Friday, September 7, 2001...
Greetings from Nephi, Utah, one of many places in this state to take its name from the Book of Mormon. Around here, if it sounds Biblical but isn't, it probably came from Joseph Smith's cre...er, "revelation."|
Began the day by returning to Cedar Breaks, where I finally got some use out of the light jacket I had brought alojng. Cedar Breaks is almost two miles above sea level, along a road closed by snow six months of the year -- I once got into a snowball fight here on July 1. After photographing the overlooks in the morning light, I continued on to Bryce Canyon.
Like Zion Canyon, Bryce has the makings of a traffic nightmare: a single road, 18 miles long, with occasional turnoffs and parking areas. So far at least, Bryce hasn't banned passenger cars. Instead it tries to bribe visitors to take shuttle buses, offering $5 discounts off the park admission fee for those who do. The Bryce shuttle buses are perfect for hard-core hikers, too -- they can follow trails from one viewpoint to the next without having to double back .
But unlike Zion, where most of the action is in the canyon itself, at Bryce visitors travel along the rim. There's only one rim: Bryce is technically an amphitheater rather than a canyon, with all the viewpoints facing east. The park was named for 19th century settler Ebeneezer Bryce, who spent five years trying to farm here -- he described the canyon as "a hell of a place to lose a cow."
That's for sure. Bryce's dominant features are endless series of "hoodoos," vertical orange and white formations carved from the rock. From a distance they resemble rows of soldiers standing at attention. Mile for mile, Bryce is the most photogenic place I've ever visited -- every angle of every viewpoint is unlike all the others, and unlike anything ever seen outside the park. Numerous trails lead down among the hoodoos -- I hiked one of these trails, but a slightly sprained ankle (the result of sliding down a hill a little faster than I should have) put an end to the day's hiking. Anyone interested in hiking or photography could easily spend a day and a half at Bryce.
From the park, I followed SR 12 north and east toward Capitol Reef National Park, the eighth and last national park of the trip. En route I passed Utah's Kodachrome Basin State Park, the only natural feature I know that bears the name of a commercial product. The state and federal governments may be missing a bet here: think of the sponsoring and naming-rights opportunities! I could have started the trip in Enron Yellowstone Park, driven the Goodyear Loop around the park, stopped at the Evian Upper Falls of the Yellowstone and Met Life Old Faithful, then departed for the Hooters Grand Tetons...
The 2-1/2 hour drive to Capitol Reef passes through the brand new Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, featuring still more spectacular scenery. Capitol Reef itself is named for a domed formation resembling the U.S. Capitol, part of a giant wrinkle in the earth's crust called the Waterpocket Fold. From overlooks and the park road, the cliffs on one side of the park seem to have been constructed on a 15-degree angle. The site also contains Indian petroglyphs and the remains of the pioneer Mormon settlement of Fruita, named for the trees that continue to provide fresh, wholesome snacks for park visitors.
Left Capitol Reef at about 6:15, then followed back roads for 3-1/2 hours to my motel. En route I passed through numerous Mormon towns, immediately recognizable for their wide main streets, before reaching what may be the only motel in the state that doesn't have a Book of Mormon right next to the Gideon Bible. On to Salt Lake City in the morning...and home tomorrow afternoon! I plan to sleep most of Sunday...
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