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The Other Side of Visiting Utah Now

After my June 1 blog warning people about Utah’s summer crowds, several people said, “Oh, no! I already have reservations for this month!” So here’s another take, the highlight of Utah, crowded or empty.

Erosion is art. Enjoy!

Utah continues to be sculptured by erosion, now ten million years in the making.

 

canyonEnjoy the fascinating pathways of canyons. In Canyonlands, broad pathways were carved by the Colorado and Green Rivers.

slot canyon, Grande Staircase-Escalante

slot canyon, Grande Staircase-Escalante

Slot Canyon pathways are narrow and intimate.

 

can. natural bridgeEnjoy the miracle of natural bridges also carved by the erosion of moving water.

Natural Bridge, N.P.S. National Monument

Natural Bridges National Monument

 

 

Arch at Bryce National Park

Arch at Bryce National Park

Enjoy Utah’s famous arches, carved not by rivers, but by frost and/or seeping water.

Arch at Arches National Park

Arches National Park

Windows at Arches national Park

Windows, Arches National Park

hoodoos at Arches National Park

hoodoos at Arches National Park

Enjoy the hoodoo patterns of wind-swept cliffs.

 

hoodoos at Bryce

hoodoos at Bryce National Park

 

Canyonlands monolith with yucca flower.

Canyonlands

Enjoy the power of monoliths.

 

Zion National Park

Zion etching

All of these formations inspire awe and amazement. But so do the etchings on rock face. How did they appear in such regular patterns?

 

While you may assume or wish that our National Parks strive to preserve nature’s art, that’s not exactly the case. The N.P.S. preserves the natural processes that create the art. So what you see now may be a different masterpiece by the time your grandchildren reach your current age. And that’s okay. It will still be stunning.

snow at Bryce

Bryce National Park

As the Canyonlands video explains, the movement of each drop of water, of each flake of snow slightly alters the face of rock formations. And therein lies the message, in the colors, in the shapes, in the changes. How has our geological history progressed? Is our millennium’s global warming trend different from previous trends?

Still seeking solitude? Enjoy the drama of off-roading in Canyonlands.

After viewing the portrait of Canyonland’s Islands in the Sky, you may want to get to the bottom of things.

Off-road path under a boulder at Canyonlands

Off-roading at Canyonlands, from Sarah Hermetet

 

Four Wheelin'!! 002There is a way to enjoy Canyonlands without the crowds. Four-wheel drives leave the main road at the north entrance just after the Visitor Center. Go early so you don’t have to spend time backing up for the drivers coming at you. Guaranteed: none of those vehicles will be tour buses.

Human damage is a tragedy.

Should the number of visitors at our parks have a daily cap to ensure their preservation? Right now N.P.S. guidelines say “Protect Your Park. Don’t Leave Your Mark.” Ropes and guides have been erected at most parks to keep people on the trails, to prevent them from injuries like the one this month at Yellowstone, where a 23-year-old slipped into a boiling spring of highly acidic water and disappeared instantly. Ropes and fences also prevent irreversible damage of a “butterfly effect,” the theory that eliminating one small flap of a butterfly wing changes the weather patterns for the rest of history.  The reality that If you step off a trail, you can damage soil to the extent that it will take centuries to recover.

Fascinated by balanced rocks?

Balanced Rock

Arches National Park

Balanced Rock Arches National Park

Arches National Park

Evidently, sights like this also bring out the macho in people, like two Boy Scout leaders, who did not follow guidelines in 2014. At a Utah State Park, they actually pushed over a balanced rock, which had been a part of the landscape for 170 million years.

 

Let’s honor the National Park Service goal to respect geological history while letting nature take its course.

No matter if the Utah parks are crowded or empty, your visit helps you realize that we are all connected, not only with each other but with the past and the future.