Mother Nature has a way of making one feel minuscule and humbled. We humans are just a speck in geologic time, and we are microscopic in size compared to her massive land formations. Through time and forces of nature, artistic masterpieces that no human could possibly replicate have been created.
Small as we are, we make huge impacts during our short time on this planet. This feeling of being small, yet impactful came up again and again while I guided trips in the canyons of southwest Utah (Bryce, Zion and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon).
While guiding trips during the month of June, we experienced a cold storm front that forced us to cancel a morning ride, a record setting heat wave, and the largest wildfire in the country. Most of my days were spent outside, exposed to the elements in landscapes that demanded respect.
Here’s a little photo tour of these majestic land formations, which hardly does them justice.
Zion National Park:
The Virgin River cuts through the Navajo Sandstone, creating canyon walls thousands of feet deep where ancient sand dunes used to be.
Evidence of the wind swept sand dunes from 150 million years ago are etched into the rocks.
The Narrows is a popular hike not to be missed. It follows a narrow section of the canyon on the north fork of the Virgin River, deep into the canyon. The beginning of the hike is busy, but once you continue past the first couple of miles it becomes significantly less crowded and more serene. It’s the perfect hike to cool you down on a hot, 100+ degree day!
The fire up at Brian Head spread to 70,000 acres, making it the largest wildfire in the country. (Unfortunately it was man-made). Zion Canyon blows air out of the canyon and into Springdale in the mornings, and sucks it back into the canyon mid-day. This created a hazy and smoky sight early in the mornings one week while we were there.
Below: Not exactly roughing it; Our group stays just outside of the park at The Desert Pearl in Springdale. All the amenities with a view and right next to the river. This is Backroads style, after all. (I don’t mind!)
It’s pretty incredible what beauty can be created from water. Bryce Canyon used to be one solid plateau. Water from snowmelt seeps into the cracks and pushes them apart during cold nights when it freezes and expands. Solid masses of rock are eroded into fins, and fins are eroded down to self-standing hoodoos.
Wall Street hike:
Bryce is the only place in the world to have such an extensive collection of hoodoos. The varying levels of oxidized iron in the rock creates different shades of pink and red, which adds to its beauty.
These formations are fragile and continue to erode everyday. Eventually, all of this will crumble to the ground, leaving behind a vast and open amphitheater without the chiseled hoodoos that make Bryce so unique. We are lucky to witness Bryce as it is today!
North Rim of the Grand Canyon:
Nothing compares to the enormity of the Grand Canyon. The first time seeing it can be so moving, so jaw dropping, so paralyzing; it is no wonder why it is one of the seven natural wonders of the world. The canyon plunges down a mile deep into the earth, where the powerful Colorado River cuts through the canyon with a mighty force.
Herds of wild bison often roam the grassy meadows leading into the canyon.
Bison, Brian Head, Snow Canyon and Ivins Reservoir:
Speaking of bison, we witnessed a herd of them escape at Zion Mountain Ranch!
Brian Head sits at nearly 10,000 feet and still had snowy spots in June. We experienced a cold front and winds that were so strong, we had to cancel our morning bike ride and get down to lower elevations. Not what you would expect in southwestern Utah! Sadly, this is the area that burned down a week later.
Snow Canyon, a mini Zion just up the road from the leader house in Santa Clara. It was a busy month of work for me, but I made sure to find moments of peace in this beautiful part of the world through yoga and meditation.
Irvin’s Reservoir, just up the road from Santa Clara: Another peaceful sanctuary and my favorite after trip spot to decompress and cool off in the water. For me, watching the everchanging sunset reflections on still water is one of the most relaxing ways to end the day.
I am so grateful for these beautiful landscapes created by nature. They remind us to slow down and appreciate this incredible world that we are a part of.