Category Archives: USA

Postcard From The USA – Zion National Park

Zion

Zion National Park contains some of the most scenic canyon country in the United States and is characterised by high plateaus, a maze of narrow deep sandstone canyons and striking rock towers and mesas.  People have lived here for thousands of years but in modern times people only became aware of it when Mormon pioneers began to farm the canyon in the late nineteenth century.

In 1880 a geologist called Clarence Dutton visited the Canyon and he described it like this: ‘there is eloquence to their forms which stirs the imagination with a singular power and kindles in the mind. Nothing can exceed the wonderous beauty of Zion, in the nobility and beauty of the sculptures there is no comparison’.

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Many people refused to believe that it was possible for such a place to exist because until a hundred years ago Zion Canyon was practically inaccessible to outside visitors; and only a few had laid eyes on the majestic towering cliffs.  Zion Canyon was declared a National Park in 1909.  It was well thoughtfully named because Zion is an ancient Hebrew word meaning a place of refuge or sanctuary and it was in a temple on Mount Zion near Jerusalem where Jesus and the disciples had the last supper together.

Once through the one mile long entrance tunnel the road started to descend into the valley down a switchback road through six precarious hairpin bends, still following Pine Creek to Mount Carmel junction and arrival at the visitor centre.

There was a peaceful calm at the bottom of the valley and the air tasted of mountain air that cleared your head and filled your lungs with freshness.  A truly marvellous spectacle of colourful sandstone cliffs soaring into the sky above a flat-bottomed, thickly forested valley floor in brilliant red and gold autumn foliage that accentuated the colours of the cliffs. Being at the bottom of the canyon this provided a complete contrast to the  top down view that had been the feature of the Grand Canyon and the views looking up were spectacular and awe inspiring.

After a break we took the short drive into the heart of the canyon that terminated at the Temple of Sinawava (Sinawava was the Coyote God of the Paiute Indians) and here we left to follow the footpaths and trails around the North Fork Virgin River.  There was a lot of choice and certainly not enough time to see as much as we would have liked so we choose the riverside walk towards the Mountain of Mystery and a famous, much photographed, narrow gorge called the Zion Narrows.  Zion is a unique place with diverse wildlife for whom this place is a safe and bountiful refuge.  A little way along the trail we heard a rustling in the bushes and on examination came face to face with a wild deer.  Given its close proximity we were a bit startled by this and on account of its size left quickly so I am afraid that I am unable to identify exactly what species it was.  Thank goodness it wasn’t a bear!

The trail was quite steep because the headwaters of the Virgin River above are at about two thousand, seven hundred metres and it empties into Lake Mead two hundred miles southwest after flowing almost a mile downward.  This gives the Virgin River one of the steepest stream gradients in North America.  Naturally therefore we didn’t get as far as we had optimistically planned and soon it was time to return and leave the park, which was a real shame, I had really enjoyed my day in Paradise.

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TV Westerns

My series of posts about visiting the American West has reminded me of my post about TV Westerns .

I thought I might recycle it here…

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How many of these cowboys do you remember?

I always wanted to be Flint McCullough from Wagon Train.  He was played by actor Robert Horton.  Later he was replaced by Robert Fuller as Cooper Smith who also played the Part of Vin in the film  ‘Return of The Magnificent Seven’

Postcard From The USA – The Grand Canyon

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After breakfast and check out from the motel we returned to the South Rim Visitor Centre to spend some more time at the Grand Canyon to see it in the daylight.  It was rather a disappointment therefore that the weather was slightly overcast and without the shimmering sunlight to create shifting shadows and continuous contrasts this seemed to leech the colours and the life from the rocks.

It might not have been colourful but it was still an awesome view as we stared down almost a mile deep to the bottom of the gorge, a hole so deep that can take two days to reach on foot by the official trails.  And it wasn’t so peaceful this morning either as there was a continuous buzz of helicopter activity taking trips out over the canyon.  The helicopters used to drop into the canyon for a closer look but after a number of accidents caused by rising thermal currents this had now been stopped.  It might be allowed again now, I don’t know.

Someone reminded me just recently that geologically the Canyon isn’t a canyon but a gorge but Grand Gorge doesn’t sound so – well, Grand.

The canyon/gorge is almost three hundred miles long, up to twenty miles wide and reaches a depth of over a mile and is one of the most magnificent natural wonders of the World.   This is a very big canyon/gorge indeed and it is almost impossible to get a true sense of scale as you stand and look down into the abyss below.

From the viewing platform we were looking over the fabulously named Granite Gorge and along Bright Angel Creek which led directly to the North Rim Visitor Centre on the other side which although only slightly less than ten miles to the north needs a journey of over two hundred miles to get there.  The view just went endlessly on and on and was so infinitely panoramic that it was almost impossible to fully comprehend the scale of the barren wilderness stretching out before us.

To get a sense of perspective it is worth remembering that you could fit Dartmoor National Park in Devon into the Grand Canyon National Park five times and still have a bit of spare left over.

It is a journey like this that makes you realise the immense scale of the USA.  Arizona is 115,000 square miles of emptiness and long stretches of never-ending road between towns, the UK is just less than 95,000 square miles and Arizona is bigger than forty of the fifty-one countries in Europe.

When it was time to go the coach took us out along a road that followed the line of the canyon with further viewing opportunities and then we parted company as our route took us first east and then north across the Painted Dessert passing Marble Canyon, which is the beginning of the Grand Canyon, and towards our next destination, Lake Powell and the Glen Canyon Dam.

I took some photographs but the grandeur of the Canyon is impossible to capture on a point and shoot camera and even the postcards are disappointing.

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Postcard From The USA – Four Corners, Monument Valley and Grand Canyon

Our first stop today was at the Four Corners monument where four US States meet at one intersection and it is possible to be in all of them at the same time by standing in two and reaching down and touching the others.

Four Corners Postcard 01

From Four Corners we drove to Monument Valley which was everything that I expected it to be and there was a magnificent view from the visitor centre across the whole of the valley.

Monument Valley

What followed next was another highlight of the holiday when Richard and I left the coach to go on an optional small plane journey for a flight from Monument Valley all the way down the Grand Canyon.

Grand Canyon

 

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Postcard From The USA – Mesa Verde National Park

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Mesa Verde National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that features numerous ruins of homes and villages built by the ancient Pueblo people. It is best known for several spectacular cliff dwellings which are structures built within caves and under outcroppings in cliffs, including the Cliff Palace, which is thought to be the largest cliff dwelling in North America.

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An Alternative World Showcase at EPCOT

In my last post I took you to Disney and World Showcase at EPCOT.  There are eleven countries showcased at the theme park and some time ago I wondered why it was those particular eleven and speculated on an alternative selection.

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On This Day – World Showcase at EPCOT, USA

While the current travel restrictions are in place I have no new stories to post so what I thought that I would do is to go through my picture archives and see where I was on this day at any time in the last few travelling years.

On 20th May 1990 I was in Florida in the USA on a family holiday to Disney World.  The first of three.  The memory of these visits has mostly disappeared into a blur of credit card debt, white knuckle rides, the quicksand of commercialism and the exploitation by the Disney machine but one experience that I do remember was a visit to the World Showcase at EPCOT.

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Postcard From The USA – Arches National Park

Arches NP Postcard

The sculptured rock scenery was truly awesome and there couldn’t have been a better day to enjoy it.  The sandstone rocks blazed sulphur red under the strong morning sunlight and looked spectacular framed against the azure blue sky and the dusty ochre desert landscape.

Arches and Canyonlands

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Postcard From The USA – Great Salt Lake and Bingham Copper Mine

Great Salt Lake

Today there was a choice to be made, we could either enjoy a free day sightseeing and shopping in Salt Lake City or we could go on an optional visit to the Great Salt Lake itself.  Not being terribly keen on shopping (I may have mentioned this before) and being so close to the Lake it seemed a shame not to take this opportunity.

Bingham Mine 001

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Postcard From The USA – Salt Lake City

Utah Map

We continued through Idaho before crossing into Utah and picking up the Interstate 15 which ran adjacent to the Great Salt Lake and took us into a much more urban environment than we had been used to as we approached our destination, Salt Lake City.

The city was founded in 1847 by a group of Mormon pioneers led by their prophet and leader, Brigham Young, who fled hostility and violence in the east  and took a wagon train west in search of a suitable new location for themselves and their religion.

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