Places to go and things to see by Gypsy Bev

Posts tagged ‘Utah’

Impressive Zion National Park “Treasure of the Gods”

Springdale, UtahBeautiful, Beautiful Zion  The town of Springdale, Utah rests in the shadows of Zion National Park where massive sandstone cliffs soar into the blue skies. Early Mormon settlers called these majestic stone canyons the “Natural Temples of God”.  Mormon influence can still be felt throughout the park as they named several of the rock formations.

Zion TheaterA great place to begin the day is to stop at Zion Canyon Theater and watch Treasure of the Gods, an IMAX film. Here you receive a great overview of the park and can then select some of those places you really must visit.  The film gives spectacular views of the canyon from an airplane flying over, as well as going deep within. Spectators feel they are actually viewing the canyon seated in that plane. Much centers around the Indian legacy from the 1500’s, as you experience the myth and magic of the canyon. Ancient native people called this rugged landscape home, for centuries.

There are two scenic drives here: the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive and the Zion Mount Carmel Highway. This trip we are exploring along the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive, which is a favorite route. In fact, it is so popular that now during the summer months, this road into the park is closed to regular traffic, making access to the park’s scenic beauties available only through shuttle bus service from April 1 – October 31. However, during the winter months vehicle traffic is permitted making it much more fun to explore at your leisure.The Zion Mount Carmel Highway is open to traffic all through the year.

Three PatriarchsThe Three Patriarchs are a trio of very similar mountain peaks called Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  All of them are nearly 7000′ high so can be seen from many different parts of the park.  One of the shuttle’s first stops has a path that leads up a short incline for easy viewing.  The Emerald Pool is nearby and has several small waterfalls that add to the beauty of the surroundings.

The NarrowsCliffs on both sides of the road are a half mile high and end at the beautiful Temple of Sinawava, home of the Paiute Indians’ coyote spirit. Here the Virgin River travels a narrow path between the mammoth rocks. This is the perfect time to park your car, or get off the shuttle, and walk along the riverbank. This two-mile round trip Riverside Walk meanders all the way to the end of the trail, The Narrows.  To continue, you must wade, walk or sometimes swim in the river. Peeking through at the end of The Narrows you can catch a glimpse of the Temple of Sinawava.

Weeping WallAnother steep path leads to Weeping Rock where a veil of spring water seeps through the sandstone wall making it appear that the rock is crying. The steps culminate at a large eroded area with slippery floor from the tears and growing moss. Often there are hanging flowers enjoying a drink from the rocks as well. A gentle trickle of water flows through the rocks in the fall, but in the winter icicles often form. A guide remarked that this water should be quite pure as it is filtered through the sandstone rocks from the rim of the canyon on an incredible journey that takes from one thousand to four thousand years.

Great White ThroneThe Great White Throne, a highlight of Zion National Park, seems to glow in the evening light as it overlooks much of Zion Canyon. It stands out easily, even in the daytime, with a beautiful red rock background. Made of white Navajo Sandstone, the top appears glowing white while the base is red. This received its name from the Mormons, who felt this area represented the New Jerusalem, and called it The Great White Throne, a name appearing in Revelations as the seat of God for the last judgment.

Spending the evening in a small motel in Springdale was also quite a treat as it was necessary to patiently wait in the car for the elk to decide to move out of your way. They were very friendly and not the least bit afraid of cars or people. The elk enjoyed rubbing their antlers on the trees in the parking lot…and sometimes attempted using the parked cars.  This was one of those times when you could easily “reach out and touch someone’…an elk if you dared!

To visit Zion National Park from the North on I-15, exit on Hwy 20. Follow US-89 to Mount Carmel Junction where you will meet SR-9, which is the Zion-Mt Carmel Highway and is always open to vehicle traffic. 

From the South on I-15, exit 16 will take you through Hurricane and LaVerkin. Again you will take SR-9 to the entrance of Zion National Park.


Land of the Dinosaurs

If these bones could talk, what stories we would hear! Take a trip back in time and explore the  Dinosaur Gardens in Vernal, Utah to see life size replicas of dinosaurs as they used to roam this region; then head to the quarry to see some fossilized dinosaur bones.  These unusual gardens and a wonderful museum are part of the Utah Field House of Natural History State Park. Inside you will find real fossil skeletons, a Fossil Lab plus an interesting film, while outside the beautiful dinosaur replicas along the garden path give you a great size comparison. It is like visiting a prehistoric zoo!

One of my favorites was the Brontosaurus, now also called Apatosaurus due to a scientific battle.  This long necked, plant eater just seemed a peaceful animal in spite of its size. Often 70 foot long, “Thunder Lizard” weighed up to 30 tons. Being the symbol of Sinclair Oil, it is one of the most familiar dinosaur images.

Triceratops was the most famous horned dinosaur as its fossils are found in greater numbers than any of the others.  Even though they looked quite fierce and were very successful in battle, Triceratops were plant eaters. Their strong jaws made it possible to grind up vegetation, probably including small flowering shrubs. Triceratops was about twice the size of a rhinoceros, with four short legs and three horns on its face.  People often find it difficult to fathom that this creature lived approximately 65 million years ago.

As we head North from Vernal, we pass movable sprinkler irrigation systems as we glimpse our first view of Dinosaur National Monument in the distance. Early settlers developed an irrigation system, which is assisted by Flaming Gorge Dam today, to provide water to the developed farming area. Before irrigation and the building of dams, this area was a barren cactus flat and not considered a desirable place for settlement.

Upon arrival at Dinosaur National Monument, you find a large quarry of dinosaur remains in an exposed sandstone wall. The actual Quarry Visitor Center is in Utah, while most of the Dinosaur National Monument extends into bordering Colorado.

Discovered in 1909 while searching for fossils for Carnegie Museum, this area is thought to be the best in the world for obtaining information concerning late-Jurassic-period dinosaurs. It would appear the dinosaur carcasses were washed down the Green and Yampa Rivers, then caught on the sandbars, which eventually turned to rock. After all these years, there still seems to be no end to what can be found buried in this rock face.

At the present time, The Quarry Visitor Center is being rebuilt due to structural problems with the original building, and expected to reopen in the Fall of 2011. In the meantime, you can walk the Fossil Discovery Hiking Trail to see dinosaur fossils in the cliff face – as long as the temperature is below 95.  The trail is actually closed for safety from heat related problems when it exceeds that temperature.

When there several years ago, it was amazing to see the vast amount of fossils naturally exposed in such a small area. Enjoyed watching the paleontologists at work on the sandstone surface, carefully chiseling away the sandstone from the fossilized bones.

Stop back after October, 2011 to see the new Quarry Visitor Center. An interesting place to visit, but would be more exciting to be part of the dig, and chisel bones from the wall…very carefully.  Maybe you could discover something yet unknown!

Under the Arches in Utah

Arches National Park is unique at every turn.  No matter how many times you drive or walk through this giant rock collection, you usually notice something different. Located near Moab, in Southeastern Utah, this beautiful red rock country is overflowing with unusual rock formations. This is called the High Desert as it is located between 4,000 and 5,600 feet above sea level and receives very little precipitation.

There are 36 miles of paved road going through Arches National Park, and you can see many of the formations at a distance.  But there seems to be a desire within to take a hike, and actually touch some of these famous landmarks. Over the years many arches have collapsed due to erosion of wind and water, but there is still a plentiful feast for your eyes here.

Delicate Arch was used in 1996 as a symbol in Utah’s centennial celebration and is the park’s most famous feature.  While it is a beautiful tribute to the National Park, it is not easily accessible. The opening close up view is spectacular, but you can see from the arrow in this photo how high and far it actually is located from the main road. Spring and Fall are definitely the coolest times to take the hike for an up close and personal view of Delicate Arch. You really can’t appreciate its beauty from afar.

The Windows is another popular photo spot.  Here you can see how vast the opening really is when compared to the size of the visitors.  At a double arch in The Windows area, filming of the beginning of  “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” took place back in 1988.

With all this rock, it might seem animals would be few and far between. However, there are many nocturnal creatures living in this desert region, including many different varieties of birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians. Perhaps there are some snakes and rats left over from Indiana Jones!  Water is their biggest problem, and while the Colorado River runs on the park’s southern boundary, it is too far away for most of these creatures.  So they have developed various ways to adapt.

This group of rocks got its name, Garden of Eden, because early park visitors let their imaginations loose and  thought the rocks resembled Adam and Eve, holding the tempting apple.  There is even a small ten foot Serpentine Arch here to complete the Garden of Eden scenario.  This Estrada sandstone gives a special color to the area.  The view frequently changes as the sun moves in the sky casting shadows and glows in different directions.

With over 2000  natural sandstone arches and unusual rock formations, Arches National Park  gives you a new appreciation of the beauties of nature.  You’ll find nothing man-made here.   “Only God can make a tree”…or a beautiful rock formation!

Crystal Geyser Bubbles in Green River

Crystal Geyser is a pleasant surprise in this Utah territory, one of my favorite places to explore.  While staying in Green River, Utah, residents there suggested a nine mile trip down a rough, off-trail road, which led to an unexpected geyser.

Here we have a rare example of a cold water carbon dioxide geyser, which is completely different from the geothermal geysers seen in Yellowstone Park. Man actually drilled for oil on this spot in 1935, and got an unexpected result. There were said to be several of these bore holes in the region, but Crystal Geyser seems to produce the most spectacular results…if you are patient.

People at the local coffee shop encouraged me to be certain I had reading material, sun protection and plenty of water as you never know when this geyser is going to erupt.  Sometimes is it every eight hours and could be up to twenty two hours between eruptions. Many people camp here all night to catch the next eruption.   So patience is definitely the name of the game.

Carefully following directions, finally arrived at a point that had a small sign indicating Crystal Geyser.  My curiosity was piqued so got out a blanket, put on a straw hat, and took my book to a nearby orange rock among the colorful mineral deposits. Decided to wait it out! Here people came and went for several hours arriving on dirt bikes, kayaks and four wheelers as well as SUVs, trucks and cars. Had to get up and take some walks around the area while waiting.  Too long to sit in one spot!

Finally there seems to be some action near the pipe marking the geyser. Just watching its approach is quite interesting. First, water surfaces and creates a small pool in the area.  The area begins to bubble off and on for several minutes. Even the mud begins to bubble. Next you could see water spouting out the holes in the pipe.  Then, the eruption gave off a cooling spray enjoyed by adults and children alike. Several children got as close as they could to splash in the geyser pool and feel the cool spray.

When it finally erupts, the water may be anywhere from a height of eight feet to a hundred feet, and could last from ten minutes to two hours. It’s always a surprise even to those who live in the area.  Once it is finished there is a whooshing sound as most of the water is sucked back into the ground, and the rest flows away over the yellow-orange rock surface into the Green River. Felt quite lucky to have it erupt on my first visit and within about six hours.

Back in Green River, stopped to get a couple of their delicious melons to take back home.  Today my slice of life included a big slice of watermelon to end this adventure on a sweet note.

Utah the Honey Bee State

Deseret was the name of the first Mormon settlement in Utah.  Its name is from the Book of Mormon, meaning ‘land of the honey bee’.  This territory extended between the Sierra Nevadas and the Rocky Mountains, covering a vast area in Utah. The Mormons were on a mission from God, attempting to create a model society in this new wilderness.

Four days after arriving in Salt Lake City, building began on the magnificent Salt Lake Temple, which took forty years to build.  This Mormon Temple is the centerpiece of the city and an easy icon to spot as you walk the streets of the city.

Close by on Temple Square is the Mormon Tabernacle where the Mormon Tabernacle Choir performs at selected times during the year.  We have timed our stay to include a Sunday morning performance of the choir.  They give us a short introduction to the astounding acoustic construction that gives the organ and choir such a unique sound. They demonstrated that even dropping a pin in the pulpit could be heard throughout the auditorium due to the fantastic acoustics.  And it worked!

Adding to the sound and beauty of the choir is the 11,623- pipe Tabernacle organ, whose golden pipes are hand carved from Utah lumber. This is one of the most elaborate organs in the world.  The combination of organ and choir were magnificent entertainment.  Of course, you couldn’t leave without wanting to buy a CD for future listening.

Touring the Utah State Capitol building here, you are able to see the unique art, architecture, and history of the building.  The beautiful domed rotunda with bronze sculpture groups delights the eye inside, while outside the flower gardens are exquisite.

This city was laid out with the widest streets imaginable and shows a lot of foresight on the developers’ part back in the late 1800s.  From the steps of the Capitol building, you get a beautiful view of downtown Salt Lake City.

Eagle Gate, where a 4,000 pound Eagle is perched atop a beehive,  stretches across the wide street. Originally built in 1859, the gate has been moved as the city developed but was originally the gate leading to Brigham Young’s farmland.

Another historic spot downtown is the Bee Hive House, which was the Salt Lake City home of Brigham Young.  Built in 1854 with a beehive on top as a symbol of productivity and diligence. it is the older of Young’s two local residences.  Here you can see how Brigham Young and his family lived at that time. Young had numerous wives and children, being considered the most famous polygamist of the Latter Day Saints Church.  The Brigham Young Monument downtown Salt Lake City, at the corner of Temple and Main Streets, provides a beautiful picture with the famous Mormon Temple in the background. Most of the cities landmarks have a connection to the religious beliefs of the founding fathers.

The experience at the North Visitors Center was one of the highlights of the trip to Salt Lake City.  As you walked up a spiral staircase inside the building, you were greeted at the top by an 11 ft figure of Jesus with welcoming arms outstretched to greet you.  What a very breathtaking surprise!

Everywhere you can see the hand of the Mormon Church is still very active in this area with friendly faces at every stop along the way.  This is a pleasant spot to relax and enjoy the tranquility.

Mormon Settlement in Utah

Pioneer State Trail Park is located in beautiful Salt Lake City, Utah.  Part of the park is designated as Old Deseret Village and it is here you will find the old Forest Farmhouse of Brigham Young where he had a dairy and experiment farm.  This old house is said to be haunted with the spirits of those who lived there long ago. Built in the late 1800s, this two story house with a wrap around porch, even had a ballroom on the second floor.

Often you will find people dressed in period costumes explaining and sharing the stories of those early days at the farm.  There is even a stagecoach ride pulled by a beautiful team of horses and driven by a real cowboy.

During the ride you will pass the bowery a thatched roofed, open-air structure.  This was a replica of the shelters used by the pioneers for protection of early Saints while attending church or other functions on Temple Square. This was the place to meet while they were building the tabernacle.

When the Spirits let by Brigham Young crossed the Wasatch Range of the Rockies through the mouth of Emigration Canyon, they gazed at the New Zion, soon to become Salt Lake City.  It is recorded that Young said, “This is the right place.”  One woman who walked barefoot from Illinois every step of the way, put on the slippers she had carried the entire trek so she could enter Zion with dignity. At this spot they built a This is the Place Monument, a white stone obelisk, honoring the 1847 settlement.

On the 100th anniversary, a new and large monument was erected just down the hill from the original spot. This new monument was designed by the grandson of Brigham Young, sculptor, Mahonri M Young. There are twenty four individuals on the new monument honoring the leaders who settled the Salt Lake Valley. The figures stop the central portion are Brigham Young in the center,  Heber Kimball, and Wilford Woodruff, all prominent leaders in the early days of the Mormon Church.

Utah is beautiful country with mountains and deserts to explore.  Utah is definitely the place to explore and enjoy the history of those early Mormons ,as well as the beautiful red rock structures throughout the state.

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