Back In Utah

Trip Start Apr 06, 2010
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Flag of United States  , Utah
Sunday, May 30, 2010

Heading back north from Arizona we drove through a town called Page. Here the Colorado River was dammed in the 1980's to create a reservoir and recreation area that would fill Glen canyon over the course of 17 years. This area is now known as Lake Powell and is beautiful to look at with deep blue water. There is a white tide mark around the top 30 feet of the canyon caused by a 20 year ongoing drought combined with a much larger water demand from the reservoir - the locals call this the 'bath ring'.

We were back in Utah to visit the third national park on our route through this state, Bryce Canyon. This park is famous for its Hoodoos which have been formed by the wind, rain and ice over thousands of years and apparently represent all types of famous people, animals, buildings and a complete chess set! Maybe we lacked the imagination to see all these or perhaps the guys who discovered the canyon were a little over excited with their find, but it was an incredible sight all the same.

Making the most of the 25'c weather we hiked a couple of trails high up on the edge of the canyon and were amazed to find snow in amongst the trees still, it had been snowing hard only a few weeks earlier and despite the temperature still hadn't melted. There were also some signs explaining how all the rubbish bins along the trails had to be removed after a bear had been spotted tipping them over to get an easy meal - this upped our pace a bit! The weather high up on the plateau is pretty extreme with deep snow in the winter and 40'c heat in the summer making it difficult for much to grow besides the bristlecone pine trees ; these trees can live without water for several months by letting the base die and converting one of the branches into the main trunk of the tree, allowing them to survive for as long as 4700 years.

The next morning we were up at 7.00am to go horse riding...very funny considering we are both scared of horses! We got down to the corral to meet our guide - a real cool cowboy dude called Bo, who has been riding horses since he was 4 and has competed in rodeos and steer tying competitions. As it turned out, Bo was on a horse but we were not horse riding at all, we were in fact riding mules, considerably less cool! The trail snaked down the side of the canyon for a couple of miles with sharp switchbacks, tunnels, steep slopes and sheer drops to the side of the trail - the mules seemed determined to get as close to the edge as possible. With no-one else out at this time of the morning we had the bottom of the canyon to ourselves and the strange shapes of the hoodoos looked absolutely amazing in the early sunshine. Lou had a lazy old mule called Winchester that was always balancing right on the edge of the path and kept dropping behind Bo and the 2 other two girls in our group (in all fairness to the mule, God only knows what the animals in front of us had been eating last night but they had a really bad case of wind like nothing you've ever heard or smelt before. Their mules smelt pretty bad too!). When the gap became too big Winchester would get scared and suddenly begin to run as fast as she could to catch up, causing Dan and his beauty Shamrock (at the back of the group) to start running as well. By the time we arrived back at the corral three and a half hours later we could just about manage to climb off our mules and hobble back to the familiar comfort of the windstar!

Our fourth and final national park to visit in Utah was Zion, characterised by huge, sheer faced sandstone walls surrounding a narrow canyon carved out by the Virgin River. The drive into the park from the east side is an awesome one; the enormous rocks at the side of the road are overwhelming, towering a hundred feet high and the route to the campsite went through a tunnel cut into the canyon wall lasting a couple of miles. We were getting tired now, having spent the last couple of weeks traipsing around canyons, valleys, mountains, lakes and rivers (hard life) and spent the afternoon in our campsite that had tiny hummingbirds flying around the flowers, deer munching on the grass next to our car and what we reckon were tarantula nests in the trees above us.

The entire area in the bottom of the canyon at Zion is only accessible by shuttle buses that collect you from the campsites and drive along the bank of the river, complete with a commentary of the different features that you pass and explaining how they were formed etc. The sandstone walls allow rain water from the top to filter down through them until it emerges near the base of the canyon. This happens so slowly that some of the water trickling through has been dated by the park scientists as 4000 years old! We did a short hike at the end of the shuttle route along the riverside and saw dozens of ground squirrels, hanging gardens on the canyon walls and zion snails (tiny little snails the size of a grain of rice and unique to this national park, found around the water running down the rocks). You've probably gathered by now that we've clocked up quite a bit of time in the national parks, and we were both really looking forward to something a little bit different (not to mention a decent shower, meal and nights sleep - the airbed is beginning to take it's toll, although we are kinda getting used to the fact that when one of us moves in the night the other one just has to go with it). Our next stop was going to be a complete contrast to natural america though and we were excited about getting glammed up in Vegas.
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Comments

MUM on

Must admit I had to chuckle about you two on your donkeys Winchester and Shamrock and how they teetered on the edge ! and Ran to catch up with the others every now and again - could just picture you both - very amusing - you write it as it was - so realistic - brilliant place and great pics !! xx

Claire H on

As a horse rider myself, I wish I could of joined you for this one!! It sounds like you had a great time and you had me laughing!

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