Oh, I love the sandstone canyons and mesas of the Utah desert.
These carved walls are reddish in color. But stick around for a bit and watch the hues and colors magically change as the days go by. These walls exhibit bursts of brilliant and dramatic kaleidoscopic hues, especially at sunrise and sunset.
A marketing plan to promote the Utah National Park called “Mighty Five” may have backfired. Too many people visit parks and “America’s best ideas” today. In the age of COVID, it has proven safer to explore outdoors.
The designated national parks in Utah are Zion, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Arches, and Capitol Reef.
Zion National Park’s 3.6 million visitors in 2020 will be the third of 63 most visited parks, long gate wait times, parking lots will fill up quickly, and park service will last a year. Some reservations are required. People visiting the park are regularly advised to leave their cars and campervans and take the bus to the most popular places in the park.
Only Yellowstone, which has 3.8 million visitors per year, and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which receives 12.1 visitors per year, can see more activity.
But when you enter this main valley of Zion, you can almost forget about everyone… most.
A few years ago we hiked a lot of short trails. We sometimes climbed smooth rocks and enjoyed amazing views of the desert. The terrain is completely different from our horse farms and the hills of County Chester.
The desert is fragrant and hot during the day and quite cold at night. It’s often said to be humidity, not heat, but 100 degrees Fahrenheit is still very hot.
The two Zion trails that have received the most attention are the narrow ones that weave deep into the slit canyons. Hikers are often advised to rent special shoes as the boardwalk crosses the Virgin River directly.
Another popular essay is Angels Landing. It is usually crowded. This is to prevent hikers from hanging on to the chain and falling until they die. The view should be great, but skip it for the challenges and the drops.
The name Zion, with its canyons, highlands and 2,000-foot cliffs, comes from the Hebrew word meaning “shelter.” This fascinating terrain kills Virgin River, a flowing water with hard rocks that blend into cliffs and towers.
Bryce Canyon isn’t very far from Zion in Southern Utah and isn’t very popular, but it’s just as spectacular. The amphitheater here has thousands of fairy chimneys. These deeply carved colorful red rock sentries resemble carved obelisks and can be human-sized or 10 stories tall.
The term hoodoo is clearly derived from “bewitched”. Almost 30,000 of them are here, so you can certainly feel the aura they present.
At 14, during a family vacation, we rode horses to the bottom of the canyon.
That day I learned an important lesson. WARNING: Do not ride a horse named “Banana” when navigating a heavy drop off along the trail. Bananas can grow at any time.
A teenager wearing a cowboy hat on top can look down hundreds of feet, as a well-trained horse can safely walk the sidewalk once the horse is in good shape. Often.
Millions of years of water and wind carved these magnificent pillars of red rock, with regular freezes and thaws.
Further north, near the Moab Playground, Arches National Park has more than 2,000 natural stone arches.
65 million years ago, the area was a dry seabed. Many of today’s arches have been buried thousands of feet deep.
Wrinkles and folds occurred under the buried sandstone, creating lumps. The chain caused a fracture, which tore and created a pattern for future sculptures.
The area began to rise to a height of several thousand feet above sea level. Erosion was sculpted and rock carving of the future was born.
“When exposed, a deeply buried layer of sandstone rebounded and spread, as if the sponge had been squeezed and then spread (although not so quickly),” the national park’s official website read. . Then, as the water got in, more fractures occurred.
Long before I set foot here after reading the “Desert Solitaire” story about Edward Abbey’s experience as a ranger, I grew to love this place.
We must have read the book. On the final exam, all freshmen got three hours and a blue book to answer a question about what we’re reading. Talk about the pressure!
Canyonlands is nearby. The canyon is subtle but overwhelming.
I ran the dirt road a bit on the Nissan Versa and looked back wisely before it got tough. It seemed that no one was there for miles. I chose not to blow up the tires or run out of gas and become vulture food.
I visited Capitol Reef in January. Fortunately, it has been snowing recently. The snow was partially melted on the walls and canyons. The contrast between the red sandstone and the white snow was fascinating.
Like Canyonlands, I took a somewhat frozen dirt road. I drove over a mile when the wall approached me. Finally, when I started to wonder if there were any vultures in the winter, I looked back.
According to the park’s website, the white dome is named “Parliament Building” because it looks like a Parliament building and is called “Reef,” which represents a rocky cliff that acts as a barrier to movement like a coral reef in it. the sea. . I am.
So go ahead. Winters are less crowded, cool and sometimes extremely cold, and it can snow in the desert. Let’s go to Utah!
Bill Rettew is a weekly columnist and lives in Chester County. His legs are still itchy. You can contact him at [email protected]