By Dr. David Gross
Part 18: Zion, Bryce and Awesome Back Roads
Growing up in Arizona and spending significant time camping at and in both the Grand Canyon and Oak Creek Canyon, along with a whole summer working on the Navajo Reservation, produced in me a serious flaw: I am less than overcome by emotion when viewing wind- and water-sculpted red rock formations.
Charlize and I spent the night in Springdale, Utah. Early the next morning we did a quick tour of Zion National Park. It is beautiful, but as I said.
We followed the Zion-Mount Carmel highway through a mile-long tunnel carved out of the rock and stopped at an overview just outside the East Entrance. There I talked with three very friendly young folks; Jim, who is about to graduate from nursing school and two female nursing students from the same school in St. George, Utah. Charlize initiated contact and the conversation flowed easily. All three were bright, interested, committed and determined to do good and make a difference. Jim wants to be involved in a medical program that helps underserved patients in a developing country. Nice!
Charlize and I arrived at Bryce Canyon about noon and did a very quick tour. We weren’t allowed to take Frog beyond the first viewpoint, Sunrise Point. To tour the rest of the Park we would have had to unhitch and leave Frog unattended. Charlize was not happy with that idea, nor was I, so we departed.
Rather than back tracking we made a command decision and headed east on State Highway 12. We stopped in Tropic, Utah for a quick lunch and pressed on. The road was free of all but an occasional other vehicle and we didn’t see a single 18-wheeler. We stopped for a panoramic view at the mountain pass between Escalante and Boulder. The CCC constructed the original “Million Dollar Road” with “skill, sweat and dynamite,” finishing it in 1940. The view spanned from Navajo Mountain on the Utah-Arizona border to the east, the Henry Mountains in the center and west to the Aquaris Plateau and Boulder Mountain. The distance encompassed, from east to west must be well over 100 miles. The vista includes a cornucopia of deep, winding canyons that form the Escalante River Basin.
We traversed at least three summit passes after leaving Bryce the highest was about 9,600 feet, with snow on the ground. We arrived at the beautiful Fruita Campground in the Capital Reef National Forest about four-thirty in the evening. With my Senior National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass it cost me five bucks for the night. I was tired from all the mountain driving but pleased with a full day. It was an awesome reliving of the past driving on mostly empty, two-lane highways, very reminiscent of the way driving in the west used to be when I was young.
Charlize loved the snow when we stopped at the top of one of the passes.
After his losing his wife of 52 years to cancer, Dr. David Gross has embarked on an extended road trip with his new dog, Charlize, and is writing about his experiences.