Destination: Southern Utah, July 11 – 17, 2006

Grand Staircase Escalante National MonumentGrey, red, yellow, purple, white

Sunrises, Sunsets

Greens – cottonwoods, pinion pines, shrubs

Cliffs, rolling, jagged peaks, hoodoos, spires, zigzags

Bryce Canyon - Hoodoos

Blue sky, billowing clouds

Endless, expansive, majestic

Hot, arid, hard

Grand Staircase Escalante National MonumentMesas, layers, strata

Upthrust, etched, knobular, fractal



Riverbeds, washes

bighorn sheep, lizards, deer, birds, snakes

Rock FormationLonely or alive?

Nature’s art: egyptian temples, golden thrones, thors hammer, queens

History: anasazi, mormons, wagon trains, butch cassidy, pueblos

We spent a week in this beautiful part of the country. Our purpose was to stop by and meet some folks we met on the NZ Ex-Pats list who were NZ-curious. They happened to live on the southern border of Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument and offered to put us up for a few days and show us around.

What a treat. Sue and Steve are super nice folk – they’ve been in the area for 10+ years and have carved a niche for themselves running an all-you-can-eat buffet restaurant featuring Steve’s beef brisket and also serving as guides to the area’s attractions such as the Buckskin Gulch (the worlds longest and deepest slot canyon), the Vermillion Cliffs, and the Grand Staircase. Steve found the time to show us some of his favorite hidden spots featuring sweeping vistas of canyons and mushroom rocks, where the Anasazi once roamed and lived, and where, if you looked hard enough, you could find pieces of ancient arrowheads and pottery.

We took a day trip to the Lake Powell Recreational Area and went on a tour of the heavily guarded Glen Canyon Dam where we learned from the young, perky, 20-something guide, that the purpose of the dam was to provide water, electricity, and recreation to the populace. Started in 1956, it took eight years to complete. And then 17 years to fill. A terrific feat, but not without controversy; the dam was the subject of Edward Abbey’s famous fictional piece, The Monkey Wrench Gang. To this day, controversy reigns, with several enviro groups advocating for the draining of the lake.

Cockscomb MonoclineSeveral days later, we head out on a very scenic, very dry, often impassable, 46 mile dirt road which cut through the Cottonwood Canyon in the Grand Escalante National Staircase. The road follows along the scenic Cockscomb monocline, where beds of rock have been folded into 40 or 50 degree angles, jutting up like the crest on the head of a rooster.

Next, a short stop at Kodachrome Basin State Park where we did a short hike on the Panorama Trail where sandstone chimney spires abound. Onwards, we made it to Bryce Canyon National Park in time for us to do a three hour sunset tour. The amphitheater, filled with thousands of the famous hoodoos is spectacular with sunset striking the white, red, pink, and beige striated rock. The next morning, we hiked through the hoodoos, on the Queens Garden trail, seeing formations with interesting names such as Wall Street, the Sentinal, Thors Hammer, and the Queen.

Later in the day, we stopped briefly at the Anasazi State Park Museum where we had a quick history lesson about the Anasazi: the village dwelling farmers who existed in the southern Colorado plateau between about A.D. 1 and 1300.

Finally, on the last day of our Utah trip, we spent the day at Capitol Reef National Park, enjoying the sights of the Waterpocket Fold, a 100-mile long monocline of amazing hues. We managed to do a short hike down the Capitol Gorge canyon floor to see, among other things, the Pioneer Register – a wall with the names and signatures of early pioneers who travelled this ‘road’ in the late 1800’s.

We really enjoyed this awesome part of the country – quite alive and filled with rich, colorful vistas and a rich history — we highly recommend a visit!

(More photos in the photo gallery)