No Room in Zion (Apr 20 2014)

ValleyofFire4.JPGIt’s Easter Sunday. We pull out of Echo Bay and go back towards the I-15. We didn’t drive through the Valley of Fire yesterday because they were charging a fee but you can see a bit of it on this road.

Back through the tiny town of Overton. Their church parking lot is packed.

NevadaBorder.JPGAt Mesquite we get off the I-15 and park in a casino parking lot to get online to book campsites at the Grand Canyon. Big Dog also calls his sister – his whole family is there today for Easter Sunday – and I briefly check mail.

Mequite is a bordertown. Maybe it was a happening bordertown before the highway came through. There are lots of casinos. Restaurant and casino. Gas station and casino. Boutique and casino. Minimart and casino. Bank and casino. (OK, maybe not bank and casino, though that sounds like the best combo…)

The highway cuts briefly into Arizona before taking you into Utah. It’s unbelievably developed out here. Wasn’t this all just empty space 20 years ago? There are new housing developments and shopping centers on both sides of the Highway.

Through the small town of Hurricane that has a cute historical section, and then towards Zion… and… Oh my god.

road2Zion4.JPGAs we approach, it’s like Sedona. There are dozens of B&Bs (many in incongruous Victorian styles) motels, hotels, RV parks and so very many people. At Zion, we find out that all the campgrounds are full and so is parking. They tell us to park outside the National Park.

Big Dog doesn’t want to. He just wants to drive through if we can’t camp or spot inside, so we do, but there are mobs everywhere. We’ve never seen anything like this. You can no longer drive through the canyon to the grottoes but have to park in the main area and use their shuttle. There are too many people for these narrow canyons. And the number of Chinese visitors! What a difference a quarter century makes. This is not how we remember Zion from our “pre-honeymoon” nearly 25 years ago.

Zion3.JPGZion6.JPGZion7.JPGZion15.JPGZion17.JPGZion21.JPGZion22.JPGZion24.JPGZion25.JPGZion27.JPGWe make a few photo stops as we wind through Zion, feeling lucky to have seen the bighorn sheep (although it was gone before we could aim our camera at it.) Then, climb into higher elevations as we drive towards Bryce. The air is cooler here, with a light sprinkling of rain over the high prairie. Tidy little ranches dot the big meadows. One visitor ranch has a herd of bison!

UtahBison1.JPGRedCanyon1.JPGRedCanyon2.JPGAnd then, we are at Red Canyon, a place we’ve never even heard of, but WOW what a dramatic scene! It’s like a red, smooth, smaller Chiricahua with lots of Dr. Seussian formations called hoodoos. A Visitor’s Center tells you about available camping up ahead, as well as trails and bike paths. One campsite is on an ATV road with turnouts where you can boondock. Another is an equestrian camp. We opt for the horsey camp which only has 4 sites but so far only one is taken.

RedCanyon7.JPGThere is no running water here, but there is a pit toilet that is open. (Many of these campgrounds have toilets that are locked until camping season begins in the late spring.) It’s a wooded area and kind of chilly, so after my rather sad dinner of leftovers hash on bread, we crawl into bed and settle into another movie on the iPad…