Determined to get to the Grand Canyon before it got too hot, we got an early start. As we drove through the Coconino Forest up the Oak Creek Canyon Trail, we marvelled at the more than one million acres of forest – the largest in the United States.
Relying on the information about the geology that I had gathered from one of the Pink Jeep guides, I’ll share with you what I know about the white rock pinnacles and the red rocks below them that blazed the trail for us: a tectonic shift millions of years ago changed the desert into white rock while the seashore became red rock because the water rusted it. I agree that this short summary might not suit a geologist, but for us it was perfect.
Since we had taken a day off to rest and hadn’t been on the road for two days we had completely forgotten to diesel up, so we found ourselves on this gorgeous highway, wending and winding at 25 mph, worried we’d run out of gas. As Allie put it, we did the last few miles on fumes, and coasted into an Exxon station at the end of the highway. It took nineteen and seven/eighths gallons to fill the 20-gallon tank, and we were more than happy to give Exxon the credit card. We are spending about one hundred dollars a day on gasoline, more than we spend on food and shelter combined.
When Mr. Gospel of AAA talked with us about Grand Canyon he said,” You look down, then you look up, then you travel on.” Turned out he was right because although it’s magnificent in its depth and vastness, it doesn’t have the aura of Sedona, the magic of Carlsbad or the wonder of the Petrified Forest. We did a bus tour, tried to see the movie, but it was “under construction”. We did marvel at the bus service – dozens, perhaps hundreds, of buses leave their stations every fifteen minutes, and the passengers get on or off as they choose.
I think what disappointed us most was the attitude of the crowds. In every park we had been in people had observed the magnificence with wonder and awe, even a sense of reverence. Here, perhaps because there were so many people who seemed to be in a rush to beat the crowds, there was only noise and confusion. It felt more like a big city than a sanctified wonder. Perhaps if we’d been younger and had been able to hike or horseback ride into the canyon we would have experienced the essence of Teddy Roosevelt’s dream.
A detour in the middle of the desert, which added 75 miles to the trip, took us by surprise; an Indian trading post had neither Indian handcraft nor fry bread, so we stopped hoping for a good ending to the day. The Lake Powell RV Park turned out to be lovely, in a small town called Page, with the bonus of a McDonalds and a Walmart close by. But, best of all, the locals told us that Zion and Bryce (our next destinations) were wonderful, so we fell into bed with happy thoughts.
The next morning we were in Utah, and Utah is gorgeous! We found it a little greener than Arizona as we travelled the two lane highway to Zion National Park. The sand is red, as are the rocks, there are almost no cars, a few trailers, an occasional house and a horizon filled with huge towers of Navajo rock in shapes which have been named by the locals. We passed The Mushrooms and laughed. The name is so apt. Coral Dunes State Park looked inviting but we wanted to get to Zion. Its red rock sand dunes are brushed into parallel striations, looking as if a vacuum cleaner had left its marks on the rock faces. A herd of bison graze. And then the road changed from black to red and we arrived in the Park.
A moment to talk about the Senior Pass. We have had one since we first visited a national park on our way to the Canadian Rockies years ago, but it has been upgraded. They took away the cardboard card and gave us a plastic one, no charge, and thank you. So every Park and Monument we go to is absolutely free. Think about what a wonderful country we live in and bless Theodore Roosevelt for his insight and foresight.
TIP: Buy a Senior Pass if you are 62 years of age or older. It costs $10.00, is good for a lifetime, and gives you free passage to any National Park or Monument.
Zion: the Mormons named it and they couldn’t have done better. Many of the rocks have religious names, i.e. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The truth is if one wanted to pray, this would be the best spot for it, better than any church, temple or mosque. The visitor is overcome by the majesty of the scenery. When Allie was driving in at 20 mph, winding his way up and down the mountains with no guard rails as we pass gorges hundreds of feet below, I asked him if he was OK driving. He laughed and touched my arm with his sweaty palm. “Scared shirtless” he answered.
A mile long tunnel through a mountain was too narrow for RVs with two-way traffic, so the Rangers stopped the traffic one way to let us (and dozens of others) go through. We hopped onto a shuttle bus, and took an 80-minute tour stopping at highlights in the Park. An interesting movie capped it all.
We arrived at the Zion RV Resort, which really is a resort, complete with beach, laundry, showers, and a mini 7-11. The next day we leave for Bryce Canyon which people can’t say enough good things about.
What an adventure!