Place Of Sanctuary
Leaving Las Vegas and heading ever eastward, it is amazing that this place of glitz and glamour is so relatively small when compared to the vastness of the desert in which it resides. Once again I note the sparse surroundings of sand and rock and as I drive on, my eyes strain to find some sort of sanctuary.The ancient Hebrew word for "refuge" or "sanctuary" is known as "Zion". So what more fitting a name than this could possibly be given to the next stop on my summer journey. My vehicle rolls across the ribbon of highway finally exiting the state of Nevada and for a very brief time, I find myself in Arizona. So brief in fact, that I barely blink and focus my eyes upon the colorful sign welcoming me to Utah. St George is the first "big" town you come to, but it is not here I wish to stop. Onward through Hurricane and Rockville until I reach Springdale. A tiny hamlet which is the entrance to my destination, Zion National Park. As I draw closer, the sands of the desert seem to rise before me, into hills then to mountains. Mountains of red and yellow, dotted it emerald green spots and my eye follows layers of sandstone that bend and fold in unique patterns. I can only marvel at this natural beauty before me and wonder what lies ahead.
Driving down the quaint two lane country road, I finally arrive at the Inn where I previously made reservations. It's HOT outside and securing the key to my private cabin, I am instantly refreshed to find the coolness of the air inside. A beautiful place in which to rest my road weary body, I open the door onto my balcony and actually stand...motionless...for a moment as I take in the awe inspiring view of palatial mountains close enough to touch. As the day is still early, I decide to traverse the miniscule half mile to the park entrance in hopes of determining how I should pace my visit. Incredibly, I learn at the entrance, that this park supplies the vistors with free, ranger driven, articulated and propane fueled buses that travel up and down the canyon all day long. There are approximately ten stops that each bus makes and during the gentle ride, the friendly driver voices history of the canyon, points out places of interest, and alerts the passengers of the next stop. You are free to enter and exit the bus at any or all stops since another bus arrives every 6-10 mintues. As the bus progresses further the walls of the canyon narrow slightly and rise tremendously until they are well over 1000 feet in altitude.Tiny green spots which are spied at their rocky tops are no less than 100 foot trees which watch the cayon floor below. I cannot put into words, the colors and textures found within these walls and one has a sense of traveling back into time and seemingly glimpsing a native american indian upon some ledge high above. For indeed, there were native peoples who called this their home, long before any white settlers arrived. They gathered, farmed and fished these wild places most likely without fear or worry.
After a brief stop at the Zion Lodge, I re-enter another bus and decide to travel the length of the canyon, all the way to The Temple Of Sinawava. The furthest one can go with the use of a bus, visitors can exit and continue on foot, up the canyon trail which follows the Virgin River. Well maintained, the dirt trail is mostly bounded by a small rock kneewall to define the trail and is quite easy to walk. Passing through this winding canyon of banded rock, sycamores and following river, I hestitate now and then to admire the sights and snap a few photos. As the canyon continues to narrow, I am unsure of just how far this will take me, but I pass a family of wild turkeys in a clearing drinking from the river. Two miles further I have my answer as the trail ends at the river itself. A pile of walking sticks are neatly stacked and a sign requests you return them after their use. But where do you go? The trail has ended. There is nowhere else TO GO...except...IN THE RIVER!
Luckily, I was quite prepared for this wearing shorts good socks and shoes. Although I thought a moment about taking my shoes off, I noted that most people were simply walking into the water fully shod. Good thing that I did, because the river was full of various size gravel and boulders, some quite slippery with algae and moss. The cooling waters were appreciated as well as the shade that the now VERY narrow canyon provided. I noted the sign with its strong warning regarding "possible flash floods and entering at your own risk". Truth be told, if a flash flood did occur, one would have very little chance of surviving due to the steepness of the canyon walls. There was no way you could climb these well worn and river scoured slopes due to their near 90 degree incline. Further I pushed on with water sometimes reaching near waist level and other times closer to my knees. This was summer and the water level was indeed low in comparison to winter and spring.After I had trekked approximately four miles I determined that I should reverse course and head back as the sunlight was beginning to fade and I did not want to feel my way back in the dark. But what a breathtaking adventure. The rock and water, the clean air and gentle sounds of the breeze...this was indeed, a "sanctuary"!
By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept: when we remembered Zion.-Bible: Hebrew Psalms, 137:1