Category Archives: World Heritage

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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On This Day – Hadrian’s Wall in Northumbria

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.

Relatively recently, on 30th June 2018 I was at Hadrian’s Wall in Northumbria.

Hadrian’s Wall was a defensive fortification in the Roman province of Britannia, begun in AD 122 in the reign of the emperor Hadrian and was the northern limit of the Roman Empire immediately north of which were the lands of the northern Ancient Britons, people so frightening that even the normally fearless Romans wouldn’t take them on.

Hadrians Wall

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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 – Bryce Canyon

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I quickly formed the view that this was probably the most amazing and scenic National Park that we had visited so far and looking out over the canyon the red, orange and white hues of the vertical rock formations tinted with other subtle variations of colour provided spectacular views that simply have to be seen to be believed.

From the visitor centre we walked along the Canyon Rim Trail and came across one marvellous spectacle after another. I couldn’t possibly describe them adequately here but the names give clues to their magnificent splendour, Fairyland Canyon, Rainbow Point, The Pink Cliffs, Sinking Ship and The Tropic Valley. We certainly didn’t have time to walk all of the eighteen mile trail but what we saw was enough to make me put it on my ‘to come back to someday‘ list and I sincerely hope that I will.

Bryce Canyon Cedar Breaks

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On This Day – Rome (Twice)

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 26th June 1976 I was in the city of Rome in Italy.  I was 22 and this was the very first time that I had travelled abroad and due to a girlfriend/relationship breakdown I ended up going with my dad on a two week holiday to Sorrento.

Here he is at the Trevi Fountain…

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By chance as I have been looking through my picture files I discovered that exactly thirty-five years later on 26th June 2011 that I was in Rome again, this time with a silly hat…

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Postcard From The USA – Lake Powell and The Glen Canyon Dam

Lake Powell Post card

Lake Powell is a man-made reservoir on the Colorado River on the border between Utah and Arizona and is the second largest man made reservoir in the United States after Lake Mead, it stores thirty cubic kilometres of water when full.  It was created by the flooding of Glen Canyon by the construction of the controversial Glen Canyon Dam, which also led to the creation of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area which is a popular summer destination for tourists.

The reservoir is named after the explorer John Wesley Powell who explored the full length of the river in three small wooden boats in 1869.

Construction of the dam started in June 1960 and the last bucket of concrete was poured and smoothed over in September 1963.  Over four million cubic metres of cement were used to create  the dam which is two hundred and sixteen metres  high and cost a hundred and fifty five million dollars and eighteen lives to build, which was a lot less than the one hundred and four deaths that were caused by the construction of the Hoover Dam further down river thirty years earlier.

Glen Canyon Dam Postcard 02

The dam has always been controversial, many opposed its construction in the first place, some associated with the decision to build it now think that it was a mistake because it has spoilt the environment and the Glen Canyon Institute is an organisation which even today continues to advocate for decommissioning.

We visited the dam and walked from the visitor centre to the other side of the gorge and then we took the elevator down inside the dam to view the hyro-electric generators.

Back on top the sun was coming out now and we took the short journey into the town of Page for lunch.   Page is a new town that was created in 1957 to house workers and their families during the construction of dam and the site was obtained by the government in a land exchange with the Navajo Indian tribe.  I hope they had their wits about them during the negotiations and didn’t get fobbed off with somewhere useless!

Glen Canyon Dam Bridge

There was not a great deal to hang around for in Page and after lunch the coach took us over the Glen Canyon Dam bridge which is over a thousand feet long and about seven hundred and fifty feet above the Colorado River.  Before the bridge was built it was an almost two hundred mile drive drive to the other side of the canyon.  Over the bridge we followed a road along the western side of the water and stopped off soon after to take a cruise on the lake from the Wahweep Marina.

This is easily the  best way to see Lake Powell because most of the features that define the lake,  the sheer cliffs, intricate narrow gorges, twisting canyons and towering mountains are inaccessible from the road and the shoreline and can only be fully appreciated from the water.  It was only a short cruise but it was fabulous because the sun was shining and the water was a calm but vibrant cerulean blue and the boat took us close to the marbled rocky sides of the lake and into the narrow canyons beyond.

I am not sure about the debate over whether creating this lake was the correct thing to do or not but today I simply enjoyed the experience of cruising over the water bathed in sunshine under a big blue peaceful sky.

After returning to dry land we boarded the coach for the journey to the city of Kanab which was over the State border into Utah.  The scenery was as barren and empty as it had been all day and it was less dramatic than it had been earlier in the trip and we were looking forward to arriving at our destination and getting the beer out.

Lake Powell Boat

On This Day – The Father Ted Tour in Ireland

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 22nd June 2014 I was in Southern Ireland on the trail of Father Ted…

Ireland Father Ted Tour Craggy Island Parochial House

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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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In The Garden – Raindrops

 

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Cause I’m never gonna stop the rain by complaining…

So I just did me some talking to the sun
And I said I didn’t like the way he got things done
Sleeping on the job
Those raindrops are falling on my head, they keep falling
Burt Bacharach / Hal David

Thursday Doors – Bari in Southern Italy

Bari Doors

Despite almost being put off by the guide books we liked the city of Bari with its mazy old town and eclectic night life and one thing I would say to anyone thinking of going to Puglia then do not miss out the capital city of the region and don’t be scared off by the reviews.

We especially liked the old town in the evenings where the pavements were flowing with people like lava spilling from a volcano, the piazzas were packed, the pizzerias overflowing and the gelaterias noisy with babbling chatter.  With some difficulty we found a traditional trattoria with a vacant table and enjoyed a first simple but excellent meal and then walked it off with a stroll around the moody streets of the old town lined with bars and restaurants and late night diners lingering over a final espresso.

Those unfavourable guide book descriptions need to be reviewed.

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Thursday Doors is a weekly feature allowing door lovers to come together to admire and share their favourite door photos from around the world. Feel free to join in the fun by creating your own Thursday Doors post each week and then sharing your link in the comments’ on Norm’s site, anytime between Thursday morning and Saturday noon (North American Eastern Time).