Zion National Park, Utah (2011 trip)

Utah is one of our favorite states – because there are some of the most stunning national parks in the country – as well as some terrific state parks.

Check out the video of us riding into Zion https://vimeo.com/42893236

Zion National Park

On the way in, we pulled into a viewpoint to take a look down into the valley – and were ‘rushed’ by two new fan clubs.

The first was a group of photographers from China

And I wish I had his Leica!

Edit in 2021 NOW I HAVE MY OWN LEICA; the Q2 – a big boy in a little body

Some serious gear!

Next, a coach pulled in – and, lo and behold, it was filled with Italian tourists who were ecstatic at seeing an Italian motorbike touring the USA

Next, we registered at one of the campgrounds and began to set up camp; not easy in such a hard, rocky place

Setting up camp in Zion

We had to use rocks to weigh the guy ropes down as it was impossible to get tent pegs in, but finally, we were ready to go explore the park:

It is pretty hot here in Utah. It was hot in Nevada, the state next door too. It was hot when we rode through Death Valley in California. But never, ever, has it been as hot as it was riding through Kansas in August, last year! It was so hot, I felt physically ill – in fact, I had heat stroke. We had no energy or interest in exploring the Tallgrass Prairie Reserve. We made a half-hearted attempt at walking up a slight hill to at least look, but couldn’t make it. So we returned to the bike to find the nearest town and motel with AC. To ride in that heat is, literally, like being behind a jet turbine of hot air – speed does not give a cooling air, it does the opposite.

My thermometer only went as far as 120 but we found out it had reached 127 degrees

Finally – a little of the history, culture and geology of Zion National Park:

Almost 12,000 years ago Zion’s first peoples, who are now almost invisible, tracked mammoth, giant sloth, and camel across southern Utah. Due to climate change and over hunting these animals died out about 8,000 years ago. Humans adapted by focusing on mid-sized animals and gathered foods. As resources dwindled 2,600 years ago, people tuned life ways to the specifics of place. Such a culture, centered on Zion, differentiated over the next 1,500 years into a farming tradition archeologists call Virgin Anasazi.

Zion’s geology provided these and later pioneer farmers a combination rare in the desert: a wide, level place to grow food, a river to water it, and an adequate growing season. On the Colorado Plateau crops grow best between 5,000 and 7,000 feet, making Zion’s elevations — 3,666 to 8,726 feet — almost ideal. Differences in elevation also encourage diverse plants and animals; mule deer and turkey wander forested plateaus; bighorn sheep and juniper prosper in canyons.

The Anasazi moved southeast 800 years ago, due probably to drought and overuse. Soon after, Paiute peoples brought a way of life fine-tuned to desert seasons and thrived. In the 1860s, just after settlement by Mormon pioneers, John Wesley Powell visited Zion on the first scientific exploration of southern Utah. By hard work and faith pioneers endured in a landscape that hardly warranted such persistence. Flash floods destroyed towns and drought burned the crops. Only the will to survive saw Paiute, Anasazi, and European descendants through great difficulties. Perhaps today Zion is again a sanctuary, a place of life and hope.

Our time in Zion is in the next post.