s/y Nine of Cups
Utah...Crossroads of the West
July 2010
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The plan was to head from Las Vegas
directly to St. George, Utah near Zion
National Park for our first night. We
barely made it out of Las Vegas when
we saw the sign for
Valley of Fire
State Park in the Muddy
Mountains...still in Nevada. It was too
appealing to pass up so we stopped for
a few hours.
Utah Facts...

Capital: Salt Lake City
Area: 84,900 sq mi (11th largest in the US)
Population: ~2.3 million
High Point: King's Peak, Uinta Mtns(13,528')
Low Point: Beaver Dam Wash (2,350')
State Nickname: Beehive State
State Flower: Sego lily
State Bird: California gull

Utah became a state on January 4, 1896, making
it the 45th state in the USA.

On average, Utah's peaks are the tallest in the
USA with an average elevation of 11,222 '.

Famous Utahans include Brigham Young, historic
leader of the Mormon religion, J. Moses
Browning, inventor of Browning rifle and the
legendary outlaw, Butch Cassidy.
Utah's Great Salt Lake, located in the
northern part of the state, is the largest
salt lake in the western hemisphere
The nickname Beehive State was chosen
because Utahans relate the beehive
symbol to industry and the pioneer
virtues of thrift and perseverance.
The name Utah is derived from the
Native American Ute tribe who lived in
this area and means "people of the
Valley of Fire Goes Hollywood...
From a sign in the park, we learned that several
movies and hundreds of commercials have been
filmed in the park including:
The Good Son,
1,000,000 Years B.C
., Stephen King's The Stand,
The Professionals
and Star Trek - Generations.
Created in 1935, Valley of Fire  is Nevada's
oldest and largest state park.
Views from the road which meanders
through the park were wonderful.
Valley of Fire State Park - Nevada - 36N25.40 /114W 32.44
Many of the sandstone rock formations are
named such as Cobra Rock pictured above.
Several natural arches have been formed as
evidenced above. Recently, the largest arch in
the park collapsed.
Four of the Seven Sisters are pictured above.
Red sandstone with a rich iron content
contrasts sharply with limestone
formations shown above.
We climbed the steep stairs of the Atlatl Rock
shown left for outstanding examples of Indian
rock art. The
atlatl was a notched stick used to
throw primitive spears and was the predecessor
of the bow and arrow.
Prehistoric users of the Valley of Fire from
~300BC included the Basket Maker people and
later the Anasazi Pueblo farmers.
Balancing rocks and arches seemed to
abound in this rugged desert landscape.
We saw lots of lizards on our foray through the
park including this guy who posed for us.
A white-tailed antelope ground squirrel
lazed in some hard-to-find shade.
Fauna in the area included desert birds
such as roadrunners and sage sparrow.
There are many species of lizards and
snakes as well as coyote, kit fox, skunk,
jackrabbit and ground squirrels. The
desert tortoise is present, but rare and is
protected by state law.

Flora is primarily several species of cacti,
but also mallow, indigo bush and desert
The most well-known of the park's formations:
Elephant Rock is also the park's logo.
We arrived in St. George, UT late in the
day with plans to visit Zion National Park
the next day. What to do with the evening?
Ah...America's national pasttime...baseball!
Check out our wildflower page!
Zion National Park is home to 67 species of
mammals, 207 birds, 35 reptiles and amphibians,
9 fish and over 900 species of plants.
National monuments vs National Parks
The two classes of reservations comprising
the national-park and national-monument
system differ primarily in the reasons for
which they are established. National parks
are areas set apart by Congress generally
because of some outstanding scenic
feature or natural phenomena. National
monuments, on the other hand, are areas
reserved by the National Government
because they contain objects of historic,
prehistoric or scientific interest and are
usually established by presidential
There are 392 areas in
the US set aside as
national parks,
monuments, preserves,
refuges and historic
areas. Get more info
from the
Park Service.
Zion National Park, Utah - 37N18.00 / 113W03.03
The St. George Roadrunners' mascot
Another bird for the Bird Sightings page?
We left Nevada behind, crossed a little
corner of Arizona and finally we were in Utah.
Zion Canyon is about 10 miles long, its
walls carved by the waters of the Virgin
River. The first stop "Temple of
Sinawava" (Paiute wolf god) offered a
paved river walk along the banks of the
Virgin in the narrowing canyon with walls
of Navajo sandstone steeply rising all
around us.
Zion National Park
The beauty of what is now Zion National Park was noted in a report by Leo A.
Snow of St. George, Utah, following his 1908 survey of Zion Canyon for the U.S.
Geological Survey. On July 31, 1909, President Taft created the Mukuntuweap
National Monument by Presidential Proclamation, using the Paiute name for the
canyon. Local pioneers called the area "Zion" and asked for a name change  in 1918
when the monument was enlarged. By an act of Congress in 1919, it became Zion
National Park and now contains about 147,000 acres of land.

Why the name Zion?  The term Zion has often been used as a metaphor for the
Biblical land of Israel, any other Promised Land, or any other distant, but much wanted
goal. A similar metaphoric transformation of the term "Zion" occurs in the Mormon
religion . In this interpretation, Zion refers to a specific location to which members of
the millennial church are to be gathered together to live. Issac Behunin, a Mormon
settler living in the area in the 1860's, first used the name "Zion" for the canyon. He
seemed to think that Zion was a "peaceful resting place" or "a heavenly place".

We arrived at the park quite early and were lucky enough to get a parking place, but it
was already crowded. During the summer months a free shuttle runs along the Zion
Canyon Scenic Drive. Thank goodness, because there were so many cars and so much
to see, it would have been near impassable on the narrow canyon road with all the
traffic. We boarded the shuttle and went to the last stop first with the intention of
stopping at all the others on the way back which we did. Each stop offered a special
view or interesting rock formation or hike. Temps  rose to 104F and we wilted in the
midday sun.
Zion was in a word...fabulous. We've seen
so many wonderful sights around the
world, but it certainly didn't diminish the
splendor and majesty of this park. One
ranger called it the "WOW" factor and he
was right. Eye candy at every turn of the
head. We stayed in Cedar City for the
night and left early the next morning for
Cedar Breaks National Monument, not far
away. The state offers five National Parks,
seven National Monuments, two National
Recreation Areas, a National Historic Site
and six National Forests,
We filled our water bottles with Zion spring water.
A gopher snake crossed out path.
Butterflies and dragonflies were abundant.
Indifferent rock squirrels scurried along the trails.
The Great White Throne
The Patriarchs...Abraham, Issac and Jacob Peaks
Interesting formations were all around us.
Natural arch
Tunnel along the Zion-Mt Carmel Hwy
Checkerboard Mesa - Eons of freezing and
thawing created vertical cracks, while erosion
by wind and rain accentuated the horizontal
bedding planes of this distinctive petrified
Navajo sandstone mountain so that over time
a pattern of irregular crosshatches emerged,
creating the checkerboard effect.
Switchbacks, slickrock, buttes and spectacular
views. We each had "cricks" in our necks from
looking up, up, up.
Cedar Breaks National Monument, Utah - 37N64 / 107W95
The wildflowers were in bloom when we arrived at
Cedar Breaks National Monument. The name
originated from early settlers. "Cedar" for the cedar or
juniper trees which grow here. "Breaks" is a term for
badlands. This national monument was established in
1933. We celebrated our 26th anniversary here and
enjoyed the cool 66F temps at 10,000'+ altitude.
A view of the amphitheater
Birds of Western USA
Wildflowers of Western USA
The many wildflowers along the highways and
byways along with the full bloom experienced
at Cedar Breaks prompted a new web page
just for
Wildflowers of Western USA.
Check it out.
Yet another spectacular vista
We were so high, there was still snow which
David promptly fashioned into ammunition!
A 5-mile scenic drive through the highcountry
atop the Markagunt Plateau took us past the
park's main attractions including overlooks,
trailheads and the visitor center. We opted for
an easy 2-mile walk along the Alpine Pond
Trail. A beautiful 4-color brochure provided
interpretive information as we walked along.
The abundance of flowers led to an abundance of butterflies. Haven't gotten around to
identifying butterfly species yet. Hmmm...food for thought.
Uintah chipmunk
Dead trees were evidence of a bark beetle
epidemic in years past.
We particularly enjoyed this park as it was
uncrowded and so very cool. We initially dug
out our fleeces, but the midday sun and some
exercise soon warmed us up. Walking along the
trail, the smell of evergreen and pure mountain
air was delightful. The only sounds were
creaking of ancient bristlecone pine and the
flutter of the quaking aspen leaves. Moths and
butterflies flitted about, wildflowers were
everywhere and the views were stupendous.
We've found that each place we visit offers
some unique feature that differentiates it from all
the rest. It's our job to seek out that uniqueness
and enjoy it to the fullest.
Red Canyon - Dixie National Forest, Utah - 40N93 / 109W39
We didn't have lots of time here, but
Scenic Byway 12 led us directly through
Red Canyon of the Dixie Forest.
Part of Zion NP and the 2 million acre
Dixie National Forest, it is only a few
miles from Bryce Canyon NP as well.
Red Canyon offered superb views and
outstanding geological formations right
from the car. Views are so spectacular,
it nearly overwhelms your senses.
What's a hoodoo? Also called a tent rock,
fairy chimney or earth pyramid, it's a tall,
thin spire of rock that protrudes from the
bottom of an arid drainage basin or
badland. Hoodoos are comprised of soft
sedimentary rock topped by harder, less
easily-eroded stone that protects each
column from the elements.
Navajo sandstone rock formation...iron
oxide content makes it red.
Pinnacles, spires, hoodoos...wow!
As if the drive wasn't scenic and colorful
enough, tunnels through the sandstone made
it even more interesting.
Since we couldn't be in the tropics for our
anniversary, we chose the little town of
Tropic, UT for our 26th anniversary
celebration. We splurged on a king suite for
the night and had excellent fresh trout at
nearby Clarke's Restaurant.  Sorry...the
rest of the evening was X-rated.
Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, Utah - 37N44 / 111W34
We know...this is getting to be a bit much.
So many national parks and monuments are
in the area and it's hard to pass one up even
if we don't have lots of time to explore each
one thoroughly.
Grand Staircase
Escalante National Monument was once
again "on the way" as we travelled along
Scenic Byway 12. We saw more
wildflowers in bloom along this stretch of
Byway 12 than anywhere else in our
travels.This made it a slow ride since I
insisted that David stop to photograph each
one. Patient man that he is, I managed to get
lots of new photos...identifying them all is
another story.
Grand Staircase - Escalante National Monument
is yet another  geological marvel and was the last
place in the continental US to be mapped.
Grand Staircase-Escalante National
Monument spans nearly 1.9 million
acres of America’s public lands. Since
2000, numerous dinosaur fossils over
75 million years old have been found
here and thus the area is a virtual
goldmine for geologists, paleontologists,
naturalists, biologists and historians
alike. Humans didn't settle permanently
in the area until the late Basketmaker
period, somewhere around AD 500.
Both the Fremont and ancestral
Puebloan people lived here. The
Monument was declared in September
1996  by President Bill Clinton.
We drove the unpaved Hole-in-the-Wall Road about 15 miles to Devil's Garden for an other-worldly display of  hoodoos and rock formations.
The monument was named
"Grand Staircase"  because
of its broad, tilted terraces
which step up in great
technicolor cliffs of vermilion,
white, gray, pink and yellow.
Together these escarpments
expose 200 million years of
the earth's history in a
dramatic geologic rainbow of
Views are stupendous; wildflowers abound. This
road was part of the Mormon Trail which led
through the canyons.
Grand Staircase view
Natural arches were at every turn.
A desert lizard poses in the hot sun.
Capitol Reef National Park, Utah - 38N17.29 / 111W15.45
Established first as a National Monument in
1937 and later as a National Park in 1971,
Capitol Reef comprises 378 square miles of
colorful canyons, ridges, buttes, and monoliths.
What's in a name?
The 65 million-year-old, hundred-mile-long warp in the
earth's crust known as the Waterpocket Fold was once
a formidable barrier to east-west travel. Early
prospectors who had been sailors often called such an
obstacle a "reef". The rounded sandstone formations
bore a resemblance to the capitol domes, hence the
name "Capitol Reef".
This sign caught our attention.
Once again, the views were stupendous. We drove the scenic drive route to the Capitol Gorge Spur road...twisting, turning and wending its way
through millenia-old sedimentary rock. Each turn was breathtaking and we came away with a new appreciation for rock formations!
Purple hills blooming lupine
Local traffic jam...this is free range territory.
Utah has 7 national monuments: Cedar Breaks, Natural
Bridges, Dinosaur, Rainbow Bridge, Grand
Staircase-Escalante, Timpanogos Cave and Hovenweep; 2
national recreation areas: Flaming Gorge and Glen Canyon;
and 6 national forests: Ashley, Dixie, Fishlake, Manti-LaSal,
Uinta, and Wasatch-Cache, plus 5  national parks.
The Flute Shop looked interesting and it was
with lots of native American crafts!
Heading east, we finally joined up with I70, crossed the state line and found ourselves in
familiar territory. Come home with us to the Rocky Mountain state of
Another option, but perhaps far less
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Cross Country USA 2010