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