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Columns


The Grand Circle (part 2)
by Curt and Mariel Richardson

Our final destination was Washington, Utah. Even though it was only a 170-mile drive, there were many diversions along the way to keep us at a slow pace.

Our fist stop was at Nevada’s amazing Valley of Fire State Park. It was only 55 miles northeast of Las Vegas. This is Nevada’s oldest and largest state park. The park derived its name from the red sandstone formations and the stark beauty of the Mojave Desert. Ancient trees and early man are represented throughout the park by areas of petrified wood and 3,000 year-old Indian petroglyphs. Complex uplifting and faulting of the region, followed by extensive erosion, have created the present landscape.

We realized that we are just a speck on the timeline of the 2 billion years during which this and the landscape of the entire Southwest was shaped. Wind, rain, floods and gravity were the forces of nature that created this wonderful place. It is here now for us to preserve and enjoy.

The map we picked up at the visitor center named the special rock formations and indicated where the hiking trails are that would take us close to them. Mouse’s Tank, Beehives, Arch Rock and Petroglyph Canyon were just a few of the places that we explored. The trails were moderate and easy to navigate.

One trail led us to an abandoned Hollywood movie set from the 1960s. After leaving the park we continued on the 44-mile loop through a section of the Mojave Desert past more interesting rock formations. What a stark difference to the crowded streets of Las Vegas. We returned to I-15 and continued on to Washington, Utah. Tonight we were treated to a cookout dinner prepared by the caravan staff and we became better acquainted with our traveling companions.

Here is a bit of wisdom picked up along the way: “The Earth does not belong to us; we belong to the Earth”-Chief Seattle

 This morning a tour bus arrived at the RV Park to take us on a tour of Zion National Park. This was a wonderfully warm day. After a short stop at the visitor center we traveled into the inner canyon along Zion Canyon Scenic drive. Sheer, vividly colored cliffs towered above us as we followed this road along the floor of the canyon on our way to Zion Lodge. This route took us past huge monoliths with names like Mount Spy, Twin Brothers and the Sentinel. To go further into the park beyond the lodge, you must either walk or ride the free park shuttle. We decided to ride the shuttle to the end of the canyon and work our way back to the Lodge by trail and shuttle. Visitors are allowed to get on or off the shuttle at any of the stops.

Originally inhabited by both ancestral Puebloans and Paiutes, Zion received most of its colorful place names from early travelers and settlers. The first white man to explore this region was a Mormon sent by Brigham Young in 1857 to explore the Virgin River. Here the Virgin River has cut the canyon through a nearly 2,000 foot deep geologic layer of petrified dunes known as Navajo Sandstone.

The shuttle drivers narrated the ride and were quick to point out rock climbers many hundred feet up on the sheer cliffs. At one place he called our attention to a suspended hammock high up on the cliff wall. It is a place where climbers can spend the night on multi-day climbs. This area is a rock climber’s paradise. There were many photo opportunities.

After a short walk we rejoined our group for lunch in the Zion Lodge and then continued our bus tour to the eastern portal of the park by way of  the Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway. Completed in 1930, the road was considered an “almost impossible project,” an engineering marvel of its time. It connects lower Zion with the higher plateaus and passes through two narrow tunnels, including one 1.1 miles long. Each twist in the road seemed to bring us closer to the edge, but the spectacular views helped us overcome our nervousness. The bus then retraced the route back through the tunnels and back to the visitor center where we viewed an IMAX movie of the park.

Not far from our next overnight campground destination of Jacob Lake, Utah, we stopped in the village of Hurricane. On the main corner of this quaint little town is the site of the Hurricane Heritage and Historical Park. This park honors the Mormon pioneers that settled this area. The outside display showed some of the original equipment used to farm the surrounding land. A large statue of a Mormon family was the centerpiece of the park. There was also no lack of descriptive plaques that outlined the history. Inside the small museum there was a room decorated with period furnishings from the 1870s and the usual gift shop. A very educational stop!


The Richardsons reside on Pumpkin Hook, Van Hornesville.

 


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