Utah 2023: Day 3

Zion National Park. OMG. You can thank me for not posting three hundred photos of this place. (Any botanical gin will do.)

The landscape en route was majestic, of course.

You will notice that Utah is a bit greener than northern Nevada.

The park itself is breathtaking. Technically it’s the Virgin River gorge, and thus fairly linear in its layout.

Pro tip: Zion is hugely popular and parking is at a premium. Get there very early, or prepare to park in Springdale and take the free shuttle in. We drove through the park, found nothing, turned back, and then zipped into the first paid parking lot outside the park. $40 to park, but worth it: we could walk across the highway into the park.

Inside the park, a shuttle will take you from the visitor center to eight other stops in the park. They arrive every five minutes, so feel free to hop off, explore a bit, then hop back on. We chose to do our hopping off on the way into the park, i.e., when it was a little cooler than the afternoon.

The first stop is at the Court of the Patriarchs, so called because one of the first settlers, Mormon of course, named the peaks after Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. (There is a fourth peak named after the Angel Moroni.)

I have decided that panoramic photos are too small to be impressive on the blog, so I’ve started taking panoramic videos instead.

You may recognize this plant from its portrait by Georgia O’Keeffe.

It is Sacred Datura. Its seeds will send you places and are used by shamans for that purpose. It littered the landscape.

One of the stops is called Angel’s Landing, so named because visitors long ago decided that it was so tall that only angels could land there. Is there a hiking trail up there? Of course. We had no intention of attempting that madness in the first place, but when we saw this poster of the trek, we all uttered a solid Roy Kent No.

There was a footbridge across the river there, so here are our first glimpses of the Virgin River.

The last stop is the beginning of the river walk, a mostly paved path that leads all the way back to The Narrows, where the geology is such that the river has not had the time yet to wear away the walls of the cliffs.

There were multiple places to get off the path and explore along the banks. We were all struck by this cliff with centuries of desert varnish.

The vista was constantly amazing.

But Dale, I hear you whining, how can this tiny little stream have gouged out this incredible landscape? Flash floods. At Grand Canyon, they warn you about the ground squirrels being the biggest threat to human life; at Zion, it’s flash floods. They even announced on the shuttle that today the risk of flash floods were nil.

There is of course wildlife. Here is a doe…

…and her fawn.

The doe created some concern as she approached the trail. She didn’t seem to be aggressive, but she stood her ground while hikers began to gather. One sensible gentleman loudly warned people to leave her alone; she wasn’t looking for a scritch. We couldn’t decide if she was preparing to protect her baby or was scoping out the snack situation. (DO NOT FEED THE ANIMALS!)

The trail is long and gorgeous.

The deeper we went, the greener it got. Here is a beautiful grotto and pool about two-thirds of the way in.

At the start of the park, the vegetation is all desert: sage, cacti, etc. Deeper in, you get sedge, moss, ferns.

Behold, the mighty ground squirrel, lord of all he surveys.

At this point, these rodents became ubiquitous, and by the time we reached the end of the trail — where all the humans were forced to congregate and take a break before heading back — they were bold as brass, shambling about under your feet and coming up to you to sniff for snacks. Very longtime readers of this blog will recall when one tried to eat my Lovely First Wife at the Canyon.

The gorge becomes narrower and narrower.

Finally you reach the end of the paved trail. The real hikers could put on their wetshoes and continue up the river for further delights.

We of course turned around and headed back.

One question that will occur to you as you gaze up at the incredible escarpments is “How do trees grow up there on the bare rock?”

Never bet against nature.

On the way back we stopped at the park Lodge, which is booked up to a year in advance. I was amused by this informational sign about native landscapes, positioned as it is next to the perfectly manicured lawn.

We had a great lunch at the grill there, then headed out.

Whenever we travel, I always check the worldwide labyrinth locator to see if there is one within reach that might be interesting. (Tidy replicas of the Chartres labyrinth don’t make the cut.) This time, there was one right outside the park in Springdale, at Flanigan’s Resort & Spa. It overlooked Zion, so heck yes we stopped.

Since it was a steep climb to the hill above the resort at the end of a long, hot day, my companions elected to let me enjoy the experience on my own.

It was hot, but it was satisfying. I would have loved to walk it at night under the stars. (At our AirBnB, the sky is no darker/clearer than it is at home. Air pollution is to blame.)

After a stop at a liquor store and a grocery store, we were ready to head back for a relaxed dinner at home. I boldly suggested that we watch The Marriage of Figaro, which had been broadcast earlier in the day from Ghent. The company was the Opera Ballet Vlaanderen, and it is both charming and gonzo in its staging. I highly recommend it. Some things to be aware of: For some reason, they cast two vaudevillians in the roles of Bartolo and Marcellina, neither of whom had operatic voices (Marcellina in particular), which necessitated dragging in two other company members one way or the other to fill out — for example — the sextet in Act III. This also necessitated cutting the duet between Susanna and Marcellina in Act I, sadly.

Still, it all worked. We enjoyed it thoroughly, although we all agreed the finale was a bit of a letdown, with the cast simply sitting on the ground, paired with their appropriate partner — no particular effusion of joy, no fireworks, very static, and given the mechanical structure of the set, somewhat offputting. But still very much worth the watch!

(It was also fun reminiscing about my Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro, my last show as artistic director of the Newnan Community Theatre Company in 2002. Translation still available.)

(operavision.eu does broadcasts every Friday, and the videos remain available for a month. Check them out.)


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