, I'd go so far as to say it could be the clearest night sky |I ever seen in the northern hemisphere. What with the rocks telling a story that goes back at least 250 million years and the stars going back even further, I'm going to find it hard to argue that America doesn't have any history.
Now the weather report! This part of the US has been having some unusual and severe weather this week. They've had tornados in Flagstaff Arizona . Snow in Bryce Canyon (where I'm planning on going next) and thunderstorms here at Zion. In fact the day I arrived they had had torrential rain and thunder and lightening. I'd come across a thunder storm about an hour north of Zion and as soon as I saw the first flash of lightening I just stopped the bike (I was on a dual carriage way and couldn't turn around). Got off, walked away from the bike and just stood there in the pouring rain and hail, waiting for it to move. I'm sure this isn't normal behaviour and I would never have been to frightened before I got hit. But I now can't help it. It's like someone who never used to be afraid of heights and now can't cope with it. When I got to Zion I heard someone in the visitors centre say that two school children had been rushed to hospital. They had taken refuge under a tree that was hit. I tell you. American weather holds no punches. More thunder was forecast for today but never happened.
Next day I left Zion in sunshine to head over to Bryce Canyon. This whole region is called the Grand Staircase – geologically starting at the bottom at the Grand Canyon, Zion is the middle and Bryce the top - so Bryce is ONLY about 10 million years old!. Bryce is defined by its Hoodoos and they were very impressive, reminding me of the bungle bungles in Australia. In the interests of religious tolerance, as I gave the evolutionary explanation for Zion, I will redress the balance with Bryce.
Bryce National Park was created by - God. He did it to show us how clever he is and we should all spend an hour each Sunday thanking him in the hope that we will be amongst the saved. Or something like that.
However, Bryce seemed a lot more crowded than Zion and, at 8-9,000 feet, very cold. So I swiftly moved on, hoping to lose elevation and get warmer. And what a fantastic days ride this was. Not only did the rock formations change but so did the colour of the rocks. Initially I gained height and as I passed 9,000 feet it became extremely cold and almost winter in appearance.. But then 30 minutes later I was back in the red desert.
|Winter at 9,000 feet|
|Then back to the warm desert|
|A different view around every corner|
I even passed by a “site of historical interest” called “Giles town” I doubled back to take a look. It was a ghost town which had been settled by Mormon pioneers in the 1880s and abandoned in the 1920s.
|If I built a gold rush town this is exactly what it would end up looking like|
Later that night, whilst in the internet I looked up the blog of a British couple I had met at the bike rally in Nakusp, Canada. I knew they were roughly in the same neck of the woods as me but I couldn't believe it when I read where they were. Basically we must have crossed paths in the last two days and just not seen each other. They had just left Moab and were on the way to Bryce and Zion, and I'm about to get to Moab. Oh well..
* Title spoiler. My titles seem to take on a musical theme, which is culturally insensitive perhaps as some people are from the UK others from North America etc. Have you worked out this one? It's a reference to the 2008 Utah Saints song (with the running man). Get it – I'm in Utah, and having a good time. The last blog was a reference to the fact that I was in Wendover where the crew for the Enola Gay trained and as I'd been in a lightening storm so perhaps I should have stayed where I was. Glad I've cleared that up!