Aside from being famous for Mormons, Utah is also widely known for … well, it’s mainly the Mormon thing.
But Utah also has on offer some of the best National Parks in the country. We’re starting here in the south, in Kanab, going towards Zion National Park. To get there, you have to go through this Wile E. Coyote drawing of a tunnel:
But once you’re through you get things like this:
I was following a trail up which lead to a slot canyon. Unfortunately it was closed off due to weather concerns. Since the closing off was just a chain and a warning sign, a few intrepid youngsters hopped over it. They were never seen again. By me, I mean. I left soon after.
I was heading through the Park to a place on the other side, a ghost town called Grafton. Although its last residents moved out in 1944, the population has boomed in recent years due to migrating packs of photographers. I swung by early in the morning and already they could have done with a relief car park.
My next destination takes me back through Zion National Park and, even though I’ve only been gone about half an hour, the weather is demonstrating how changeable it will be for the day:
I stop in for lunch at the Thunderbird Café, which tempted me with its promises of fine dining and nothing else.
The café opened in 1940, when ‘ho’ referred to new machine for cutting and shaping puff pastry. … Okay, the actual explanation, by way of café menu: the lettering for the original sign would not have fit, so, needing to reduce the number of letters, it was shorted to “ho-made” from “home made”. Hm. Bertie, what do you think?
“Well,” says Bertie, “I think she’s—“
On second thoughts, Bertie, I don’t want to know.
After lunch we head north towards Bryce Canyon National Park, with the skies closing in a bit more. Throughout the trip I’ve encountered a peculiarly American way of doing road-trips: the RV. Sure, other places have caravans, but aside from a kettle and the ability to annoy Jeremy Clarkson, they’re not really up to scratch. I think only Americans have come up with the solution of driving an entire apartment around with them. I mention this because all things have an origin, and I think I’ve come across the original RV:
Throughout my trip, I’ve also been encountering that most despicable nemesis, the Cow and, I’m sad to say, that Utah has chosen the wrong side. The Mormonism thing was quirky but fine, like an uncle who collects human skulls: probably harmless. But there’s one thing I won’t tolerate and that’s pro-Cow propaganda:
Fortunately I’m passing through this loathsome pro-Cow town and soon reach the spectacular Bryce Canyon. I’m told towards sunset/sunrise, the lighting on the rock formations takes on truly fantastic dimension. The weather condition I’ve chosen is “sorta hazy, snowy”.
Even so, it’s still an incredible sight.
It is, on the other hand, freezing. And Arizona’s sunburn has left me with a face that does not receive chilly winds very well. I’m about to get back into my car when I spot some movement in front and decide it’s worth the facial aggravation to get a few pictures of a herd of deer rambling through:
The weather continues its indecision. Above it’s snowing with low visibility, a few minutes later as I’m on the outskirts of the park, it’s changed to:
Now that Bryce Canyon has become clear and beautiful again, I’m off. I’m heading towards Moab. Unfortunately this involves going some pretty high ground when I get caught in another snowstorm. It’s white out conditions and I end up joining a little convoy of cars as we’re heading along what can still be seen of the interstate, which isn’t much. Eventually it starts to clear up and, by the time I’m descending towards Moab, it’s a clear night with a bright moon in the sky. The rest of the trip is actually beautiful: with the moon providing enough light I can see the grand landscapes I’m heading through on my way.
In the morning I head up to Arches National Park which, due to the landscape and low draw distance, seems strangely Martian:
The park is named after the arch formations in the rocks:
But there’s formations for all audiences. Those impressed with balance:
Those who like deceptive scale:
The little tiny dots centre-left are little tiny people.
Those with juvenile minds:
Ahem. But of course, the main attraction is the arches themselves, with one of its most famous coincidentally being one of the most easy to reach:
The sunburn is still giving me a lot of bother when I’m out walking in the biting cold. I’ve come up with an improve solution using my hat and a t-shirt wrapped around my face. Keeps the wind off, but leaves me looking like Shredder.
It’s a quick trip across the road in the Technodrome (that show lasted ten seasons, no wonder my childhood was so great) to reach Canyonlands National Park:
My trip to Canyonlands is delayed by more evidence that, beneath the veneer of this beautiful landscape is a heart of darkness:
I slip past this battalion and reach some mighty looking views:
There’s one park left on the list and it’s the nearby Dead Horse Point. Aside from its brilliant views, the park is famous from its appearance at the end of Thelma & Louise. Recently it has appeared in Disney’s The Lone Ranger, so if it looks familiar to you, you’ll have seen Thelma & Louise.
(Click to enlarge)
It’s overlooking the Colorado River. The one that made the Grand Canyon. As mentioned before, the scale of this thing is kinda big.
I finish off Utah up in ParkCity, visiting a friend, whereupon I learn about perhaps the most lasting effect of Utah’s Mormon influence: strange drinking laws. Like, beer over 3.2% alcohol is classified as liquor. In my home of Ireland, beer under 3.2% alcohol is classified as water. There was a time – a.k.a. before 2009 – when to order a drink without a meal you had to sign up – and pay to join – a members club. It all seems a little strange, especially the religious influence. Being Irish Catholic, I assumed religion was primarily based around drinking. And if you think it’s a bit glib to assume all of this is because of religion, I present to you a book I stumbled across in Utah’s Walmart: