After arriving in the US and spending a couple of days in Grand Canyon NP in Arizona we began a tour of southern Utah visiting its five picturesque and rocky national parks: Zion, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Arches and Canyonlands, where we are now.
The parks are situated in the desert or semi-desert and you can feel that immediately. It is very dry and hot during the day and it gets chilly at nights. It is typical for a desert climate in which there is very little moisture in the air allowing most of the sun radiation to reach the earth. That same lack of moisture leads to quick cooling off during the night. The rocky and arid landscape may seem boring and monotonous. It feels that way when I drive for hours seeing nothing else by a desert landscape and some rocks here and there. When we get to the parks though we see a lot of intriguing rocky formations such as arches, hoodoos, fins, capitols, reefs etc scattering the land. Many shapes remind us of people, animals. We often wonder how in the world the nature sculpted all of this? The kids are all too familiar by now with the word “erosion”, the main sculptur of those beautiful parks.
The desert fauna and flora are also interesting. It is not unusual to spot a mule deer, kangaroo rat, a snake or many other creatures so well-adapated to this forbidding environment. We fell in love with cottonwood trees lining the canyon at the Zion NP. One of our favorite plant companion has been a juniper tree, which can live over 1000 years and will prune itself to maintain its longevity.
Back to rocks they change their colors depending on the time of the day making a beautiful display. It is a perfect scenery for shooting a western. In fact, many of the places have been used by Holywood as such.
My favorite part though in this rocky, desert environment is its solitude. Sometimes, hiking for 4 hours I came across one or two other hikers. It is only me and the nature. The same quiteness can be seen in the night sky, which is crystal clear thank to lack of dirt and light pollution. The number of stars and constelations you can seen equals the experience in a planetarium. There is no cell phone range in the desert either. That’s why going on a hike one must carry plenty of water and salty snacks. Meeting a widely-feared mountain lion is rather unlikely as their roam great areas in small numbers.
To experience the local scenery I recommend the movie “127 hours” based on a true story about a hiker wandering in the Canyonlands NP. Through his risky behavior a falling boulder pinns one of his arms trapping him for several days in the rocks. Though some scenes in the movie are very drastic it is an amazing story about human survival.
Another interesting feature of the state of Utah is its Mormon community. The members of this church can be found everywhere here. For example one of the park rangers, Colton, who taught our kids some things about Utah and Zion NP was a Mormon. When he heard our Polish he revelaed he had spent 2 years in Czech Rep and was fluent in Czech. I immediately assummed he must have been on a two-year mission many Mormon boys embark when they turn 18,19. They typically go in pairs to a foreign country, evangelize and try to convert other people to their religion. We even saw them evangelizing in Central America wearing their tidy white shirts with name tags and black pants. I was glad to learn that while in Czech Rep. Colton liked our slavic culture and would like to go there again. He also visited our restaurants in Brno. I asked him how his mission was all financed. After all, it sounds like a two-year sabbatical for those young boys. He surprised me saying that it was financed from his own savings.
Anyway, thanks to those Mormon missionaries roaming the world Utah has the largest percentage of people speaking foreign languages in the US. It now even has two strong presidential candidates. Who knows? Maybe after Obama, the next US President will be a Mormon. According to Colton that’s rather unlikely given a bit dubious reputation of their church. Part of it is related to the polygamy practised in the Mormon church in the past. Some sources say it is still practiced in some pockets of the country.
I recently read that at my beloved Broadway in New York you can see a highly successful and very recent musical called “The Book of Mormon” about a pair of Mormon missionaries attempting to evangelize people in Uganda. When you are in NYC go and check this out. I will.
Ending on humourous note, one of my favorite authors, Bill Bryson, said that Utah is the only place on the planet where you never have to worry about young men coming up to you and trying to convert you to Mormonisim. Everybody is assummed to be a Mormon here.
Download movies about the bull snake, mule deer in Zion,