Saturday, April 30, 2016

Zion National Park, Utah

Zion National Park, Utah

Sculpted out of the Colorado Plateau, Zion National Park is a dragon’s lair of rock towers, caves and hanging gardens. The narrow slot-canyon gradually widens to where the Virgin River escapes into the Utah desert near St. George.

Looming above an emerald forest of twisted trees, orange sheer-cliffs create an intimidating profile set against the summer sky. Overhead, the morning fog has burned away and wispy clouds are arranged in a pattern of complicated design.

The place is a hiker’s paradise so if the astonishing beauty doesn’t take your breath away, then climbing up to the rim certainly will. Though Zion is difficult to describe with words, luckily, the unique landscape is photogenic from every angle.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Yankee Boy Basin, Colorado

Yankee Boy Basin, Colorado

Famous for its turquoise lakes and sparkling waterfalls, Yankee Boy Basin is an alpine garden bursting with brilliant wildflowers. Up out of Ouray, Colorado, the spectacular valley is settled in the shadow of an ancient volcano.

The green passageway is enclosed by a castle of sculpted peaks with peculiar names like Teakettle, Cirque, Kismet, Gilpin, Stony and Potosi. The undisputed ruler of this extraordinary kingdom is a rigid monarch called Mount Sneffels.

In this mountain paradise, an exuberant creek is a ribbon of white water that cascades through fields of blue columbine. Unfortunately, an afternoon thunderstorm awakens the dreamy traveler and forces a retreat back to the land of reality.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Xenia, Colorado

Xenia, Colorado

Xenia was established in 1883 as a construction campsite on the Burlington and Missouri River Railroad about seven miles west of Akron, Colorado. It never had a post office or a school.

You can use GPS to find the location but when you get here, everything’s gone. All I found was a broken-down fence and its futile attempt to contain a vast expanse of idyllic prairie.

Lit by a low sun, spring clouds drift overhead as a western meadowlark sings his heartfelt song. I can only imagine what it was like 100 years ago but if I were passing through back then, I believe I’d like to stay for a while.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Wasatch Mountains, Utah

Wasatch Mountains, Utah

The Wasatch Mountains are a verdant range of massive peaks that loom above Sandy, Utah. Rising out of the nearby desert, they form an impressive barrier insulating the secluded corridor from the rest of the world.

The serene hillsides are laced with steep switchbacks that reward the tired traveler with shimmering, blue lakes. Tumbling down from above tree line, raging torrents form hidden waterfalls that are difficult to discover.

Mornings are warm and peaceful with only the sound of birds singing in the brush. Up here, darkness doesn’t go down without a fight so seeing those first rays of light in the Wasatch are always an ethereal experience.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Virgin River, Utah

Virgin River, Utah

The Virgin is an enigmatic river that sweeps through southwest Utah shaping the deep chasm at Zion National Park. Contradicting the vibrant colors of the canyon landscape, the shallow stream is a muddy brown.

Cut through an arid desert, the cold river is a life-giving force offering fresh water to a diverse selection of plants and animals. The forest of arched cottonwoods is a peaceful oasis that also provides plenty of shade.

The compressed end of Zion must be approached with caution as flash floods are a serious hazard. Despite drenching the hiker with peril, this awesome waterway rewards the risk with spectacular scenery at every bend.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Utah

Utah

Blessed with untamed rivers, deep canyons and green mountains, the state of Utah is celebrated for its diverse scenery. Established on a painted desert, the topography transitions dramatically up to the lofty Wasatch Mountain Range.

The winding waterways rush towards the southwest while carving surreal chasms out of an uplifted plateau. Heavily eroded by wind and water, the unique landscape is littered with an interesting array of arches, pinnacles and hoodoos.

I enjoy wandering around our local foothills and I could spend a lifetime exploring the vast Rocky Mountains. I must admit, though, that the territory to our west has definitely cast a spell. Our home is Colorado but my second favorite state is magical Utah.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Toadstool Geologic Park, Nebraska

Toadstool Geologic Park, Nebraska

Nebraska is known for its flat countryside and endless fields of corn but if you’re willing to veer off the main road and head to the northwest corner, you’ll discover the rugged badlands. It’s a place that time forgot and hiking here is treacherous, tiring and hotter than hell.

Just like the red planet, Toadstool Geologic Park is a harsh, sun-baked environment gouged by a desolate chasm. Down at the bottom of the gorge, you’re tempted by a devil's playground of balancing rocks, sandstone spires and a maze of sidetracks.

This portal to the center of the earth is an arid landscape that’s awash with spectacular scenery. God may have forsaken this grim abyss long ago but after my remarkable experience here, I’ve come to cherish happy memories of exploring this damned canyon.