Day 18: Post Sin City Return to Nature (Zion)

We were up and on the road at the crack of 10:00 AM.  Hey, we were still on Vegas time (and I was still searching for the hour we lost in Lone Pine).  Our route out of Las Vegas took us through some pretty bleak scenery but as soon as we hit the Arizona border it started to change for the better and we knew it would only get better from there.  It was only a brief dip into Arizona before we reached southern Utah, where we’d spend the next couple of days.

Thar she is, in all her glory

Now, there haven’t been any quirky roadside attractions for a while, and in this part of the world the pickings are slim (what, no World’s Largest Prickly Pear Cactus?), so when I read about this next one I knew we’d get suckered in to stopping for a photo.  I would like to present Mollie’s Nipple.  Yes, there is a butte in Hurricane, Utah, that someone actually noted and named Mollie’s Nipple, and easy money says it was a man who did this.  And if you squint, by George, it kinda looks like…

Gorgeous Zion

Moving along, we were heading east on Highway 9 and on our way to Bryce Canyon.  The thing is, Highway 9 goes right through Zion National Park, a park I had researched prior to our trip (naturally) but concluded we didn’t have any extra time to visit.  I knew we’d be driving through and hoped to at least catch a few scenic glimpses.  However, as soon as we passed through the entrance gate we knew we needed to dip our toe inside and take the short 7-mile scenic drive up the park’s canyon.  And Holy Bighorn Sheep, thank goodness we did.

See how tiny Jim looks?

It’s difficult to describe Zion, but the best way to illustrate would be to say if you ever want to feel small and insignificant, go there.  There is one geological wonder after the next and each are so spectacularly magnificent it’s hard not to just stare, mouth agape, and murmur in awe.  The canyon road winds with the river and both are sandwiched between ginormous, craggy but smooth-sided, red sandstone cliff-like-structures that were launched into the sky.  Oh, how I wish I’d paid more attention in geology.

The short Zion Canyon Scenic Drive was just enough to make us want to go back and spend a lot more time, which is somewhat unusual given we generally don’t travel the same road twice.  That’s not HowieRoll.  But that’s just how striking it was.  If you go, make sure to bring your fanciest camera, as that seemed to be what everyone was doing.  It was like the canyon was being stalked by paparazzi.

There was even some residual fall color left. Bonus!

After completing the drive, we turned back onto Highway 9 eastbound to complete driving through the park on our way to Bryce.  This was a drive the pundits recommend not doing at night, and for good reason.  It’s nothing but a series of very steep switchback roads accompanied by a very long cruise through a tunnel that was blasted right through the mountain.  Again, this road (and most we’ve been on for several days) is not for those prone to car sickness.

Don’t let our gawking bother you, guys

A short distance past the tunnel we spotted movement in the brush and it turned out to be our very first Bighorn Sheep sighting.  There was an entire group of them (ok, herd) and they were all very nonchalant, just eating bushes and moseying about.  I wondered if they knew the nonchalant bear at Yosemite.  Eventually we reached the edge of the park and we were both feeling like everything we’d seen and experienced was the perfect antidote to Las Vegas and Death Valley.  Aaah, we were back to being one with nature.  By the way, the pictures we took don’t really do Zion justice (especially the enormity of the surrounding rock features) but never fear, we took a lot of them to make up for it.  And we are happy to schedule a full slideshow presentation to anyone who requests it (you have to come to us, though).  Anyone?

One last Zion shot for the road

The rest of the drive to Bryce Canyon was through more beautiful scenery and sweeping vistas, this southern Utah was turning out to be something else.  I dunno, I never hear anyone talking about Utah and wonder if I’m spilling some secret here.  So don’t tell anyone.

We arrived at our hotel, the Best Western Grand, just after dark and had dinner at a nearby restaurant (Bryce Canyon Pines) that was very good, and not only because it was one of only two restaurants open.   We each had soup for dinner so we could save room and share a slice of their locally famous homemade pie.  I don’t see anything wrong with that, dinner is only a formality to get to dessert, anyway.  The pie had fruit in it (Banana Blueberry cream pie) so it was almost like getting a head start on breakfast, too.  After dinner we hit the hay because surprise, surprise, we had another full day ahead of us.

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