Southern Utah

Memorial Weekend 1998



After living in Utah for four years and never seeing anything that is supposed to be amazing about the state, I decided to go on a camping trip with Caleb and Mike to southern Utah. Specifically, we were going
Wonderful Bryce Canyon.

to hit Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park over the Memorial Day weekend.

As usual, this is a three day weekend and also a very busy one for parks and the like. Caleb comes up with an interesting solution though: we leave on Thursday and return Saturday night. So we get a couple days there but not during the rush that everyone else is part of. Seems, well, it seems crazy. The three day weekend is Sat, Sun and Mon not Thu, Fri and Sat. But hey, I am a graduate student and therefore any three days is the same to me so I go with the idea.

A small catch is that Caleb and I both have ultimate on Thursdays and Mike has basketball. We decide that since we werent going to hike on Thursday anyway that we would just leave late and stop somewhere along the way. Mike has a friend with relatives near the parks so we decide to camp in their yard that night and then head into Bryce the next morning. After hiking Bryce we would head to Saint George to watch the Jazz game (game 3 of the western conference finals against the lakers). Afterward we could head to a camping site. Good plan? Of course not but lets not dwell on it!

Thursday it rains and so ultimate runs late. My game doesn't end until around 9:20pm and then i need to shower and change since i am pretty well covered with mud and sweat. That puts us back a little, but we decide to hit the road anyway.

The plan was for Mike to drive, but something happened and he was going to meet us down south a little ways with the food. Since Caleb has a car with about three miles of life left in it, I drive Caleb and I down to Springville in the rain, through road construction (major I15 construction for Olympics), in the dark. I hate each of those individually but I do it because, well, I am just a great guy!

We get to Springville rather late, something like 10:30pm. Caleb thought it would be easy to find Mike's grandmothers house so he didnt
Caleb and I at Bryce Canyon.

bring the address or a phone number. Hmmm... After trolling back and forth along the same road several times, I mention that theres a good chance people will think we are looking for children or something. So we leave that area and Mike passes us. Seems he could see us from the house and knew it was us since we were trolling. Lucky.

I drive to his house and then it starts. The inevitable push to get me to drive instead of them. The "them" being whoever I am with it seems. Anyway, Mike says he will drive but that he doesn't have air conditioning or a radio. Long story short, we hit the road in my car for Cedar City. This is something like a four hour drive, and we are leaving around 11:00pm. Lovily.

Most of the drive was your standard road chat. A lot about where we were going, what we were going to do, current events, high school web pages, sports, women, and why my car was making noises. Nothing of great interest, but some rather in depth coverage of current NBA events and prognostications for the upcoming series. Hey, were guys.

We got to the way point aroun 2:00am. The plan was to stay in the back yard for the night and then head out for the parks. We drive back and forth making sure we have the right place. I then pull into the driveway, but Mike says not to park there. So I pull put and park in front of the house. Why am I mentioning this? Well, because apparently those actions are ones that make a policemna suspicious since we had barely cut the engine when a cop pulled up and asked the standard "can I help you guys?"

Well, turns out he is a cousin of the guy Mike knows who also owns the house so we get the ok to move and breath again. Mike then goes into the house and looks around. He and Caleb enter the living room to be startled by the resident! No one was supposed to be there but Mikes friends dad was there. He says we should just sleep in the living room since it is supposed to be very cold that night, and possibly rain. It's 2:00am so we don't argue and hit the floor.

The next morning we eat a quick breakfast of bagels and fruit and hit the road. While in the car we change plans and decide that going to
Hoodoos are huge, as that tiny speck of a man attests.

Zion the first day is the better bet. We can see it before the swarms of crowds go on the weekend and also it is further south so we will be closer to St George for the ballgame when we finish. We have go at throttle up - game on.

It takes a little driving to get there but we finally reach the Kolob Canyon entrance to Zion. There arent many trails to this part of Zion, but the drive is quite beautiful. Eventually, we make it to a trail head and get going on our first hike. THe map says it shold be about a half hour to an hour. We hit the trail with a granola bar just downed ready for our solitude with nature. Well, until this buss pulled up full of senior citezens. We get moving quick!

We take the trail pretty quickly and start to climb out onto a rock face to just soak up some sun. It really is quite an amazing area. We sit there watching nature discussing how easy it is to do nothing when there is nothing begging for your attention. For instance, television.

After a short stint there we get back on the road to head to the south entrance of the park. This is yet another long drive, but you pass a lot on the way and we knew we had a long day of hikes ahead so time passed pretty quickly. Unfortunetly, no one thought to plan the rest of the dat during this period...

Upon entering the park, Caleb and Mike quickly grab maps and start talking about what to do. Now, I haven't been here before so I dont know how far we need to go, when there will be forks in the road, and so forth. They are chatting it up when I mention there is a choice in the road to take. I tell them, well, I took the one headed for the highway. They say that was the right choice and pick a couple hikes.

The first hike is a short drive away, or should have been. But, alas, they thought we were on a different road than we were sicne they didn't quite grasp the fork in the road. Anyway, we drive through the "Long Tunnel", which must be over a mile long carved inside the mountain with periodic widows. This tunnel is not lit except by the car lights so naturally Caleb suggests we turn out the headlamps and scream while we drive as fast as possible. Why not? No, we don't do it dispite the obvious great time that would be!

Eventually we pass pretty cool stuff like the Checkerboard Mesa, which should have been a clue that we were on the wrong road. I ask Mike if
Checkerboard Mesa at Zion.

he is sure we are on the right road and he says "yeah, the trail is right at the end of this road." To which I reply, "this road is exiting the park and turning into a highway." Whoops. Luckily, there is a gas station right there and we gas up for our return trip into the park. Blast. On the upside, we did get to see the Mesa which is pretty cool.

We zip back to the park and take the second hike first since we were going to go this way at some point anyway. This is an excelent little hike. It starts with stairs and gard rails since you have to up onto this giant rock before the trail can start. Along the trail we go under this overhang that looks right out of the Last of the Mohicans movie, only without the waterfall (was that CG?). It is about here that Mike starts one of the long running jokes of the weeked. He had been somewhere that gave little shpeals on the area and so he says "the Anistasi, or 'ancient ones', if you will" making little quotation marks in the air. Not funny at that moment, but it grows on you.

About now I also start the "Big Tom Lone Wolf" legend as well. I start by saying in a tour guide voice that "it is here that Big Tom Lone Wolf laid the foundation for later travelers. Being cast out of his tribe, he ventured into this valley and constructed these walkways and guard rails." Someone said something about how there is nothing in the
Steep cliff at Bryce Canyon.

valley so he would have had to work fast but I came back with, "Life finds a way." Which became the second biggest running joke of the weekend.

The "Lone Wolf" legend grew as we each quickly added parts to the tail. Things like "his legend is only known from his own writtings which mention his uncanny ability to fly and make water from sand" and "even though there were no women in the valley, life finds a way. Lone wolf sired three sons to help him carve out the Long Tunnel." This was a lot funnier if you were there and hearing it all in the flat voice of a tour guide. It closed with my mentioning "the early settlers beleive that Big Tom Lone Wolf renamed himself because of his howling loneliness. Further they beleive his original name was Little Tom Whiny Kitten. Perhaps that explains his exile."

After reaching the end of this trail (Canyon Overlook), Mike see's a cool place to sit and starts climbing to get there. Without much thought Caleb and I follow and before we know it we are WAY above the valley. The view is amazing and we lay back to enjoy it all. We stair at the clouds and watch as they are blown away by the high winds. We then are amazed as we see a cloud actually form. None of us had seen that before and it was pretty cool. Not the usual a cloud is there and it rolls and changes shape, no. This was a blue sky that suddenly had a speck of white. This grew and changed shape until it was a large cloud. Well, we thought it was cool but then we were at high elevation with no air or water!

We then were left with the task of climbing down, which directly caused the biggest and most hearty running joke to come about. This was "he's dead allready." The idea was if one of us fell we would make every effort to save his wallet, but "he's dead allready." In case you are wondering, yes, it comes from Star Trek II: Wrath of Kahn. Kirk wants to open the chamber where Spock is lying dying from radiation. Bones stops him and says "damnit Jim, you'll flood the entire compartment! He's dead allready!"

We then drive back around visit the rest of the park. We take the scenic drive to the "Temple of the Sinawava". Along the way we take a couple short hikes. One to see the "Weeping Rock". This is an overhang
Weeping Rock at Zion.

that constantly drips water as the roof of a house does during the rain. Only here it is in the desert and there is a mountain over yuor head. The cause for this is large deposits of sandstone covering highly compressed shale. The water weeps down through the sandstone but cant go through the shale. It is therefore diverted towrd the edge where it drips out. Cool. Really, the moisture inthe air made it cool so we sat there a while before heading to River Walk.

The river was running pretty high (El Nino) so we knew we wouldnt be able to hike the Narrows, but we though we would head out see what it looked like anyway. The trail leading up to the Narrows trail is paved for wheel chair access. Both cool and not. Walking a long way on concrete isnt good for the ole knees man! When we reach the end, where the rivers edge trail should be we see the river is so high there is no trail! So we head back.

It is along this trail that suddenly a deer appeared. It was walking slowly in our direction. It was going slowly because there were people all over this trail. It was basically just matching the speed of those around it. People had to move off the trail so it could continue on
Concrete deer trail at Zion.

its way. Since we came from that end of the trail we couldn't imagine where it was going to go, but it seemed to want to go that way. So we stood aside and the deer walked within a foot of us as someone said "he's dead allready."

This ended our day and we headed to St George for the outlets (yeah shopping on a camping trip) and to watch the game. We got there plenty early so we hit the stores. We should have just gotten seats since that was going to be a problem. This is a pretty big town, but not the most open town. No sports bars meant we had to watch the game at Chilies. This burg even made Chilies remove the "Bar & Grill" from their sign. Pretty straight laced area.

JAZZ WIN!! We stuff ourselves like mad men and watch the game. The Jazz take a commanding 3-0 lead in the series (later they sweep the Lakers) and so all is well with the world. Except, it is now rather
Hiking around Hoodoos.

dark and we didn't bother to set up the tent before leaving. Well, saying we didn't bother isnt right since we had hoped to camp in Zion but it was full. So we headed back to the house to camp in the yard. At least we were going to use a tent for one night!

Once again it is late at night and we arrive at these poor peoples home. This time we climb their fence and commence to putting Mikes tent together. A tent he has never put together and didn't check to see if all the pieces were there. It is a new fangled tent that is supposed to be a sinch to assemble. And it would have been, if we hadn't lost track of one of the poles! Somehow, we each put one together (three poles) and then Caleb put the rain fly pole together and then lost track of one long pole. Both in our minds and physically. We tried several approaches to getting the thing put together using that little pole with no luck - of course. After we gave up and decided to sleep in this lean-to and hope for no wind Mike stumbled across the remaining pole and all was well.

The next day we got up relativily early and packed up the car. We drove to a nearby park to eat some breakfast and get ready for the coming day. We had just started eating when Mikes friend drove up and told us his mother had allready made us all breakfast. Oh, well it wouldn't be polite to turn that down! So we head back and eat blueberry muffins, eggs, bacon, fruit and orange juice. Nummie, mummie.

During breakfast Mikes friend suggests we hit Cedar Breaks National Monument on the way. I don't know what the "monument" means, I think just that it is very empressive but not big enough to warrant a
Snowy Cedar Breaks.

"park". Anyway, We head there and find it is mostly snowed in. Yes, it is late May and there is a lot of snow up there. This area is at an elevation of 10,000ft and you could feel it (even though we came from elevation in Salt Lake). We hiked out to the very edge of this canyon, which is like a miniture Bryce and then headed out.

The drive to Bryce was pretty uneventful except for one conversation of note. We lost contact with about every radio station, except one: The Hawk. We thought that was funny, of course for a while we thought it was The Hog. They played an odd mix that included Glam Rock. This started a running commentary on naming bands and trying to recal their big hits. Not easy.

The drive into Bryce is pretty amazing. It makes you wonder what is more special about the actual park, until you get there. The park is just incredible. The whole area used to be under water (a long, long time ago) and so it has a different color. At some point large
Amazing tree at the base of Bryce Canyon.

portions of the area pushed upward, thousands of feet upward, producing large plateaus. These then eruded at irregular rates because of the different layers of now exposed rock having different densities. The result is an amazing collection of Hoodoos resembling large jagged rock spires.

This park is at 9000ft which also makes for somewhat difficult hiking. We hiked the perimeter of the canyon up to Inspiration point. This is aptly named as the view is quite inspiring. We hiked back down to Sunset Point in order to take Navajo Loop down into the canyon. Again, this is really a beautiful area. The hike criss crosses several times as you rapidly desend into the very bottom of the canyon. From the base you gain a new appreciation for the sheer size of the hoodoos and surrounding area. The strange growth of tall pines where there didn't seem to be even soil caused us all to say "life finds a way" and laugh.

Upon reaching the rim of the canyon again we went to the car and
Natural Bridge.

slept. We were all beat and were surprised when we woke up and saw a half hour had passed. From here we drove to the southern most point of the park to see Rainbow Point. On th edrive out of the park we stopped at about every overlook to see Black Birch Canyon, Ponderosa Canyon (which seemed like it could be the one in the television series of the same name), Agua Canyon, Natural Bridge (a huge arch), and Farview Point.

After that there was the long ride home. To our dismay, we couldn't get any real radio stations. We did come across some talk radio where a guy was basically explaining how illogical it is to even think about blaming guns for violence. His arguement was very odd. He was against educating school kids about the dangers of sex and relayed that if we do that we should also educate them on safe ways to car jack. We all had fun poking holes in this guys arguements.

We got home around 10:30pm. Over all a very fun trip, one of the better ones. We saw everything we set out to see, and then some, and also got along very well. And the whole thing cost under $20! Can't beat nature with a stick man.

the end.


tom.