Thursday, March 30, 2006

Kanab to Hurricane, Utah

The Bryce Amphitheater

11:30 p.m.

Comfort Inn, Hurricane, Utah


Left the hotel in Page at 11:00 this morning. A clear day with a high, hazy layer of cloud.

Before leaving city services behind, added air to the front tire. It was about five pounds low.

Just outside Page, I crossed the Colorado River bridge and pulled into the Glen Canyon Dam Visitor’s Center. Inside the facility, there is an observation deck offering a view of the dam. But walking up to the entrance in my riding suit, I could see security screeners processing visitors, just like airport screeners. I didn’t want to subject myself to this treatment just to look at a dam. Turned away and climbed back aboard the bike, returning to the relative freedom of the road.

Crossed back into Utah. I had planned to visit Grand Canyon’s North Rim, however, last night I viewed the park’s website and learned the Rim doesn’t open to the public until May 15th. Took a coffee break in Kanab, finding "Willow Canyon Outdoor", a little independent shop advertising espresso. Stopped outside, but wavered at the entrance. It looked quirky. Two young people walked past me and entered, tipping the scale. I followed.

Inside, I found a fascinating mix of coffee bar, expedition outfitter and book store. Met one of the partners, Charlie Neumann. He makes an outstanding cappuccino. We got to talking about California and he spoke of his days in Oceanside, surfing the famous “Trestles” point on the Camp Pendleton Marine Base.

I asked if he had heard of my brother, Drew Kampion, who had lived and worked nearby, surfing the same spot. He had, and credits Drew with bringing literature to the surfing world. He said he avidly followed Drew’s writing when he was editor of "Surfer" magazine.

Charlie offered advice for a brief visit in this region: “go to Bryce, snap some photos, then Zion, then stay at Springdale, not St. George.” Throughout this trip, I've relied on the suggestions of locals to guide my next steps.

In Kanab, Utah, I met Charlie Neumann, co-owner of Willow Canyon Outdoor. His store carries books and outdoor gear, and serves excellent coffee drinks. Charlie is a geologist and long-time surfer from Carlsbad, California. He credits my brother Drew with bringing literature to the surfing world. On the shelf is Drew's book "The Way of the Surfer".

Continued on up the road. Kanab’s a cute town. “Not a bad place to live,” I thought to myself as I rolled away, (though Charlie reported the very conservative city council can be difficult to work with.)

I keep returning to the question of “what's next?” Riding doesn't seem conducive to exploring this in depth. Constantly on the lookout for deer, traveling unfamiliar roads, gazing upon ever-changing landscapes, intellectual activity never seems to delve beneath the superficial. (The perpetual-motion part of my being doesn’t coexist with the problem-solver part.)

The waves of new development haven’t reached this corner of Utah yet, and to me it’s refreshing. Mt. Carmel Junction is still a small crossroad. Though there are some seasonal resorts on the way to Bryce Canyon National Park, this country has a wonderfully-pastoral feel. Despite the clear sunny sky, the afternoon was very cold, as I once again climbed a high mesa to the park.

On top of the mesa, at about 9,000 feet, there were two or three feet of snow on the ground. The road through the park was closed a little over half-way out to Yovimpa and Rainbow Points. But the actual Bryce Canyon overlooks (Sunrise, Sunset, Inspiration and Bryce Points) were all accessible. The landscape was so incredible, I moved from one overlook to the next, gaining different perspectives on the sandstone formations, taking lots of photos, and delaying my departure. I was very aware of the sun lowering in the west, and the falling temperature. And I still hoped to get to Zion, and beyond before dark.

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

These limestone spires in Bryce Canyon are called "hoodoos"

Bryce Canyon hoodoos

The day now racing away, I left for Zion about 4:30. Getting down off the plateaus, it was warmer, but still chilly.

On state highway 9 through Zion, everyone must pay a park entry fee, regardless whether it’s their intention to visit the park. Long tunnels add to the drama. When you finally emerge, you’re deep within a fantastic landscape. In Zion, the perspective is “bottom up”, as the road travels the floor of deep and narrow canyons. Here you wander among groves of trees along the Virgin River, towering rock sentinels above.

As I reached “The Great White Throne”, the sunlight departed, leaving the entire valley in shadows. I tried to capture at least one photo in the twilight. Then I noticed the camera was still set for incandescent lighting. I had used the setting inside the Kanab shop. So, all the Bryce photos were captured with the wrong "filter", which would result in an overall bluish cast. It was difficult to accept.

In the valley, wonderful old trees and meadows add a softness and contrast to the harsh canyon walls. Barren branches are starkly beautiful, though sprouting buds add a greenish tinge to the grayness.

On the western edge of Zion is Springdale. I don't even remember there being a town here 35 years ago. It’s clearly a popular destination, a quaint, artsy tourist village. Inquired about a room at one hotel. Over $100 per night, it was far too expensive. The manager said all accommodations in town would be similarly-priced. Anyway, they were full. So, it appeared I'd be staying in St. George after all, another 75 miles down the road.

Springdale looked like a fun place to eat though. Asked the hotel clerk for a restaurant recommendation and she said, frankly their restaurant, "Pentimento" was the best in town. Stayed, though the white linen table cloths at first made me uncomfortable.

The food was very good. I tried their “broasted chicken”. I recognized a flavor I haven’t tasted since the 1960s! Delicious (though probably one of those “heart-attack-on-a-plate” meals.) Actually tried a glass of “Sutter Home” Cabernet Sauvignon. Probably the first time ever.

Continued down the mountain canyons in the dark. The juxtaposition of two town names on this road amused me long ago. It had me laughing again tonight: La Verkin and Virgin, La Verkin Virgin.

Coming to the suburbs of St. George and the familiar clusters of chain hotels, I began the inquiries. The Hurricane “Days Inn” was full, but across the street I found a room at the “Comfort Inn”, just over $50.

Called Janie and Otto to report I’m closing in! Only 150 miles to Las Vegas.

Immigration policy is the main topic in the news and on talk shows. I have to wonder if this issue has been raised just to divert attention from the Administration's failed Iraq strategy.


Pia said...

Hola Tim!
These your pictures are simply amazing! What sublime wonders are there left to be discovered - even after Patagonia .. I cannot stop myself in thinking about a next trip......
All the best from Santiago

timtraveler said...

Hi, Pia!

I told you, your next trip has to be the U.S.A.!


Anonymous said...


Genevieve said...

These are beautiful photos. I really enjoyed looking down through the page. Thanks for posting them.
9:31 PM
timtraveler said...

Thanks for the kind comments, Genevieve!