Kanab, Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park
Trip Start Aug 26, 1994
11Trip End Sep 18, 1994
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DAY 19 TUE The next morning we were roused for a sumptuous breakfast to prepare us for the long day's journey to Bryce Canyon. Never one to indulge in a sumptuous breakfast, I restricted myself to a place of cereal and a cup of coffee. At 8.30 we boarded the vans and set off on a trip which took us across the border from Utah into Arizona. Neil (the driver) told us that Bryce was much more breathtaking than the Grand Canyon and so it was, though the strangely-sculpted orange rock formations became a bit boring after several hours. Once again we hiked from the top to the bottom. Yet again I survived. I could feel myself growing fitter with each mile. Back at the top we paused briefly for lunch before setting off to walk four miles around the rim.
On the way back to the hostel we stopped at a mall in Kanab to buy meat and beer for the night's barbecue. I shared a six pack of a watery brew called Keystone with an equally watery German youth named Christian. The three cans of 3.2% made little impression on me (I am an Ossie, after all) and I was able to retire with a clear head, smug in the knowledge that I had educated a number of Americans and Europeans on the correct way to cook a barbecue. As I slipped into a desperately needed sleep I pondered the fact that, while no spirits or wine are sold in Morman Utah, anything at all is available in nearby Nevada.
DAY 20 WED We arose at 8.30 the next day and set of for Zion National Park. Zion was not at all like the two canyons, more like Yosemite without the redwoods. Our most challenging hike to date stretched two and a half miles along a zigzag track to the top of the mountains. Despite my thrusting fitness I found myself struggling up the zigs, though the zags weren't too bad. The last half mile was trackless. Instead, chains had been attached to the cliff walls and one was supposed to drag oneself along the face of the cliff without plunging to one's death 1,500 feet below. At last I came into my own. Transformed from a wheezing old geezer, I climbed the entire half mile to the top without once touching the chain (except on one occasion when I brushed it accidentally). The Chinese youth behind me told me that he had never seen someone my age so fit. I thought about this a lot but never did decide whether it was an insult or a compliment. Once at the top we clowned around on the edge of the abyss (Milan's brother seemed to have a death wish, walking to the very edge of the mountain to peer into space).
Christian, a young German from the other van, shocked us all by scratching his name into the soft rock. He responded to our cries of horror by claiming that the elements would soon expunge his vandalism. I bet it will take an ice age to remove Christian vas hier from that peak. After some time our guide suggested that we begin the return journey. Floating in a sea of adrenalin I ran down the side of the cliff (though only when the ledge was at least two feet wide).
After a brief rest we drove to yet another part of the park and walked through an icy stream between large cliff walls. Unfortunately my choice of footwear, thongs, proved foolish and I was forced to wade across the roaring rapids in bare feet. Cullis feet are renowned for their leathery toughness and the slippery rocks did no harm other than raise ugly blue bruises and pulsingly red gashes. When the youngsters announced that they were going to swim in the icy waters, I slipped ghostlike away, pausing a hundred yards downstream to gaze longingly admiringly at their sleek (though top heavy), bikini clad forms. Back at the car park I joined the other two oldies and watched as a large German tourist tried to break into his large red rented Dodge and recover his car keys. My Aussie mate offered to heave a brick through the window but the kraut and his equally forbidding wife and sullen teenage son, totally lacking a sense of humour, preferred to wait for a ranger.
The drive back to Las Vegas was long. We stopped twice along the way, once so that the driver could relieve himself on the grass verge in the middle of the well-travelled highway and once so those of us of a more modest disposition could do the same in a roadside tavern (the toilets of which contained dispensers stocked with an amazing array of prophylactics, which I hope means condoms rather than suppositories). At 8.30pm we pulled into the hostel. Much to the pleasure of all in the immediate vicinity I removed my stinking, three-day-worn socks and deposited them, plastic-bagged, in the nearest garbage bin. Sleep did not come easily that night as the people in the room above selfishly played loud music into the early hours of the morning. I had almost dozed off by 3am, only to be awakened by Christian the vandal talking loudly to someone right outside my window.