Zion National Park, Utah – The heavenly place

We agreed to meet with Jay, who is a friend of Malcolm, for lunch. She lives in Springdale, a village at the south entrance of Zion National Park. We spontaneously become friends and she loads us into her car. It is allowed to drive with a vehicle into Zion National Park from November to March, in the other months visitors are dependent on the complimentary shuttle bus service. Zion is like many other parks a canyon, respectively several side canyons that are carved into sandstone and lava basalt by a small river and its branches. The difference is that most visitors coming from the west stand at the foot of the canyon. To see the park from other perspectives one option is to drive hwy # 9 up the canyon walls through two tunnels onto the upper level. On the way up you can see Bridge Mountain, a red mountain where huge slabs broke off to form an arch. Right before the other park exit there is Checkerboard Mesa, a light-coloured flattened petrified sand dune, which is more than 2,000 m / 6,500 feet high and shows a chequered erosion pattern.

Generally, the main criterion that distinguishes Zion National Park from other parks is its diversity. There are many hiking trails, any many of them happily lead from down below upwards, and down again, in the opposite to the other canyon parks. The most famous route is Angels Landing, a view point on a natural platform, to be reached only for hikers having a head for heights across a very narrow ridge, secured with chains, and with precipices on both sides, several hundreds of metres deep. Observation point scores with another beautiful view and a climb not exactly as thrilling as the one to Angels Landing, but at higher. Both hikes take several hours, are exhausting, and request for surefootedness. And both ones, especially last one, are covered with ice so that hiking there might be a bit dangerous at present.

Today we drive up and down the scenic drive in the main canyon. Petroglyphs and other relics like granaries indicate that there were early settlers like Anasazi and Paiute Indians. Mormons seeking refugee from religious persecution in the United States found in 1847 the then Mexican valley and called it Zion, the heavenly place. In 1909 a part of the canyon, now on US territory was protected as Mukuntuweap National Monument, an old Indian name. Only few years later it was renamed to Zion after the Mormons’ protest.

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