Utah Part I: Hurricane

Springtime in Utah did not necessarily ensure warm weather, but the chances of enjoying pleasant temperatures were much greater on the southern edge of the state. The terrain is also mountainous, so we wanted to be traveling along a big route like I-15 as we move from the south end of The Beehive State until we reach the north side around Salt Lake City. When we get to Salt Lake City, we plan to hop onto I-80 east and make our way into Wyoming. That is as much as we had decided about our upcoming route on the Lower 48 in 48 Tour.

We located St. George on the map (mainly because it was in the right location and I had heard good things about the city), and started our search for RV Parks from there. As far as attractions in Utah were concerned, the National Parks were front and center on our radar. I didn’t find any campgrounds that were too enticing within the city limits of St. George. A friend of a friend had recommended a place called Zion River Resort in Virgin, but when we researched the details we learned that the rate was $60 per night and we didn’t really want to spend that much if we didn’t have to. I finally found a state park with full hookups and a rate of $28 per night in Hurricane, which was just to the northeast of St. George. We were able to reserve a spot for eight consecutive nights, so we booked a stay at Sand Hollow State Park and started planning our travel route from Page, Arizona.

There were two ways to get to Hurricane, but we really only had one option in the Monaco. We followed Highway 89 to Kanab, at which point we had to go north or south to make it to our destination in the west. If we followed Highway 89 north we would have to go through Zion National Park, and that road was too narrow and winding for a 45-foot motor coach towing a Honda CRV. Our only choice was to take a route that extended our travel time by 45 minutes, and dipped back down into Arizona on Highway 389 to Colorado City, and then back into Utah on Highway 59 into Hurricane. Colorado City had been in the news while we were in Arizona, so we were both interested to see what all the hoopla was about. This remote community at the state line is an enclave of the polygamist sect of the FLDS church. About 4,800 people live there. Its remote location is no accident. It didn’t take long to drive through the small town, if you could call it that. What I saw was a poverty stricken collection of cookie-cutter houses that looked more like dormitories than homes. I guess each “wife” gets their own room. Some sections of the structures were boarded up, as if the construction was put on hold until someone was designated to inhabit that space. The houses were not painted. There were no yards with grass. There was no pride in ownership. Sad looking livestock lived in small pens with wooden fences in between the dorm-homes. Women dressed in solid colors of long skirts, long sleeves and bonnets were walking along the street. Overall, it was a depressing environment. Hopeless in a way. Nothing from that town infused me with an iota of American pride.

Luckily, we were through Colorado City in the blink of an eye and the outlook became much more inspiring. The main theme of this blog post will be the geological kaleidoscope that is Zion National Park. Our campground was only about 25 miles away, which translated into a picturesque 45-minute drive from our coach to the south entrance gate. If I had to use one word to describe Zion National Park, I would start with grandiose. I felt like a dwarf standing at the base of majestic mountains that shot out of the ground like enormous globs of rock that were half chiseled by a sculptor’s rasp. The colors of red, pink and white changed to orange, purple and silver as the sun’s reflection moved across the earth. When you stood still and looked up (everything is up), the views would take your breath away. The diverse terrain was never predictable. Canyons, waterfalls, and a rushing river divided jagged cliffs and mountains that were so velvety smooth, they looked like someone had been sanding them down since the beginning of time. While everything was vertical (park elevations range from 3,600 to 8,700 feed), the horizontal layers of rocks told an entirely different story. It was like the history of the planet as it evolved from oceans to sand dunes to mountains over the course of millions of years was illustrated as simply as if it had been explained in a children’s book. I could easily imagine myself standing in the same place but under thousands of feet of water, or beside a dinosaur who’s head reached hundreds of feet into the air. Zion means “the heavenly city”, and that is exactly what it seemed like… a place that was extravagantly perfect in a multitude of contrasting manners.

When we weren’t at Zion, we were running errands in St. George or relaxing at our campground. The weather was nice with warm temperatures during the day and chilly temps overnight. I spent many hours with my kindle in my hammock, and Mike had good luck fishing. We were at Sand Hollow State Park for a total of eight nights, and it was a good way to start our time in Utah.

The reservoir at Sand Hollow State Park didn't look that big, but it was 1,322 acres. The water was only in the 50's, so I didn't swim. However, the reviews said you could get swimmer's itch, so I wouldn't have gone in anyway.

The reservoir at Sand Hollow State Park didn’t look that big, but it was 1,322 acres. The water was only in the 50’s, so I didn’t swim. However, the reviews said you could get swimmer’s itch, so I wouldn’t have gone in anyway.

The water was very clear and there were lot of boats of every size in the water - from fishing boats to ski boats to kayaks.

The water was very clear and there were lots of boats of every size in the water – from fishing boats to ski boats to kayaks.

There were no trees at the campground, but every spot had its own shade structure over the picnic tables. We used ours to hang the hammock!

There were no trees at the campground, but every spot had its own shade structure over the picnic tables. We used ours to hang the hammock!

One night it rained while we slept and we got to see this pretty view of snow on the mountain to our north. All the white was gone by the next day.

One night it rained while we slept and we got to see this pretty view of snow on the mountain to our north. All the white was gone by the next day.

My Piper boy likes to sit in the hammock with me.

My Piper boy likes to sit in the hammock with me.

A wall in Zion.

A wall in Zion.

The beginning of the Riverside Walk Trail that leads to The Narrows in Zion Canyon.

The beginning of the Riverside Walk Trail that leads to The Narrows in Zion Canyon.

This arch in the rock and the pond below it looked like a natural stage all set for a performance of some kind.

This arch in the rock and the pond below it looked like a natural stage all set for a performance of some kind.

The North Fork of the Virgin River runs through Zion Canyon.

The North Fork of the Virgin River runs through Zion Canyon.

The Narrows is a gorge in the upper part of Zion Canyon that is 16-miles long, up to 2,000 feet deep and at times only 20 to 30-feet wide. We stopped where these people were starting (while we were still dry). At least 60% of the hike is spent wading, walking or swimming in water.

The Narrows is a gorge in the upper part of Zion Canyon that is 16-miles long, up to 2,000 feet deep and at times only 20 to 30-feet wide. We stopped where these people were starting (while we were still dry). At least 60% of the hike is spent wading, walking or swimming in water.

Zion Selfie.

Zion Selfie in an alcove of weeping rock behind a veil of water droplets.

A view from Weeping Rock.

A view from Weeping Rock.

The Lower Emerald Pool did not have too much water yet, and it was still brown. You might be able to see the waterfall at the bottom left of the photo.

The Lower Emerald Pool did not have too much water yet, and it was still brown. You might be able to see the waterfall at the bottom left of the photo.

An example of all the different colors in Zion National Park.

An example of all the different colors in Zion National Park.

A view from our campground when the mountains did not have snow on them.

A view from our campground when the mountains did not have snow on them.

A view from one of our morning dog walks.

A view from one of our morning dog walks.

Towers of the Virgin and West Temple near the south entrance of Zion National Park.

Towers of the Virgin and West Temple near the south entrance of Zion National Park.

A view from our scenic drive on Zion - Mount Carmel Highway.

A view from our scenic drive on Zion – Mount Carmel Highway.

As you drive east through Zion, you can just see enormous ancient sand dunes that have turned to stone.

As you drive east through Zion, you can just see enormous ancient sand dunes that have turned to stone.

Zion - Mt. Carmel Highway is a 12-mile road that connects the south and east entrances into the park. Much of the sights look like this.

Zion – Mt. Carmel Highway is a 12-mile road that connects the south and east entrances into the park. Much of the sights look like this.

A view from the first pull-out after the east entrance into Zion National Park. Checkerboard Mesa was to my left, but the sun was in a bad spot for me to get that photo. This is the consolation photo!

A view from the first pull-out after the east entrance into Zion National Park. Checkerboard Mesa was to my left, but the sun was in a bad spot for me to get that photo. This is the consolation photo!

A big hole in the rock that was once a sand dune millions of years ago.

A big hole in the rock that was once a sand dune millions of years ago.

The mountain goat was monitoring traffic at the tunnel on Zion - Mt. Carmel Highway.

The mountain goat was monitoring traffic at the tunnel on Zion – Mt. Carmel Highway.

We went without the dogs to Zion on our first visit because pets are not typically allowed on the trails in National Parks. They heard how pretty it was when we got home that evening. When they learned there was one paved trail that did allow dogs, and a scenic drive that would be fun to see, they lobbied for us to take them along when we returned.

We went without the dogs to Zion on our first visit because pets are not typically allowed on the trails in National Parks. They heard how pretty it was when we got home that evening. When they learned there was one paved trail that did allow dogs, and a scenic drive that would be fun to see, they lobbied for us to take them along when we returned.

The famous Arch in Zion.

The famous Arch in Zion.

Checking out their human's catch from an afternoon on the banks of the Sand Hollow Reservoir.

Checking out their human’s catch from an afternoon on the banks of the Sand Hollow Reservoir.

Mike has kept me well fed on Fridays during lent this year.

Mike has kept me well fed on Fridays during lent this year.

 

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