August 15, 2009

America’s Amazing West - Part Two

by Vickie McDonough

I hope you enjoyed part one of my tour of the west last month. I’m back with more sights and fabulous pictures to share from the trip West that my husband and I took in June. The three pictures below were taken at Zion National Park in south-western Utah, and oh my goodness! Was it ever beautiful! It’s so hard to describe. You drive into this canyon, and instead of looking down like you did at Bryce Canyon, you look straight up at these extremely steep mountains. But these are far different from the Rockies or others ones we saw. They were sometimes barren and looked like bald heads with their rounded tops.

There’s also a mile-long tunnel (middle picture) you go through that is lit only by a few windows. Very narrow and very dark. Once you exit the tunnel, heading west, you zig-zag thousands of feet down the side of a huge mountain. Part of the park can only be reached via shuttle, so we did that the next day. The sights were very pretty but not as spectacular as the canyon drive. The highlight of the shuttle tour is the end of the ride where you can take a mile walk to the Narrows. It’s a canyon with walls that go straight up, and you have to actually walk through 60 degree water to see it.

We traveled a scenic route through the Dixie Forest as we left the park. It was a gorgeous drive high in the mountains, and we were surrounded by tall pine trees. We drove through ancient lava fields, and on both sides of us were fields of big black boulders. Nothing at all but lava rocks, except every so often, right in the middle of the field of lava there’d be a clump of flowers. Amazing! No grass or weeds. Nothing but a single clump of flowers, and we saw this many times. It made me think how God can make even the hardest rock fertile again.

Our next stop was the North Rim of the Grand Canyon! I think my mouth actually dropped open when I first saw how big it was. I heard someone say it was ten miles from north to south rim, and it’s amazingly deep. There’s a huge lodge that you have to walk through to catch your first glimpse of the canyon, but there are also two twisty-turny roads you can take to see more of it. The place was amazing and makes you feel small. Robert and I enjoyed eating lunch in the restaurant and sitting next to the two-story windows overlooking the canyon. God sure made some majestic places.

As we left the park, we drove through the beautiful Kaibab Forest, seeing deer and even a turkey on the way. The forest gave way to dry desert lands and tall colorful buttes called the Vermillion Cliffs. We briefly visited Marble Canyon and saw the Colorado River, but journeyed on toward Flagstaff. I was amazed at the barren land that we drove through that was part of the Navaho reservation. How do people live there? We passed numerous dry creek beds called ‘washes’. There was no grass at all, just spotty shrubs and a few short trees.

The next day we went to Sunset Crater, which was an inactive volcano. The hillsides for miles & miles were covered with pea- to marble-size black lava, which made everything look as if it had been coated in hot tar and smoothed out. There were also large fields of giant lava boulders as big as cows. The volcano’s destruction was overwhelming and still impacted a large area, even though it occurred thousands of years ago.

Thursday, we stayed the night in Holbrook, AZ, on historic Route 66. It’s not much of a town, and someone in the 1800s once said it was too rough for women and churches. My fictional mind took off when I read that and started plotting out a new story. J Holbrook has a strong Navaho influence, with all things Indian sold in the area.

Our next stop was the Petrified Forest. The rock-hardened trees—and there were lots of them in fields along the roadway—were very interesting. Many were marbleized into colors of brown, orange, black, and even green.

We drove through Sunset Crater Volcano National Park and saw more of the Painted Desert—and you can understand why it’s called that once you see the oranges, tans, browns, and greens of the landscape.

One of the coolest things I saw on this trip were the petroglyphs—ancient drawings on the sides of steep boulders. Usually, they had a black background with drawings etched in the black, revealing the orange stone underneath. The picture above is of a stork-like bird with a frog in its mouth. Wish I knew what they all said!

The petroglyphs were one of most interesting things we saw on our trip. Just imagine a whole race of people living in such a barren land without modern conveniences of any kind.

I’ll end this entry here, and hope that you’ve enjoyed seeing just a small part of our great West. Tune in next month for my final segment on touring America’s West.

I’m doing a drawing for your choice of one of my books (Well, of the ones I have copies of) Leave a comment with your email address, and your name and will be put in the drawing. I will contact the winner by Aug 22.)

Which of these pictures is your favorite?

And, visit my website and sign my guestbook for a chance to win a free book:



Steven Hunt said...

Arizonia and Utah are my favorite states. I especially like the photo of the mile long tunnel. Now that's cool!

Anonymous said...

My favorite is the one with the you're coming out of a dark place into the glory of the West. Sorry, I'm partial! LOL

Awesome pics and descriptions. Thanks for sharing!

sugarandgrits said...

Hi Vickie,

Great post! My favorite photo is the one from inside the tunnel (middle photo of the first 3). I love how the darkness inside the tunnel contrasts with the colors outside ~ it's beautiful!

Thank you for sharing,
~ Lori


Anonymous said...

Great Blog post. Wonderful pictures, thanks for sharing.

Vickie McDonough said...

So far, it's unanimous--the tunnel shot is the favorite. I really like that one, too. The tunnel was 1.1 miles long with NO lights. Several small windows were cut into the rocks along the way, but it was very dark and narrow. When a motor home needs to go through, they stop the traffic coming from the other direction.

Cherie J said...

Beautiful pictures! I love the pictures you took at Zion National park especially. The tunnel one is really stunning with the concept of going from the dark into the light. Thanks so much for sharing.


Molly Noble Bull said...

Your article was interesting, and the photos were wonderful.

Anonymous said...

I am very familiar with all of the scenes of Arizona since I have lived here a long time. You can not go wrong with a photo of the Grand Canynon-any I have seen are awesome. And seeing it in person is a wonderful awe-inspring moment.

Anonymous said...

Enjoyed reading the comments. I like all of the photos and would like to visit that area.
JFWisherd AT aol DOT com

Stephen and Janet Bly said...

Vickie: Enjoyed your photos very much...we've been privileged to visit all those places ourselves. Thanks for sharing.