Sunday, June 20, 2021

There is nothing so American as our National Parks." --President Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1936

Belly of the Dragon

In 2020 3.6 million people visited Zion, which became a National Park in 1919.  To say it's a congested spot is an understatement.  We usually stay away from congested areas on weekends, however, we did a trial run into the park on Sunday.

Eight miles of some of the most visited sites in Zion can only be seen via the park's shuttles. Currently only  6 of the 9 stops are open. You can park and catch a shuttle at various locations, a campground or lodge if you are staying there, the town of Springdale or the visitor's center.  

When we drove through the large parking lot at the visitor's center around 9 a.m. it was full.  Shuttle busses were waiting there.

The Zion-Mount Carmel Highway takes you into the East entrance.  First you pass through the 1.1 mile Zion-Mount Carmel tunnel, one of the great engineering feats of it's time.  It was completed in 1930 to connect Zion with Bryce Canyon and the Grand Canyon.  

The line of vehicles waiting our turn to go through the tunnel.

Exiting the tunnel

Oversized vehicles, RV's, and large trailers must travel down the center of the curved tunnel to fit, and pay a fee because the road must be closed on both sides for them to pass. They are only allowed  entrance from 8 a.m. - 8 p.m.  Certain sizes are simply not allowed.  During the busy summer hours the tunnel goes down to alternating one lane traffic for all vehicles.

The Checkerboard  Mesa stands at 6,670' tall.

After we exited the tunnel we had some major switchbacks enroute to the visitor's center.

Arriving back at the RV around 10:30 we dropped Krikkit off and headed to "Belly of the Dragon,"  9 miles from Orderville.  Our neighbors told us about it, otherwise, we would have had no clue.  There is no sign and it is known by word of mouth, but it has a lot of visitors.  When highway 89 was built they rerouted the valley by making a tunnel through the rock.  After you walk through the tunnel there is a surprise at the end.

To the left, the highway sits on top of the filled in former valley.  On the right is the tunnel opening.  It was an exercise for my knees,  and some assistance from Pat, to climb down into and then out of the entrance.

The inside of the tunnel was a very soft stone.  Names were carved up to 1/4" deep throughout the tunnel.

Exiting the tunnel

At the end of the path we found a "cairn" field.  

Pat is standing below the gem, the waterfall.  Have you noticed on the news that the West is suffering from unusually high temperatures and a severe drought?

Ann's cairn

Rock stores are a popular attraction in Orderville.  With a population of 750 there are at least 3.  We stopped at the Orderville Mine, the largest rock shop in Utah, who had tables of rocks of all different kinds, sizes and colors outside.  More rocks, minerals, meteorites, fossils, jewelry, vases, bowls, etc. were inside.  

Ann's favorite

Where are the Piepers?  Glendale/Orderville, UT

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