Sunday, July 24-Tuesday, July 26
Every time we depart a national park, we conclude that it will be impossible to beat. (Well, maybe not Death Valley, but it does have its own charm and is certainly unforgettable.) Sequoia, Yosemite and now the Grand Canyon—how can you say that one is better than another? They are all different, have their own distinct character; and as far as wonder and natural beauty go, they are the best the Earth has to offer.
It turns out that this planet actually has quite a bit to offer, and our country seems to have received more than our fair share of extraordinary natural places. Add one more to the list: Zion National Park.
The drive to Zion from the North Rim is only a couple of hours and retraces some of the original route we took since we are doubling back. In some respects Zion is a miniature Grand Canyon (about one-tenth the size), but while the Grand Canyon is vast , Zion is intimate. The big difference is a change of perspective. In the Grand Canyon on the rim you are looking down with a view not dissimilar from what you would experience in an airplane. In Zion you drive down hairpin curves and switch backs until you get to the bottom where all the action is. You look up at red cliffs that tower between three and four thousand feet over your head, straight up. Of course this is a perspective similar to what you have in Yosemite Valley, but that valley is wide and spacious. In Zion the valley is narrow and enclosed, like very long, narrow, curved room, with very tall walls and a high celling of blue sky and white cloud puffs. You feel like you are being embraced by the canyon walls, the green trees and golden grass, and a bubbling stream.
We arrive in the Zion valley around three and check into our lodge—the Cliffrose Lodge and Garden, a bed and breakfast of 50 rooms, all of which have porches or balconies that permit you to look over a sparking brook (technically a river, the Virgin River which carves the Canyon) and up to a gigantic, sheer, red cliff which seems almost as big as El Capitan. The lodge is located in Springdale, a tiny, attractive (surprisingly trash-less!) tourist village, situated in the heart of the canyon, where all the hotels and restaurants are located except for the Zion National Park Lodge, which was fully booked when we made our reservations. The Cliffrose Lodge, however, is fabulous and has lots of amenities we would not find in the Zion National Park Lodge—like television, and a decent size swimming pool. The gardens surrounding the property are exquisite. Deer and chipmunks roam at will, fearless of humans, and hummingbirds dip and dive around the trumpet vines on our porch. The service is excellent, and there is even a small bistro and bar. We rate it number one in accommodations so far. The television is especially important because it permits us to watch practically all of the first day of the Democratic Convention. More about this to follow.
Zion is a fabulous park. The Virgin River meanders along the narrow valley floor, nourishing tall pines, a few hardwoods and green and gold meadows. Gentle rapids flow into pools deep enough for a dip, and plenty of hikers take advantage of that (as does Embry). The valley walls go straight up and change colors of varying shades of red depending on the angle of the sun. It should be on everyone’s bucket list. Except for one thing: it is very crowded and during the summer, very hot—over 100 degrees during our visit.
Because of the breath-taking natural beauty, lots of people are attracted to Zion. The Park Service made a decision to open it up to visitors to the maximum extent possible just as they did with Yosemite (but not the North Rim of the Grand Canyon). Their solution was to close off the valley road to automobiles and use shuttles to carry visitors up the river several miles (40 minutes) with nine hop on/hop off shuttle stops providing access to trail heads. It works pretty well but results in opening the trails to hundreds—perhaps thousands—of people per day so that on some trails you feel like you are back in Yosemite Valley. The river trail—a two-mile, relatively easy and especially beautiful trail—was jammed with hikers of all shapes, sizes and languages the entire time we were on it. Embry’s solution was to leave the main path and walk along the river, which it turns has a narrow, sandy trail beside it with few hikers. So if you want to enjoy Zion, the idea is to find the trails less traveled. These include most of the difficult trails and those not written about in any guide book. The second day Embry went by herself and waited to hop off the first shuttle stop where no one got off the crowed bus. So on stop 4 when no one exited, she bolted, squeezing her way out to find herself on a completely deserted trail leading to the river with pools deep enough for dipping For her this was one of the most pleasant experiences of the whole Road Trip.
Now a word about the television. One of the best parts of the Road Trip is to find ourselves in isolated locations with little or no communication with the outside world. We are in our own cocoon—a wonderland of natural beauty. For a fleeting moment it is possible to vision the world as a happy and joyful place with beauty that could only be created by a kind and loving God. The Emily Dickenson line, “All is right with the world,” comes to mind. Not only are we in the middle of a paradise, we observe other humans enjoying it and see so many, apparently happy families. Life is good.
But we know life is actually not all good and there is a world out there where much is happening right now which could well determine whether we will move toward the good or toward the bad. We know we are missing the action, and the action right now is the Democratic Convention. Since we will be staying in national parks the next few days where there will be no TV and probably no internet or email, we devour the first day of the convention on the lodge TV.
It is too early to know how it will all turn out. As I write Trump is ahead a couple of points in the polls—and this achievement follows what virtually every pundit has described as the worst acceptance speech of all time and the worst convention, along with the news that Trump is rejoicing in Russia’s email hacking of the DNC, ostensibly in an effort to influence the election.
Watching the first day, we are enthralled by Michelle’s speech, and impressed with Corey Booker, Elijah Cummings, Al Franken and practically everyone else. We are relieved that Bernie has finally come around, but not happy with the boos and shouts coming from his “movement” every time Hillary’s name is mentioned. If the “movement” sits this one out or, God forbid, goes with the ultimate political outsider, Mr. Trump, it could spell real trouble.
At the end of the day of watching almost every moment, we are proud to be Democrats, believe our country is great, not awful, and pleased with the progressive Democratic platform that sets a course for dealing with the very real problems we must address.
We will miss the next three days as we move on to Bryce and Arches, before heading to the Rocky Mountains.
Now on to Bryce!