We visited Zion on Thursday. Now we’re settled in Bryce Canyon Pines, using both an electric heater and our propane furnace to keep warm against the wind and blowing snow.
Road travel is getting easy. At least easier. We are getting good at what seemed last week to be major problems setting up camp and shuffling stuff in and out of the car and the camper. After a full day of travel we had cocktails by the fire and enjoyed a fine meal of chimichangas and of course, beans.
Zion National Park was a surprise. We’d planned for a short visit there, driving in only as far as the tunnel and then turning around. ‘Oh you can’t do that’ the Ranger at the entrance said, ‘you’d miss the main canyon. And besides, there isn’t any place to turn around.’ So still thinking we’d decline the drive under the mountain we paid our large vehicle fee and proceeded through Checkerboard Mesa.
We’ve seen lots of canyons, all evidencing tectonic movement in the sediment layers, sometimes dipping and rising with different colors weaving through the rock. But the first six miles of Zion looked like someone stirred the layers with a spatula. All the layers and colors, each from different eons millions of years apart are jumbled violently together to create new patterns, including the namesake checkerboard. It is unique and astounding. Before we knew it we were in a line of traffic waiting for our passage through the tunnel with no real choice in the matter.
As the cars drove through, the Ranger stopped larger vehicles like our rig to explain that traffic is one way and that we should drive in the middle of the road. He also checked and marked our permit. By the time we were released to go through, the cars ahead had long disappeared. We realized as we entered this small hole in the side of the mountain that the tunnel had no interior lights. We drove the tunnel in pure darkness both ahead and behind, and after the bright sunlight our headlights seemed inadequate to light the way.
After curving through about 3/4 mile of this eerie passage we suddenly came to a window — an opening on one side of what we thought was an underground tunnel revealed a glimpse of a vast canyon falling away outside. Then we came to another, and another. We realized the mile plus long tunnel passed along the face of a vertical cliff, and the windows looked over the edge, hundreds if not thousands of feet down. It didn’t help my claustrophobia too much to evoke my fear of heights at the same time, but we finally got through and began the serpentine decent several miles to the canyon floor.
It was of course worth all the heart palpitations and our Zion visit was yet another highlight of the trip.
We’ll be here at Bryce a few more days before hopping around for a night or two and landing in Moab for a week.