Blue skies today. Frost on the ground. Today we were leaving Zion having barely seen it. It's been glorious but the weather didn't help our exploration. We filled up with gas, bought our tunnel pass and then briefly visited the Canyon again (to see the Court of the Patriarchs and the valley near the Emerald Pools).
Then we turned east along Highway 9 and climbing dramatically out of Zion Canyon. The tunnel itself was constructed in the 30s and isn't wide enough for RVs to pass each other so they issue a pass and close the tunnel to on-comers.
Naturally the very thought of this part of the drive completely stressed me out, and naturally it turned out not to be so stressful. Though Tom was driving and did have to handle the tricky hair pin bends on the way up to the tunnel. He may say different. The views from that road back into the canyon are stunning. And as you climb higher you get better views of what the tops of these cliffs are like.
Then you enter the tunnel which has picturesque windows with give light, air and brief spectacular views. When you leave the other side you are much higher and in a different landscape. The rocks are strangely layered with stripes of colour and today, with sweeps of white light reflecting off the melting snow.
Then once you leave the park the landscape changes again to ranch land, with low trees, scrubby bushes and an eagle flew off (big excitement about the eagle from the adults). And monumental cliffs in the distance.
We were heading for Kanab to the south-east but on the way I wanted to see the Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park. We turned off Highway 89 and drove for what seemed like an age on a very quiet road to arrive at an incongruous and alien landscape. When we got there the Coral Pink Sand Dunes were mostly white with snow and I was a bit concerned that we weren't actually going to see any sand. The sun was hot and by the time we'd had our lunch the orangey pink sand dunes at the foot of the craggy cliffs had fully revealed themselves. The park itself has a small campground, visitors centre and one rather lonely looking ranger who made a point of coming to say hello, I think because he hadn't really seen anyone all day. Ours was the only vehicle in the car park.
The dunes are large and sweeping. Areas are marked off for different activities and people come here to whizz up and down in sand buggies (or whatever those annoying noisy but probably exciting things are called). We walked the short nature trail, marked only by a series of small signs telling about the plants, animals and geology that makes this park special. Apparently many millions of years ago, the dunes stretched over 6 states and all the way north to Montana. Here they have stayed because they are blocked from dissipating by the cliffs. They change shape in the winds that come. And are home to many plants and animals, some unique to this area. We found deer tracks amongst the dog and foot prints. It was so quiet and peaceful and other worldly.
We got back on the road and headed for Kanab. More stunning views from the road. We just never knew what was coming up. Now we're hooked up in a small and friendly RV park in this small spread-out and charming town. It was a centre for Westerns - many great and not so great were made near here including some of my favourites like the 1939 Stagecoach (John Wayne again was everywhere) and The Outlaw Josey Wales. It's on a flat plain surrounded by the Vermilion Cliffs and to the south it feels like the land drops away. Opposite the RV park is McDonalds but we ate at the Rocking V Cafe which was really excellent. Southwestern food with flair and a wine/beer menu to confound any notions you may have as to the dryness of Utah. Kanab feels much less uptight than St George. We drank Utah beers from microbreweries thought not Polygamy Porter which was on offer.
A few more hands of Gin Rummy with E. and the kids are now in bed. Tomorrow we walk up the cliffs before leaving for Lake Powell.