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2004 Travelogue #35 Zion National Park
McArthur's Temple View RV Park St. George, Utah

Places Visited:

Utah: St. George, Zion National Park

9/19 The leading edge of a predicted weather front passed through at about midnight, with wind gusts up to 70 mph. It blew so hard, picking up the desert sand here, at Wahweap Park; I feared the paint might be removed from the side of the coach. Finally, the rain came; a sprinkle at first but then enough to create mud balls. Eventually, the leading edge passed, the wind settled and the rain fell in a steady rhythm, washing away the little mud balls.

The first thing Peggy asked this morning when rolling out of bed was, "I wonder how those poor people did in their tents last night?" It was not a good night for tenting; hopefully, their tents were well pegged and anchored. The forecast called for more rain today and flash flooding. We sit upon high ground on asphalt pads, so we are in good shape.

When driving around Page last week, we spotted a small Episcopal Church, St. David's, making note to return for Sunday worship. This intimate one-room church building does double-duty with the sanctuary up front and parish-hall in the back. Beginning as a six-member mission, St. David's grew and recently reached Parish status. The young priest gave a good sermon; the parishioners were outgoing and friendly, even invited us to lunch.

This Parish was unique in several ways. The first being in the area of music; the organist was accompanied by a gentleman playing the violin. That musical combination was new and interesting. The second involved an unusual wording of the liturgy. We are accustomed to the service found in The Book of Common Prayer, which is used universally in Episcopal Churches. In visiting with Fr. Steve Kiplinger after the service, he said, that since the church members come from different heritages, such as Navajo, they rewrote certain passages to bring ecumenical unity to the worship service. It was different, meaningful and enjoyable.

Returning to the coach, Peggy went for a long walk while I cooked breakfast; the rest of the afternoon was spent in cleaning and packing for tomorrow's departure. I did take time to visit with our neighbors because I was curious about their Class-C rig and why there were so many, all alike, in the Park. They said the rigs were rented in Las Vegas or Los Angeles. This particular couple was from Germany and another couple across the road, that I helped get set-up the other evening, was also from Germany. They were not fluent in English but that didn't hinder them in exploring this beautiful country.

9/20 We left the Park at 10 am with a northwest headwind blowing 15-to-20 mph; it was a two-handed driving trip most of the way. The landscape is beautiful, carved by millions of years of wind and rain erosion. The colors are shades of red, gray, and orange and the countryside is sprinkled with green sagebrush and junipers. This was the last portion of the state successfully settled, primarily by European Mormon immigrants. Looking at the mesas of sandstone, representing millions of years of deposits and the long stretches of sagebrush land, it's easy to see that these early settlers were hardy souls.

We finally started gaining elevation around Kanab, AZ on our way toward St. George, Utah and began to see more pines and junipers, even irrigation in certain areas. Geologists say that southeastern Utah is the best place to see the wonders of the "Colorado" Plateau.

Arriving in the St. George area around 1:30, we were impressed with its lovely location and with its fresh, new appearance and rapidly growing expansion. Nestled in a crescent-shaped valley, the city backs up to large red rock cliffs on the north and opens into a downhill valley to the south. The older part of town is up a short but wide canyon with large and very stately trees. This city is a popular choice for many winter RV "snowbirds", primarily from the northwest.

Our RV campground had the unusual name of McArthur's Temple View RV Park on South Main. I guess the guy who owned it was named McArthur and up the wide street to the north was the local Mormon Temple, of which we had a view of the steeple.

After setup, we called Yoko and Tom, our in-laws and the primary reason for this visit to St. George, to see if we could pop-call this afternoon. They live about 20-miles north of St. George, and Yoko was already anticipating our call; dinner was in the oven. We made a quick change and were on the road.

It's a steady climb to Dammeron Valley with a gain of 1000 to 1500 feet in elevation. We made all the correct turns and found their beautiful home sitting on 5-acres amidst vistas of mountain ranges all around. Yoko gave us a tour of their lovely home; Tom arrived from work and grilled chicken to accompany Yoko's delicious side dishes. We had a nice, long dinner/visit then, after 8 pm, we headed back down the mountain, hoping not to encounter a deer for a hood ornament.

9/21 We worked on chores and business today. I had the tires rotated and the oil changed on the Saturn and found the Social Security office for answers to our problem.

We tried a small Italian restaurant for dinner, which was good on food but short on service. Then, for the remainder of the evening, we planned the next week of our travels, deciding to complete the Canyon Land Circle before returning to Pagosa Springs.

9/22 Zion National Park, one of the nation's oldest national parks and Utah's oldest, dating from 1919, was our destination today. Early Mormon pioneers, during the 1860s, named this area "Zion". It's a Hebrew word meaning a place of safety or refuge. Zion is also part of the Southwest's "Grand Circle" of national parks, monuments, and historic sites; America's largest concentration of such national parks. The "Grand Circle" is the best of the American Southwest.

The drive from St. George to the Park is a scenic drive. We enjoyed being surrounded by soaring towers and monoliths, offering a quiet grandeur and calling for special drive-along music. We have a CD, "The Grand Circle", composed and played by a husband and wife team; the primary instrument is a cedar flute accompanied by keyboard and guitar. They play different arrangements related to each of these magnificent canyons, such as "Mountain of the Sun" for Zion National Park and "House of the Spirit" for Canyon de Chelly. The soft sound of the flute generates a feeling of reverence for the land and God's great creation.

The Zion Canyon IMAX Theatre was our first stop for the "Treasure of the Gods". This film started our Zion Park adventure with a time leap backwards to meet "the ancient ones", the Anasazi, as they lived in these canyons. The haunting sound and echo of a red-tailed hawk leading a young warrior to the next level of manhood; the aerial passage through the slot canyons and towers of stone made our stomachs flutter. With the movie setting the mood, we knew we'd appreciate this fabulous place.

The Park has made a major traffic-flow improvement. There is one central parking area near the Visitors Center where all cars are dropped and shuttle buses boarded. These buses are propane fueled and stop at various points throughout the park. There is no pollution and no vehicle clogged roads, making this experience even more enjoyable.

Leaving the Visitors Center, we boarded a shuttle bus and hopped off at various stops along the route to explore the trails. The Court of the Patriarchs was our first stop, where we hiked up a cliff for an overview of the canyon and the wondrous beauty of Zion. The nobility and beauty of these structures of stones have been given the proper name.

Following the road up the canyon to our next stop, we were awed by the vividly colored cliffs towering above us. We arrived at The Grotto and hiked a narrow trail to the back of a small canyon. As the dense forest floor became spongy with moisture, we saw through the filtered-sunlight, a cool running brook cascading from sandstone rocks amid fern foliage; truly a place to pause for beauty, peace and meditation.

Weeping Rock, our third stop, was the most interesting to me from a botanical perspective. Here, in the middle of this arid landscape, was a "desert swamp". The presence of water seeping from the rocks and dripping to the ground has produced abundant vegetation, unusual in this region. Lush areas of Scouring Rush, which I always called Moses in the Bulrush, and Maiden Hair Fern, were the main plants of the swamp.

The dripping water is from accumulated snow and rain at higher levels on the mesas, which over a long period of time, 1200 years, percolates through the porous Navajo sandstone that acts as a vertical reservoir. It finally hits the shale rock level and is forced out the side of the cliffs. The apex of the climb, at the head of the canyon, was an overhanging ledge with a curtain of dripping water about 100-feet wide at the outer edge. The path led onto the hollowed-out cliff, under the ledge and behind the water curtain. The view through the water from this high vantage point, of this "tropical" desert canyon brought an immediate, "Thank You". The Indians had a name for this, The Rock that Weeps.

Tall Fremont Cottonwoods and Velvet Ash trees grow along the course as the dripping water meanders down the canyon toward the river. The Indians, as well as the early pioneers, knew that these trees needed wet roots. Therefore, they knew if they found these trees, even though they may not see surface water, somewhere within a short digging distance they would always find water.

The Temple of Sinawava was at the end of Zion's main canyon and the end of the bus line. It is a green oasis fed by waterfalls cascading down a 2000-foot sandstone cliff. The river and canyon narrow and two different rock layers intersect at the river's bend. Here, the river has carved out several pinnacles, which stand alone in the canyon like a Temple. We hiked a mile up the canyon to where the walls narrowed and the official trail ended. At this point, the real hikers like our son-in-law, Heath, and Tom, his father, wade up-river, walking into the "narrows" far back into the canyon.

The words of geologist Clarence E. Dutton in 1880 summed it up for Peggy and me.
"There is eloquence to their forms which stirs the imagination with a singular power and kindles in the mind…a glowing response…Nothing can exceed the wondrous beauty of Zion."

Bob & Peggy Woodall


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