Tuesday 27th.Once again we are up and away before Cowgirl Ronnie emerges from her sick- bed. We both hope she is alive and well because ,other than entering her room, there is no way to know whether we are leaving a stone cold ex- cowgirl in her bed. If so we will have to wait for the law to catch up with us for today we are off to Zion Canyon to fulfil one of Marilyn’s lifelong ambitions. She was brought up on a diet of Wagon Train, Bonanza, and a fistful of other cowboy t.v and I think she is on a secret mission to find Rowdy Yates in one of these here Canyons.
The trail through Kanab and on to Springdale is another beauty and it is easy to see why Kanab became a centre for these early Westerns. We are keen to get to Zion so pass by the caves and Coral Pink Sand Dunes and the Peek-a-Boo Trail Head. We pass the Chequerboard Mesa on the Mt Carmel Highway and we are astounded how green it is between the red and grey rocks and hills. We reach a long tunnel and after a short wait we are allowed through in single file to make the descent into the Canyon below. Occasional windows in the tunnel give tantalising views of the glories that await us with sheer cliffs disappearing into an abyss below. Marilyn has her eyes closed for some of the descent but happily I am now used to the width of our rather large four wheel drive and I manage to keep from going over the edge.
We are advised not to try to park in the visitor centre and to continue into the little town of Springdale, park on the street and catch a shuttle bus back.
Cars are not allowed into Zion Canyon at this busy time of year. A well organised shuttle service offers pick ups and set downs at the numerous stops along the way. We pick up a shuttle from the visitor centre after a short wait. We are impressed by the sensitive layout of the landscaped centre and the well designed information boards. What parking there is is well hidden.
We decide on a short Grotto walk to start with and have lunch in the shade with the Canyon looming above us. It is a totally different experience from the Grand Canyon where we were atop looking down and beyond. Here the steep walls close in and, as we approach the end of the Canyon road they tower above and dominate. The bus stops and we exit at an amphitheater of rock that has been hewn by the river as it exits the ‘Narrows’ – the slit Canyon at the very head of the Canyon.
It is fairly busy with an assortment of sightseers at this end of the road stop. We notice many returning to the bus who are pretty wet through because here is the option to enter the ‘Narrows’. This is the point that the road stops but the trail continues for a further dozen or so miles up the increasingly narrow slit Canyon. Much of the trail is through waist high water. We decide against going too far in – maybe a trek for another visit – and enjoy a snack while people watching in the shade by the river. It is truly astoundingly beautiful and hard to choose where to point the camera.
We then make our descent using the shuttle back to the visitor centre and the car.
Here I notice a piece of paper on the windscreen that I take for advertising until I realise its official look. The law has indeed caught up with us and I have a traffic violation ticket for parking facing the wrong way! Fifty dollars or they will hang me out to dry.
I am determined it won’t spoil my day so I sound off several very Anglo-Saxon expletives to vent my frustration and head back along the trail and then North to our little Cabin that we have waiting for us near Bryce Canyon which is our destination tomorrow.
On the route we see cowboys with dogs rounding up cattle and I can see that Marilyn is made up. The dog is hanging off the steer as it tries to make it do what it wants. I remind Marilyn about what Cowgirl Ronnie said about all the brains being in the cowboys pants and she sagely nods and I notice her eyes go a little dreamy.
We turn off onto scenic highway 12 and into Red Canyon where the cliffs are sculpted into massive castles like Carcassonne in France or maybe a temple from India. The rocks are shaped into faces of gargoyles or animals. These hoodoos are frozen demons according to the ancient stories. They are frozen as a punishment by the Coyote God because they would come and steal rain or grain or animals from the local people. The Coyote invited them all to a feast where they could eat whatever they liked and once in his valley he cast his spell and the thieves were frozen as they tried to make a run for it to the river. It is not much of a stretch of the imagination to see the horror on the faces of the hoodoos as we pass them.
On every side canyons fan out and disappear into the wilderness. It is in this area that Butch Cassidy would hide out when the heat was on. Often the locals would know of his whereabouts but such was his standing with them that folk would send the law officers in the wrong direction.