Trip to Zion National Park

“Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit.” – Edward Abbey

Monument Valley, Utah
Monument Valley, Utah

I journeyed back into the wilderness this weekend. Dave and I drove to Zion National Park, a day long ride through country that has left me without words to describe the beauty.  One hour south of our current town lies Monument Valley.  This famous view has been in many movies, but the impact of these enormous buttes even more awe-inspiring in person.  This is spectacular and they are just the beginning of a long road with these kind of views.  The road took us into Arizona and past miles of red cliffs, deep canyons and desert beauty.

We stayed in Arizona just long enough to drive to the Glen Canyon Dam, where Lake Powegd-glen-canyon-damll begins and to visit Horseshoe Bend near Page, Arizona. While I took many pictures of Horseshoe Bend, none of them do this justice.  Check out my friend Jeremiah’s post http://www.jeremiahsr.com/p1038564422/h66db684 to get a real taste of the beauty.  It is worth the click!

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One of the tunnel windows in the cliff face. Zion

On to Zion National Park.  We entered Zion via the Zion- Mount Carmel highway, a breath-taking road full of spectacular views. The road leads into a mile-long tunnel built into the mountain.  The tunnel twists and turns in the dark, with surprise windows cut into the side of the mountain where you can glimpse the cliffs across the way.  It comes out the other side of the mountain and into the heart of the park, Zion Canyon.

 

 

The Narrows
The Narrows

This National Park has many hikes and adventures, from mild to wild.  We chose to do one of the “strenuous” hikes into the Narrows, a canyon still being cut by the Virgin river. The hike was unique for us. After a beautiful and deceptively calm stroll alongside the river, the hike leads you into the canyon and then into the river itself. The river led us upstream, where there were occasional times we could walk on sand but mostly we were splashing along in knee deep water.  It turns out walking upstream on rocks is challenging. Yet the experience was exhilarating, especially as we learned how

Brilliant colors in the Narrows
Brilliant colors in the Narrows

to navigate the stream. Different colors meant that we could begin to tell what water was deep, where the sand was, which rocks were more slippery (usually) and  where the easiest path would likely be.  I am grateful for the experience.  I am grateful we had sturdy hiking sticks and closed toe shoes.   I am also very grateful we made it back to the shuttle bus safe and sound for the ride back to the visitor center.

The shuttle bus has multiple stops, each one with tempting hikes, museums and information about the flora and fauna of the park.  As we just had the one day there, we only sampled a couple of the options.  We could have stayed so much longer.  We will have to go back.

coral-pink-sandsOn the drive back to Blanding,  we stopped at the Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park.  It is similar to the Great Sand Dunes in Colorado, but nearby red rocks color the sand a beautiful pink.  We climbed up to get the best view and while we were there we saw the elusive Coral Pink Tiger Beetle, a tiny bug that can live in those dry desert dunes despite the lack of water and intense summer heat.  We watched one climb towards the top of the dune only to be blown down again from an unfriendly gust of wind. Yet, undaunted, it never stopped heading towards to top. It was a lesson in persistence and determination.  Very impressive.

We are at our home base now, planning our next adventures.  There is so much to do within 5 hours of here, the two months we get to stay will fly by.  I am thankful that I have the opportunity to experience this magical place while I can. Yes, I am blessed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Experience of Awe

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Rocky Mountain National Park

Before leaving on this latest journey, my sister handed me an article about the science of awe.  While awe has been a human experience often connected to religion or spiritual experiences, scientists have recently been studying the effects of awe-inspiring events.  One article by Jake Abramson describes it like this: “Awe happens when people encounter a vast and unexpected stimulus, something that makes them feel small and forces them to revise their mental models of what’s possible in the world.”  It can be the view of the mountains as you come around a corner, a rainbow after the storm, the birth of a child or the view of earth from a spaceship.  It can be life-changing.

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Marathon Florida

Scientists are discovering that those experiences affect us in amazing ways. Often people are more generous and feel more connected to the world, to a higher power and to other human beings.  It allows us to perceive ourselves as a part of a larger whole.  This can help heal those with post traumatic stress disorders and open the world to troubled individuals.  It can inspire team work, a sense of community and peaceful feelings.  Those same scientists are recommending that we all build in opportunities to experience awe.

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Canyonland National Park

Here I am in southeastern Utah with awe-inspiring views around every corner and I find myself able to reach out to others more easily, think through life decisions with some compassion for myself and others and feel more centered than I have in a long time.  I too am a fan of Awe.  As many other have discovered before me, the National Park system is a series of places that have built in awe.  No wonder so many of us love to visit them.

I wonder if one gets immune to awe.  Or if you can overdose in it.  I think I have a wanderlust that encourages me to keep looking for the next awe-some thing.  I am grateful that I have had the opportunity to have so many of those things in my life.

 

Edge of the Cedars State Park

Rather than stay in our RV in Utah, we have elected to stay at a lovely vacation rental in Blanding, Utah.  It is a 35 minute drive for Dave each morning, but I am in town and can walk to the library and other services.  A nice benefit for me, as there are things to do here in town.

One cedar-edge-signof the best (so far) is the state park that is only 1/2 mile away.  The Edge of Cedars State Park is dedicated to the preservation of Native American heritage, relics found in the area and an ancient pueblo.  They have an vast collection of recovered pots, arrowheads, sandals woven from yucca plants and beads.

Right outside the door of the museum are the ruins of a pueblo village that was active 1000 years ago.  Of course I read every sign and explored every nook and cranny (although I am still that person that can’t step into the “Do Not Enter” areas).  I even went down the ladder into the kiva, and sat for awhile trying to imagine what it was like there so long ago.  The amount of effort it must have taken to survive, even thrive, in this desert land is hard to believe.

My mom lived in Taos for many years and we have had the opportunity to visit some pueblo villages, and I have assimilated her love and admiration for the art and culture of the area.  I am especially impressed that the Puebloan Native Americans have maintained their traditions while living in a completely different world than their ancestors.  I am grateful that there are places where I can peek into another world, and still have hot and cold running water when I return.

 

 

 

Natural Bridges Monument, Utah

Our current adventure has brought us to Southeastern Utah.  Dave is working for the National Park Service and has been working at Rocky Mountain National Park for the past 3 summers.  This year he has the chance to work for Natural Bridges, a small park with 3 natural bridges formed as the rivers cut through the sandstone mesas creating buttes and sometimes bridges between curves in the river.  The biggest bridge in the United States is Rainbow Bridge accessible by a boat ride on Lake Powell.  The second biggest bridge is Sipapu, here at Natural Bridges.

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Sipapu Bridge

The bridge is huge and, if you are game, you can walk down a short, but challenging trail to walk underneath it’s span.  It is a fun trip because we had to use ladders, hand-holds and little scrambling to get to the valley floor.

 

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Kachina Bridge

We walked under Sipapu then headed along the river bed towards Kachina bridge.  The walk was amazing.  We saw lizards,  flowers, trees, and cactus while being surrounded by towering canyon walls and a brilliant blue sky.

 

Once in the canyon, we found an ancient ruin and spotted some pictographs. Although20161016_121932 we didn’t see any, we heard that there are often petrified wood pieces washed down from the mesa during the monsoon season.  And the land is still being formed by wind and water.  In 1995, a large chunk of the Kachina bridge fell, changing the shape dramatically in an instant.

At 20161016_134511the end of our hike we climbed  up out of the valley.  This proved to be fairly challenging as it is fairly steep, but they provide some hand-rails and ladders to help with the hardest parts.  The trip was totally worth it!

There are so many more parks and places to explore here.  More adventures to come.

 

I begin again

Many years ago, I had a blog.  Life happened.  I let it collapse from inactivity and a feeling that my life was repetitive.  Then in 2010 Dave and I hit the road, living in our 1988 Jamboree RV while working at large RV parks.  We got paid minimum wage and a place to park the RV.  Sometimes we had wifi and cable, most of the time we felt lucky to have electricity and water.  We had many adventures while on the road, and met wonderful people.   We fell in love with traveling for a living, but found ourselves missing our families.  We made some changes. Now we live part time in Denver and do seasonal jobs, again doing our best to satisfy our love of travel and still be able to make ends meet.

This blog will be a chance to share my adventures, both past and present.  My life is no longer repetitive. I am pretty sure others would like variety in their lives as well.  This blog is an opportunity to invite others to join in the journey.   I can’t wait to see what happens next!