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Posts tagged ‘Zion National Park’

LANDSCAPES: America the Beautiful

“I am interested in the way that we look at a given landscape and take possession of it in our blood and brain. None of us lives apart from the land entirely; such an isolation is unimaginable.”         N. Scott Momaday

Zion National Park, UT

Zion National Park

For many years now, I have retreated to Nature for an extended visit at least once a year.  The destinations are varied, but they all have something in common:  vast open spaces.  Whether I am at the Grand Canyon,  Zion National Park or some local country road, the landscape sets the stage for wonder and solitude as well as awareness and reflection.  Each landscape—although different—suggests a sense of freedom and adventure inherent in the open road.

IMG_0991Although I have traveled a bit in Europe and Mexico, most of my travels are across the good old United States of America.  As I travel across these vast vistas, I cannot help but think of the native peoples and early pioneers who crossed these same expanses without benefit of car and rest stops.  Such strength and courage.  Such determination and perseverance.  Such hope for the future and sense of adventure.  These traits—a lingering part of the American spirit—are evident for me in the open vistas from these panoramic photos of various scenes from across America.

View from Tuzigoot National Monument, AZ

View from Tuzigoot National Monument, AZ

This post is my second response to the Daily Post Photo Challenge: Landscapes.

Mono Lake, California

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Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

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Bryce Hoodoo Vista pano

Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, Arizona


monument valley clouds

Tioga Pass Road, Yosemite National Park, California




Red Rock Canyon State Park, California



Some General Vistas

Monterey, California

Monterey, California

Bixby Bridge, Big Sur Coast, California

Bixby Bridge, Big Sur Coast, California

Petrified Forest, Arizona

Petrified Forest, Arizona

Canyon de Chelly, Arizona

Canyon de Chelly, Arizona

Grand Canyon, Arizona

Grand Canyon, Arizona

Zion National Park, Utah

Zion National Park, Utah

Canyonlands, Island in the Sky Section, Utah

Canyonlands, Island in the Sky Section, Utah

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“The human soul is hungry for beauty; we seek it everywhere—in landscape, music, art, clothes, furniture, gardening, companionship, love, religion, and in ourselves.  No one would desire not to be beautiful.  When we experience the beautiful, there is a sense of homecoming.”  John O’Donohue

“There is an eternal landscape, a geography of the soul; we search for its outlines all our lives.”  Josephine Hart

“Landscape photography is the supreme test of the photographer—and often the supreme disappointment.”  Ansel Adams

“Life is like a landscape.  You live in the midst of it but can describe it only from the vantage point of distance.”  Charles Lindbergh

“You cannot, in human experience, rush into the light.  You have to go through the twilight into the broadening day before the noon comes and the full sun is upon the landscape.”  Woodrow Wilson

“The landscape is like being there with a powerful personality and I’m searching for just the right angles to make that portrait come across as meaningfully as possible.”  Galen Rowell

“I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape. Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn’t show.”  Andrew Wyeth

“I think landscape photography in general is somewhat undervalued.”  Galen Rowell

“Any landscape is a condition of the spirit.”  Henri Frederic Amiel

“Memory is the fourth dimension to any landscape.”  Janet Fitch

“I can go into the wilderness and not see anyone for days and experience a kind of space that hasn’t changed for tens of thousands of years.  Having that experience was necessary to my perception of how photography can look at the changes humanity has brought about in the landscape.  My work does become a kind of lament.”  Edward Burtynsky


Weekly Photo Challenge:  Serenity

Don’t you just love dictionaries?  The first definition offered for serenity is always “the state of being serene.”  Then some synonyms are provided like calmness and tranquility.  For me, being serene goes beyond being calm and thoughtful, beyond tranquility.  There is an element of spiritual awareness that emerges, but also a sense of expectation.

This feeling, this state of mind, is part of what I seek when I venture into Nature.  In Nature, I can look outward to the wonders of the world and inward to my appreciation of my place in that world.  The hectic and mundane fall away, and I am left embracing the moment but also looking to my place in the future. I feel serene at those moments.

Hindus offer the respectful greeting “Namaste,” when meeting anyone: relative, friend or stranger.  The greeting simply acknowledges “I bow to the divine in you.”  What a great assumption.  Madeleine L’Engle—in her daily devotional Glimpses of Grace that I am reading this year–reflected on “Namaste” as part of today’s reading.  She stressed spiritual connections as well as responsibility when truly embracing our world.  In her words, “God created, and it was joy: time, space, matter. There is, and we are part of that is-ness, part of that becoming. That is our calling: co-creation.”

To me, that sense of oneness with life, that awareness of appreciation and that acceptance of responsibility even an interdependence with all life, is at the heart of serenity.  And I find that sense of serenity and peace most often in Nature.  These photos are from a day in and around Zion National Park last spring.





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“What I dream of is an art of balance, of purity and serenity devoid of troubling or depressing subject matter—a soothing, calming influence on the mind, rather like a good armchair which provides relaxation from physical fatigue.”   Henri Matisse

“Peace is not a relationship of nations.  It is a condition of mind brought about by a serenity of soul.  Peace is not merely the absence of war. It is also a state of mind. Lasting peace can come only to peaceful people.”  Jawaharlal Nehru

“Every breath we take, every step we make, can be filled with peace, joy and serenity/”  Thich Nhat Hanh

“Boredom is the feeling that everything is a waste of time; serenity, that nothing is.”  Thomas Szasz

“The love of learning, the sequestered nooks, and all the sweet serenity of books.”  Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

“I think the ideal space must contain elements of magic, serenity, sorcery and mystery.”  Luis Barragan


KOLOB CANYONS (Zion National Park)

Zion & Kolob Canyons 120Zion National Park is comprised of two sections: Zion Zion & Kolob Canyons 145Canyon, which is the larger and most popular section that was first protected in 1909, and Kolob Canyons, which was incorporated into the national park in 1956.  Kolob Canyons was initially named as its own national monument in 1937 before merging with Zion almost 20 years later. The road through this section of Zion was initiated in the 1960s.

Zion & Kolob Canyons 152

Zion & Kolob Canyons 123

Horse Ranch Mountain

Horse Ranch Mountain

Today, Kolob Canyons still stands apart, located about 40 miles north of Zion Canyon. There is no one park road directly connecting the two sections. Instead, visitors reach Kolob Canyons at exit 40 off Interstate 15.  It is about an hour’s drive from Zion’s south entrance off Highway 9 to Kolob Canyons’ entrance. Because of this separation, fewer visitors make their way to Kolob Canyons, even though it is just as spectacular as Zion Canyon.

Paria Pt & Tucupit Pt.

Paria Pt & Tucupit Pt.

Kolob Vista 1 pano see text

Hanging Valley, Timber Top Mountain & Shuntavi Butte

Kolob Vista 2 pano see text

Nagunt Mesa, Elephant Arch & Hanging Valley

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Zion & Kolob Canyons 135

Zion & Kolob Canyons 133

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Zion & Kolob Canyons 125Although there is not a lot of evidence about the earliest settlers in the Kolob Canyons, the Anasazi or “Ancient Ones” left traces until around 1200 A.D.  When priests traveled through the area in 1776, the Paiutes were already longtime residents, growing crops, gathering seeds, and hunting small animals.  The Paiutes are still in the area today, but there numbers are very small.  The Mormons moved into the area in the 1850s, establishing farms and ranches as well as cutting timber, raising cattle and sheep, and diverting water for irrigation elsewhere.  The Mormons gave the area its name.  In their scriptures, Kolob means the star nearest to the residence of God.

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Zion & Kolob Canyons 124Zion & Kolob Canyons 122When you visit the area, you will see that Kolob Canyons is well named: The area is truly spectacular.  Even though the area sits just miles from the interstate, you will feel like you are truly out in the wilds.  The scenic drive through the park ascends 1100 feet in five miles with moderately steep grades and many curves. Part of the drive follows an earthquake fault line that separates the gray Kaibab limestone cliffs from the reds and beige of the Navajo sandstone.

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Zion & Kolob Canyons 138

Kolob Vista 1Just as in Zion Canyon, the primary carving agent for the deep canyons is water; in these canyons,  Taylor Creek and La Verkin Creek worked their wonders through the canyons.  The cliffs are comprised of colorful rock layers of sandstones, siltstones, limestones, and lava.  Arched alcoves and arches grace the walls. My favorite is Elephant Arch.  Pinyon and pine forests dot the landscapes as do occasional sage, oak, and aspen.

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Kolob Flower 1

Kolob Arch Photo from landscapeimagery.com

Kolob Arch Photo from landscapeimagery.com

At the right time of year, wildflowers add color and variety along the 10.6 mile scenic route (round trip). Mule deer are most likely to be seen in the fall and winter. There are several hiking trails throughout this section of the park.  The most strenuous hike is 14.4 miles roundtrip to see Kolob Arch, possibly the largest free-standing arch in the world.  I have never made that hike, but I am sure the arch is impressive.

Kolob Flowers 2

Kolob Flowers 3

Kolob Flowers 5

Kolob Elephant ArchCan you see the elephants in this Elephant Arch feature?  Visitors do have to look with a bit of imagination to see the herd, but they are there.

Kolob Elephant Arch Close

[Look at upper right corner for eye and trunk.  Then herd is in foreground, ears and trunks looking out!]



Zion National Park

The first time I visited Zion National Park was an accident—and I saw virtually nothing.  I had been on a trip, visiting various places in the Southwest.  Towards the end of the trip, after visiting the Grand Canyon South Rim, I was ready to head home.  I decided that instead of just driving straight to my hotel room in Las Vegas, I would take a detour to the Grand Canyon North Rim for a short afternoon visit.

But the North Rim was gorgeous, and a storm was moving across the canyon from the South Rim.  How could I not stay longer to watch that unfold?  But that delay meant that I was en route to my Las Vegas hotel room about 10 pm rather than earlier in the day.  It was dark.  It was cloudy.  It was raining.  I was blindly following my AAA Triptik that said the next turn was to pick up Highway 9 en route to Interstate 15.

Highway 9 took me right through Zion National Park via the 1.1 mile tunnel at the east entrance.  In the pitch black of that night with no highway lights whatsoever, that tunnel felt about 10 miles long.  All I saw of the park was some red dirt and an occasional frog that jumped across the road.

purple flowerindian paint brushA couple years later I planned a real trip to Zion National Park.  The light spring rains helped the wildflowers pop up everywhere.  And back then, I was able to drive all throughout the park, stopping at the various overlooks and trailheads.

white flower

Zion flowers 5

Zion flowers 3

Great White Throne

Great White Throne

The Zion Canyon Scenic Drive runs north with stops at such vantage points as Court of the Patriarchs, The Grotto, Weeping Rock, and the Temple of the Sinawava. At some of these sites, visitors can hike along the Virgin River or sit on its banks to enjoy a picnic lunch.

River Walk by Temple of Sinawava

River Walk by Temple of Sinawava

Court of the Patriarchs

Court of the Patriarchs

The Sentinel

The Sentinel

Tunnel 1tunnel 3Highway 9, also called the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway, took me east through the tunnel I had traversed before to the east entrance and the Checkerboard Mesa.  On this trip, I learned that the 1.1 mile tunnel on this route was opened in 1930.  It took 3 years to complete the project at the cost of almost $2,000,000.  Just imagine what it would cost today!

Checkerboard Mesa

Checkerboard Mesa

checkerboard mesa 3

checkerboard mesa 4

Zion Virgin R 3Zion flowers 6A picnic by the Virgin River is a relaxing way to spend the afternoon.  The flowers and butterflies are delightful. I could spend all day here!

Zion Virgin R 2

Zion Virgin R

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butterfly 1

west temple and tower of virgins joint 2Zion flowers 4This Spring, I returned to Zion National Park.  It is still bold and dramatic.  The canyon runs for fifteen miles and reaches an elevation close to 9,000 feet.  The area cover 146,597 acres; that’s 229 square miles.  The Zion Mount Carmel Highway twists and turns back on itself as it runs east through the park showcasing the sheer cliffs, high plateaus, and intricate alcoves and arches.  The contrast of the deep green of the pinyon, pine, and juniper forests and occasional wildflowers against the red slopes is impressive.

Zion big vista

It is no wonder that the area was named a National Monument by President William Howard Taft in 1909.  The goal was to preserve the “brilliantly colored strata of unique composition” and “extraordinary examples of canyon erosion.” In 1919, the area was upgraded to a National Park and its name was changed from Mukuntuweap to Zion, under the stupid* idea at the time that non-native names would better promote visitors.  It is the Virgin River that has cut this marvelous canyon that is almost a half-mile deep.  No wonder John Wesley Powel declared in 1895, “All this is the music of waters.”

Zion & Kolob Canyons 004Zion & Kolob Canyons 007On this most recent trip, it was crowded. In 2011, more than 2.8 million visitors were recorded at the park.  The number has surely increased in three years.  During this visit, there was virtually no designated parking space left anywhere.  Because of this increase in visits, Zion National Park now limits where private cars can drive from April to October. A free shuttle takes visitors to the overlooks and trailheads along the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive.

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Zion & Kolob Canyons 017Zion & Kolob Canyons 016This spring, I was able to ignore the crowds by staying a roadside naturalist.  I drove the Zion Mount Carmel Highway from the south to the east entrance, enjoying all the twists and turns of that route and the passage through the tunnel.

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Zion & Kolob Canyons 058Zion & Kolob Canyons 062Parking and some limited hiking was still possible at Checkerboard Mesa.  I figure my next trip will be sometime between November and April, so I can once again drive to all the great overlooks and pathways myself—and maybe avoid some crowds.

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buffalo 2buffalo groupOutside the park at the east entrance, my sister and I were pleasantly surprised to see a small herd of buffalo ambling along.  We were not quite so pleased to see signs for a local restaurant advertising buffalo steak and jerky on the menu. [I’m not a vegetarian, but I prefer to delude myself and see my meat only in supermarkets, not wandering in a field!]

buffalo 3

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Zion & Kolob Canyons 076bull closeIn another field, a massive bull seemed to welcome any visitors who ventured near the fence.

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ZNP 4 the grand arch

En route back to our hotel, we drove back through the park to marvel once again at the massive red cliffs.

Zion pano 3


Zion & Kolob Canyons 102

Zion & Kolob Canyons 115

Zion & Kolob Canyons 114If you have never visited this magnificent park, it is well worth the trip.  The cliffs and plateaus are substantial, ancient, vibrant, spiritual.  The landscape has been emerging for over 150 million years. Inhabitants started populating the area in small family groups roughly 8,000 years ago. Whenever I experience Zion National Park, I cannot help but be overwhelmed by the grandeur of nature and am thus encouraged to reflect on my place in the universe and the spirituality that connects us all.  As Clarence E. Dutton expounds:  “There is an eloquence to these forms which stirs the imagination. . , and kindles in the mind a glowing response. . . . [It is hard to] exceed the wondrous beauty of Zion Valley.”   

Zion Temples

*Sorry.  The stupid label is mine.  Our government has done some stupid things over the years.  There is no denying that.  At least Zion National Park and other areas have been preserved.

Note:  Zion National Park has a second section called Kolob Canyons.  I will write about my visit there at a later time.

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“There are no random acts. We are all connected. You can no more separate one life from another than you can separate a breeze from the wind.”  Mitch Albom

“If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change.”  Buddha

“A comely sight indeed it is to see a world of blossoms on an apple tree.”  John Bunyan

“There is not one blade of grass, there is no colour in this world that is not intended to make us rejoice.”  John Calvin

“The goal of life is to make your heartbeat match the beat of the universe, to match your nature with nature.”  Joseph Campbell

“I thank God for most this amazing day; for the leaping greenly spirits of trees and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything which is natural, which is infinite.”  e. e. cummings

“The magic begins in you.  Feel your own energy and realize similar energy exists within the Earth, stones, plants, water, wind, fire, colours, and animals.”  Scott Cunningham

“Everything in our world, even a drop of dew, is a microcosm of the universe.”  Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Nature is the art of God eternal.”  Dante

“The snow, the wind, the sun and the sounds of nature, can all be reminders to you that you’re an integral part of the natural world.”  Wayne Dyer

“A man is related to all nature.”  Ralph Waldo Emerson


I have always considered myself a Roadside Naturalist.

pink tree along I-5christio umbrellas along I-5Some roads are noted for their wonderful views, such as California’s Big Sur Coastline and the 17-Mile Drive outside of Monterey.  But even roads like I-5 can let you find a gorgeous tree in pink splendor or Highway 395 can drive you past autumn colors.  The noted artist Christo even planned his Umbrellas Exhibit—in both California and Japan—along common roadways.  No matter where I go, if I pay attention, I can usually find some glorious aspect of Nature to appreciate.

Lone pIne monterey

big sur

Bishop road

In fact, Nature and Solitude are such rejuvenating forces that I used to take Nature Solitude Treks every spring.  The frequency of those trips, however, stopped when I moved into administrative work and no longer had May as a regular time off.  And then I had a series of major surgeries starting in 2006 and my chances to get out into Nature dwindled even further.  I still valued Nature and sought it out, just with less planned intention.

Drive to Flagstaff 013This spring, I finally took another Nature Solitude Trek, this time traveling over 6500 miles and stopping at national parks and wildlife refuges along the way. I did not complete major hikes or camp out under the stars.  In fact, most places I visited I made sure had scenic drives as part of their layouts and options.  It is amazing how much Nature you can enjoy, literally, along the side of the road.  Some of those roads were bumpy unpaved dirt roads while others were interstates, and still others were county back roads.  But they allowed me to get close to Nature, even though I cannot walk very fast or very far anymore.

Below are some of the photos taken from the car that show the Nature I encountered along the many, many roads I traveled on this trip.  It was a glorious time.  And not one flat tire or speeding ticket!


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bull close


Bryce NP, red rock canyon 006

Bryce NP, red rock canyon 117

Bryce NP, red rock canyon 100


Coral Reef National Park 093

Coral Reef National Park 123

Coral Reef National Park 094


Canyonlands Needles & I 70 206

Canyonlands Needles & I 70 216

Canyonlands Needles & I 70 213

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CO national mon 2 & River Park 057

CO national mon 2 & River Park 062

CO national mon 2 & River Park 009


Pam Day 2 & Garden of the Gods 048


Pam Day 2 & Garden of the Gods 009


Bosque de Apache outside Albu 007

Bosque de Apache outside Albu 211

Bosque de Apache outside Albu 148

Bosque de Apache outside Albu 161

Bosque de Apache outside Albu 223


Saugaro NP Rincon & West 156

Saugaro NP Rincon & West 325

Saugaro NP Rincon & West 078

Saugaro NP Rincon & West 018

Saugaro NP Rincon & West 114


(Actually two little trips before and after my big driving trip in Spring 2014)












This trip immersed me into the overwhelming and rejuvenating power of Nature and Solitude. In today’s world, when we are urged to see multi-tasking as an expectation, when the Internet and social media bring us news and oddities alike in the blink of an eye, and when reality shows focus so often on people doing stupid things rather than on a delight of Nature, my escape into Nature was a real treat.  This trip confirmed that the best way to approach Nature is as a child excited by the ant and butterfly alike, curious about birds and squirrels and whatever catches her eye.  This trip reminded me of the power of wonder and mindfulness to help keep me balanced and spiritually aware. As a result of this trip, I remembered some simple truths that can help me lead an engaged, wonder-filled life, no matter how hectic my life gets:

  • Don’t multi-task your life away. If something is so unimportant that you need to be doing something else at the same time, why do it at all?
  • Slow down and look around.  You will never notice the natural wonders around you if you just keep rushing to the next item on your to-do list.
  • Be like a child and capture the wonder of each moment—it is the only way to build memories.
  • Express your gratitude and appreciation for nature, life, relationships often.

What truths about life help keep you grounded and sane?

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“Amidst the splendor of the scene and the silence, I was filled with a wonderful peace.”   Basho

“ah, sweet spontaneous earth…”    e. e. cummings

“We need the tonic of wildness—we can never have enough of nature.”  Thoreau

“The spirits of the road beckoned, and I could do no more work at all.”   Basho

“Silence alone is worthy to be heard.”  Thoreau

“Be happy for this moment.  This moment is your life.”  Omar Khayyam

“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.”  W. B. Yeats

“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.”  Emerson

“Look at everything always as though you were seeing it either for the first or last time: Thus is your time on earth filled with glory.”   Betty Smith

“Youth is happy because it has the capacity to see beauty. Anyone who keeps the ability to see beauty never grows old.”    Franz Kafka

“A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of his life, in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul.”   Goethe

“You’ll never find a rainbow if you’re looking down.”  Charles Chaplin

“Wonder is the beginning of wisdom.”   Socrates

“We are perishing for want of wonder, not for want of wonders.”    G. K. Chesterton

“In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous.”    Aristotle

“If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change.”     Buddha

“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.”    G. K. Chesterton

“Mystery creates wonder, and wonder is the basis of man’s desire to understand.”   Neil Armstrong

“Never say there is nothing beautiful in the world anymore. There is always something to make you wonder in the shape of a tree, the trembling of a leaf.”  Albert Schweitzer

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