Friday, September 19, 2008

Utah, in brief

Time grows short today, largely because of all the necessary post-trip doings, so I'll give brief impressions of the Big 5 national parks in Utah, with longer trip reports to come. I'm also not prepared to post any pictures yet, as that would involve finding my cable and looking through all the photos.

Arches: I had pictured a vast plain punctuated by arch-like structures, and it wasn't that at all. There are a lot of ups and downs as you drive around the park, and the arches are not all there is to see. The famous Balanced Rock is even more imposing than it is in the guide books. I admit to being partial to Double Arch, though there is a poignancy in seeing the fallen Wall Arch.

Bryce Canyon: The Bryce Amphitheater is remarkable, as these spires of rock come shooting off the canyon floor. Hiking near these huge structures was probably the visceral highlight of the trip; it is hard to believe that they weren't constructed, so city-like and intricate.

Canyonlands: We only went to the Island in the Sky portion, which is aptly named, as the Y-shaped road leads along a plateau that is surrounded by the cutting left by the Green and Colorado Rivers. Here, the vistas are enormous in scale, and there is a smallness you feel as you look at just how much land has been removed. It is absence that is awe-inspiring here.

Capitol Reef: The park of which I expected the least, but I was impressed to find that the Waterpocket Fold which defines this landscape had a beauty all its own. In some ways, perhaps because of my sense going in, this was my favorite, as it has a somewhat more intimate feel than the others.

Zion: The flagship park, but the one I found the least thrilling. Its fame comes, I think, from the sylvan nature of the canyon, offering a lovely river and surrounding trees. But the surrounding structures are not so "wow"; it's not that I was disappointed, per se, just that I had thought it would be the highlight, and it didn't quite make that for me.

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