Zion (2)

Above: The canyon floor in Zion National Park.

Sometime during the summer of 2001, I got it into my head to go hiking in the backwoods of Utah – most likely due to coming across photographs of Bryce Canyon in National Geographic or some similar publication. It was quite ambitious for my first trip outside of Europe, especially since my research had highlighted the appalling lack of public transport and the worrying presence of bears and scorpions. Nonetheless, I worked out a short itinerary from Salt Lake City and, this being the era before the criminalisation of air travel, headed off with few misgivings.

Kolob Canyons

Above: Kolob Canyons, Zion National Park. Below left: The Mormon Tabernacle, Salt Lake City.

Mighty Mormon Organ

Back then, I wasn’t paranoid about getting shot and walked the sixteen blocks from the airport bus station to my hostel without a second thought (the hostel owner found this incomprehensible – one of the first things he said to me was, “Only an Englishman would walk sixteen blocks”). An intercity bus took me down to St. George the following day (dropping me off at a fast food restaurant, where I sampled my first – and hopefully last – root beer), and I walked (again to general surprise) to the local campsite. Once settled in, I went looking for supplies and was directed towards the local Wal-Mart, a few miles away. There were no pavements, and so I had to plough through the furze on the roadside while about one out of every four cars beeped at me (when I asked the campsite proprietor why this happened, he shrugged: “Just sayin’ hi”).

Snow Canyon (3)

Above: Snow Canyon State Park. Below left: Zion National Park.

Zion (3)

Over the following week or two, I hit up this corner of the state’s main attractions: Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, Cedar Breaks National Monument, Kodachrome Basin State Park and Snow Canyon State Park (unfortunately, there wasn’t time to do Arches National Park as well). Looking back almost ten years later, much of this is now a montage of immense sandstone cliffs, roadrunners (Geococcyx californianus; actually a member of the cuckoo family), pine trees growing in sand, preposterously huge camper vans (practically mobile houses) and eerie hoodoos (small sandstone pillars formed through erosion and weathering).

I had a day to spare in Salt Lake City on my way back to Europe, and made myself rather unpopular at the Church History Museum by asking why the church leaders (whose portraits were prominently displayed) were all old white guys. The attendant replied that the church was a family, that men were the natural leaders of families and that age was equivalent to wisdom.

Kodachrome Basin (1)Kodachrome Basin (2)

Above: Kodachrome Basin State Park. Below left: Snow Canyon State Park. Below right: Lava tunnels in Snow Canyon State Park.

Snow Canyon (2)Lava tunnel

Zion (1)Snow Canyon (1)

Above left: Zion National Park. Above right: Snow Canyon State Park. Below left: Dixie National Forest. Below right: Forest from Zion National Park.

Dixie (1)Dixie (2)

Queen VictoriaCedar Breaks

Above left: A hoodoo shaped like Queen Victoria. Above right: Cedar Breaks National Monument. Below: The Under-the-Rim Trail, Bryce Canyon National Park.

Under-the-Rim (1)Under-the-Rim (2)

Bryce Canyon (2)Bryce Canyon (1)

Above: Bryce Canyon National Park.