June 9-20 - Utah: South & North
After three weeks in Las Vegas, we were ready to move on, and given the heat, north was the optimal direction. We'd never been to Utah. Wow!
Essentially, our Southern Utah experience was divided between Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park, equally spectacular and totally different. We drove just 144 miles from Vegas to our 6 day home at the Zion RV Resort, in Virgin, UT (Pop 344). It's also just 13 miles from the west entrance to Zion National Park.
Zion and Bryce parks are both hiker's parks. We confined ourselves to what we called the "Three O" trails - Old, Overweight and Out of Shape. And by the end of our stay, we were not getting nearly as pooped by our wanderings.
Zion National Park is a canyon carved out by the Virgin River. In places, the canyon is over 2,000 feet deep. The rocks are almost all sandstone, which is relatively easy for a river to erode. Over time, the canyon was essentially created by two things: River cuts a trench into the sandstone and washes the sediment away. Sandstone collapses to fill the trench, but widens the top when it does. Repeat endlessly. At the narrow end of the canyon, there's been almost no collapsing - the canyon is no wider than the river - 30 feet or so. At the wide end, the canyon is a mile or two wide in places. And because of the colorings of the stone, the scenery is spectacular. Layers and layers of different colored sandstone, streaked with white (calcium carbonate) and red (iron oxide) and black (magnesium). The pictures don't begin to show it all. We were in the park three days. It wasn't as hot as Las Vegas when we got there, but it warmed up gradually and was over 100 by the time we left.
Bryce Canyon National Park is about 100 miles from Zion, and is actually several canyons, most filled with the most amazing sandstone sculptures. You know how you used to grab big handfuls of wet sand at the beach and then drizzle it between your fingers to create spires and minarets and castle towers? Multiply those dribblings 10,000 times and you approximate the "hoodoos" that populate Bryce Canyon. Also formed by water, these sculptures are the result of rain or snow and wind, not river erosion. Everywhere you look, another "Wow!" moment. We had just one day at Bryce, but it was definitely worth more. As a fringe benefit, there's an ice cream shop that's part of the Ruby's Village complex just outside the park that serves up a humongous single-scoop cone for just $1.89. That's our free travel tip for this essay.
The Zion RV Resort is a very nice place to stay, with an on-site grille that serves up the most wonderful chocolate chip cookies. The Sunday we were there, they had a flute concert in the evening - a spinoff from a Native Flute festival just ending in nearby Springdale. Most enjoyable. We got a mail delivery from South Dakota while we were there, and went to a Broadway Revue musical theater type thing at a local playhouse, which was really very professionally done. Surprised us. Only annoyance at the RV park was the lack of cell phone service. Cell phones worked all around the area, but not at the RV park.
After 6 nights, we got an early start on June 15, heading north to the Salt Lake City area. We stopped for about an hour at the MotoSAT factory in SLC to have some tweaking done on our satellite internet dish, and then headed east on I-80 (mostly a vertical drive, it seemed) to a place called the East Canyon Resort. It's only about 20 miles from downtown Salt Lake City, but the short route is way too steep for the motorhome, so we had to drive around the mountain and come in from the other side - 56 miles. This place has three major things going for it: It's relatively close to SLC, it's 20 degrees cooler than down in the city, and we could stay for $8 a night. Club memberships sometimes pay off. Actually, it's a very nice family resort, lots of grass and trees, very pleasant.
When in Salt Lake City, there are some things you absolutely gotta see. There's the lake itself, of course - looks and smells a lot like the ocean back home, except smaller and hotter. We didn't swim in it. Some people did. It's really quite interesting - a lake that's all that's left of a huge inland sea that slowly evaporated, leaving water so salty that nothing lives in it but brine shrimp. And, of course, one must see the Mormon Temple. We visited Temple Square in the heart of Salt Lake City, took some pictures, got inside the Tabernacle to see where the choir sings, and got out again without being actively proselytized. It's really a spectacular complex - 36 acres, marvelous buildings.
It took us a couple of days to find some tourist publications, so we knew where to go. Antelope Island is a 36,000 acre island in Great Salt Lake, accessed by a 7-mile causeway. It's home to about 600 bison, numerous pronghorn and other beasties, and is a very scenic state park. We spent several hours there. Hill Air Force Base, just south of Ogden, has a very nice aerospace museum that's free. We like airplane museums. We also like free.
Because of the Mormon heritage and continued presence, you notice some things in Utah that are a little different. Almost no billboards with beer ads, for one. The historical things are almost all church-related, and even most of the natural wonders have names that harken back to the original Mormon settlers. Not necessarily the Wasatch Brewing Company in Salt Lake City, brewers of a beer named "Poligamy Porter". Their slogan: "Why have just one?". We gather there's been a lot of hoo-hah raised locally over some of their ads.
There are way too many pictures (almost 300) in our slide show, but this is some of God's best stuff. Skip around if you want. The slide show for this leg of our life is here.