Tuesday, November 8, 2022

Advice from Zion


A bookmark from Zion National Park had this message:
Advice from Zion:
Carve out a place for yourself.
Aspire to new heights.
Stand the test of time.
Don't get boxed in.
Listen to the voice of the wind.
It's OK to be a little off the wall.
Reach deep!

We were at Zion National Park three different days. Our first glimpse of Zion was a scenic drive through Kolob Canyons as we traveled from Moab to St. George, Utah. 

As with all our national parks itinerary, there were plenty of "rocks" there. But it added a dose of fall color, something I was looking forward to during our trip.

Kolob Canyons Road is one of the least visited parts of Zion. I think it was a hidden gem.

On our second day at Zion, we drove our Jeep on the 18-mile-long Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway.

As we winded our way up the road, we saw holes in the canyon wall.

We soon discovered it was part of a 1.1-mile tunnel through the rock.  

In the 1920s, the canyon appeared to be a dead end. Highway engineers devised a tunnel by drilling small shafts into the north-facing cliff. The shafts later became the tunnel's windows or galleries. The four galleries are not only a source of light and air but were places for workmen to expel rubble as they tunneled toward both ends.

When the tunnel and highway were completed in 1930 (at a cost of 1/2 million dollars), they opened the region to motor tourism, linking Zion to Bryce Canyon and the Grand Canyon's North Rim. Now the tunnel itself has become a kind of barrier, as today's RVs and tour buses are too large for two-way traffic within the tunnel. That creates delays as oncoming traffic is held to allow oversized vehicles to pass. 

Checkerboard Mesa was named by Preston Patrow, the third superintendent of Zion. Standing at 6,670 feet, it was named for its checkerboard appearance caused by the horizontal cross-bedding of ancient sand dunes and vertical cracking due to expansion and contraction of the sandstone during winter.

At one of the vistas, I again marveled at the tenacity of plants in the unforgiving soil. 

It wasn't just in sandy soil. Plants still took hold even in the rocky surfaces of the cliffs.

 The plants weren't the only living things on the rock walls.

Light and shadows changed the scenery from moment to moment.

Before we left for the day, we stopped at the Human History Museum at Zion, and I took this panoramic shot.

Dwarfed by the scenery, people often have responded to Zion's features by naming peaks, relating the stone monoliths to human or spiritual drama. Four such names are in this photo: West Temple, Sundial, Altar of Sacrifice and Beehive.
As with many of the national parks we visited, it was people in the last century who recognized the value of preserving places like Zion as national parks. In the 1870s, Major John Wesley Powell and Frederick Dellenbaugh of the U.S. Geological Survey explored the Colorado River and Zion region.
Their colleague, Capt. Clarence Dutton, praised Zion in his 1880s USGS report by writing about the canyon's unforgettable and exquisite scenery. Photographers and artists began to portray the majesty of Zion in books and on canvas. 

In a 1904 article for Scribner's magazine, Dellenbaugh described the canyon as a "new Valley of Wonders." His words influenced government designation of the canyon as Mukuntuweap National Monument in 1909. It became Zion National Park in 1919.

Since 2000, access to the Zion Scenic road is available only via park shuttle during most of the year.  Since we couldn't find parking the first day, we opted to return early the next morning to catch a shuttle. This was good in a couple of ways: 1) We wouldn't fully experience the park without riding the shuttle; and 2) It gave Randy a chance to "gawk around," since he didn't have to drive.
Taken through the shuttle windows

The first stop was the Court of the Patriarchs, which is reflective of the history of the region.

Named for three towering figures of the Old Testament - Abraham, Isaac and Jacob - the sandstone cliffs hold court over Birch Creek Canyon and the Virgin River. To escape religious persecution, Mormon leader Brigham Young led settlers to Utah in 1847. Within a decade, 28 families were called to go to southern Utah - to "Dixie" - to begin a cotton mission. In 1863, Isaac Behunin was the first non-Indian to settle in the canyon and the first to call it "Zion," a Biblical reference to a "place of refuge." 

Our shuttle ride also gave us an opportunity to walk along the Virgin River, getting a totally different perspective. 

In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.
Naturalist John Muir

The walk along the river was one of the favorite experiences in Zion for both Randy and me.

While we could have climbed higher into The Narrows, we turned around at a grotto.

 On each journey, you will be able to see the might and majesty of the canyon, from beside the river or from high on the rim. ... These colored cliffs will always be the basis for Zion Canyon's history; the rock, the flora and fauna, the people and the park endure.
J.L. Crawford, 2001

J.L. Crawford (1914-2011) was born in a lumber shack on the family farm, where the Zion National Park headquarters stands today. As he grew up, Crawford saw Zion park develop. As a teenager, Crawford began working part-time as a dishwasher at the Zion Lodge. It would be the beginning of a life-long relationship. Eventually, he worked two seasons as a naturalist and officially became a park ranger in 1948. 

We'd have to agree with his assessment of Zion, as quoted in a display at the Human History Museum there. Each of our three "journeys" into the park provided a different glimpse at the natural beauty - each reflective of the canyon's majesty and another reminder of the beauty of God's Creation.


  1. I'm happy to say it has been wonderful to return to Zion via your visit. We were only there one day [same time of year] and of course took the shuttle. I was so glad to have spent that short time there having seen its dramatic beauty through other blogs.

  2. We were so glad we went back that third day and rode the shuttle. It lead to our favorite part of the Zion experience, walking along the river and seeing the beauty up close.