Thursday, October 8, 2009

National Park Roundup

The southwest is blessed with numerous national parks, monuments, preserves, and other geologic anomalies that could keep the scientists and curious outdoorsmen occupied for several lifetimes. I had the privilege to see and experience three of the best. I'll keep this brief, as most travel logs are boring. Good photos and a few words of highlight are the only two ingredients you need to stir interest. All that's left to do is go there yourself because few pictures, and even fewer words, if any, do them (or you) justice. Click images for more.

Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon was the first of the big three, and I had the good fortune of staying with a wonderful family in Cedar City, Utah that was up for using me as the perfect excuse for a road trip. If it wasn't for them, I would have missed this amazing place since it was well off my route. Just a quick note, after riding a bike for a couple of thousand miles, then hopping in a car is a fantastically new experience - you get to relax, as the world moves fast. Sip a drink, gobble some candy, crank some music, or even pop in a movie! Plenty of fun over the 90 minutes that seemed like ten. By the way, if you ever get tired of hearing little Bart in the back asking "are we there yet", try sticking him on a bike for a few weeks....., it's worked for my misplaced impatience. Anyway, when you walk up to Sunset Point and look down into Bryce Canyon for the first time, you're on a different planet. As if the car ride wasn't an instant enough transport; the pinks, oranges, reds, and peachy whites that color the craziest formations of hoodoos, spires, bridges, and walls all just blow you away. You look down into the endless labyrinth and ponder a playwright's playful pen, his favorite cast of characters laughingly lost until tides turn lunatic after months meandering amongst this maddening maze. I know some people that I'd copter-drop and spin blind-folded down there...

Grand Canyon National Park

The Grand seriously massive hole in the ground. Not as bitingly striking or freakish as Bryce Canyon, but its swallowing colossal enormity is unparalleled. For me, the most moving aspect of the canyon is its unpredictable first-site sneakiness: for forty-four miles you're rolling along mild, gold grass covered limestone bed meadows, sneak-about forest terrain, and happy aspen groves without the slightest hint of what lies ahead. Then, in an instant, it begins strobing behind narrowing rows of tree trunks, and then the curtain lifts quick to reveal what still seems myth. You can keep staring, but, it's not quite possible to see it for what it really is. In a way, you have to open up to feel it, so to closer approach partial knowing. You sit in simple observation, breathing fresh west canyon air, realizing how it releases, then simultaneously creates a time-over-vast-space continuum like no visual other. And with this display of time, unsealed becomes our day-to-day conscience that normally bottles our sense of humanly finitude within a micro-blip existence against this most magnificent God carving; wind and water his paintbrush; erosion his slow stroke of genius. From divine touch, a palette of earth colors opens the casket for ages once lost, and enshrines gravity - an ultimate invisible force, and source of cause for it all.

It was also great talking with this guy that believed the earth was due to flip the year 2012 and that shape-shifting aliens were living among us, but these aliens are choosing to remain unintrusive out of their fear for our great cognitive power potential. More on that later....or maybe not.

Zion National Park

Zion, my favorite of the three. It's name hints mystery and yet evokes a humbling greatness. The early Mormon explorers expressed how there existed no humanly constructed temple that could match this sanctuary and its magically embedded essence that primes a man's propensity to move deeper within these narrowing walls, and intimately closer with his Creator. This is beyond poor comparisons such as the red rock Yosemite equivalent - this canyon swallows your soul whole. In the above photograph, a summit approach view from Angel's Landing, looking out to the mouth purging sacred earth mecca. Plenty mecca muck from canyon sludge mudd and dust from a day that blazed a range of heights seen above to The Narrows inner belly below. Such a fantastic filth it was. And then, in Zion's Virgin River, I bathed it all away.

I also got a hitch through the Zion Tunnel, since cyclists are not allowed to make it on their own power. Hanging with the ranger it wasn't long before I saw Paul pull up in a small white pickup loaded with firewood and his own bike. No other possible way to ride but pile it on, and pile it on we did. Literally laid my bike and bags on top of his wood and bike, and then plopped myself atop it all. Not the safest ride, but that's why you've got hands.

A quick thanks to Paul. Once through the tunnel, we hung out and talked for half an hour about scampering up these slopes, climbing local crags, bikes, life, music, etc. This guy was ripped strong and looked twenty years younger than his true mid-fifties age. He gifted four apples and a cold beer on the spot before moving on. Paul was awesome. Tunnel exit video below.

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