Doing the Wash

Bottom of a Wash, Zion NP, Utah

Zion NP was the second western park that we visited back in 2006 (our first western “excursion”).  Since then, we’ve visited the place 6 or 7 times.  At one point, we both described it as our favorite place west of the Mississippi River.  Actually, I think my wife still likes it better than anywhere else (with the possible exception of Sedona, AZ).  I’m not sure anymore.  It’s still a great place to visit, and the town of Springdale is almost like a second home.  But there are other destinations I think I now prefer – like Bryce Canyon.

The thing I don’t like about Zion is the fact that you have to use the park buses to get into the lower (and most popular) part of the park.  Not that I don’t think that that was a good idea.  The lower canyon is relatively small and parking is limited.  In the summer, for instance, it would be a disaster to turn all those visitors loose in their own vehicles.  Major gridlock, I’d guess.  But the buses are slow and can be a bit warm.  If you wait until the end of October, however, you can drive in on your own.  It’ll be a lot colder, but pretty quiet.

So we’ll do the bus thing maybe once in a 4 day visit.  The rest of the time, we drive up through the mile – long tunnel and wander around the upper park area (the plateau section).  Here, you can easily park along the road and quickly get into areas that are pretty much “people free”.  Then hike to whatever place that looks interesting.

During this latest visit, I decided to explore one of the major washes that runs through the plateau.  I’d been in it before, but never actually went very far.  This time, I followed it for a few miles.  It was an interesting walk.  What you have to remember about “washes” is that they can be extremely dangerous when it’s raining, even if it’s not raining exactly where you happen to be.  Water accumulates quickly, picking up rocks, vegetation, and anything else that isn’t nailed down as it moves rapidly down the wash.  If you get caught in a place where you couldn’t get out quicky (like the place you see here), you’re basically screwed.

What you see in this image is the bottom of the channel.  This portion is in a fairly deep ravine area; you can easily see the erosion that’s been taking place over the years.  There’s even a kind of ceiling (you can see it at the top of the frame).  I was amazed at some of the stuff I found down there – large rocks that had clearly been moved, medium sized trees, and lots and lots of eroded sandstone.  There was even water in places (it had rained here the previous week).

And it was quiet down there.  Spookily quiet.  Although I do know that bighorn sheep use these washes to move around the park.  Kind of like “critter expressways”.  Don’t know what I would have done if I’d rounded a corner and bumped into one of them.  Well, maybe run.  Or died on the spot.  Probably wouldn’t even have thought of taking a picture…….

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