Yesterday's Light

Images in Space and Time

Hot, Crowded, and Curly

Curly (3089)


I’m still decompressing after the long drive home.  It wasn’t an entirely easy one, either.  A great deal of Interstate 70 (from Colorado to Ohio) is still dotted with orange cones, orange signs, and single lane traffic.  Especially in Indiana and Illinois.  Somebody in this country is making a great deal of money making orange paint.  (Pardon me, but didn’t I complain about pretty much the same thing a year or so ago?  How long does it take to rebuild the same road?  And why is it that most of the time the work crews are standing around together in what looks like some kind of “staff meeting”?)  Seriously, there were long sections in Illinois where an “End Construction” sign was followed by a “Construction Ahead” sign within a mile or two.  Which was quickly followed by a “Lane Closure” sign in another mile or so.  Not much fun……..

But what the hell.  Stuff happens.  You have to expect that part of any trip is going to be less than wonderful.  Like the weather.  Sometimes it just ain’t nice.  Sometimes you just don’t get a Chamber of Commerce day.  Or a series of days.

The day before we arrived in Springdale, Utah, for example, they had 5 inches of rain in about 6 hours.  That’s roughly half of what they get – on average – in an entire year.  And way more than they can handle in a single day.  When they get downpours like that Zion NP turns into a giant waterfall.  Water just runs over the cliffs and into the main canyon.  The normally peaceful Virgin River becomes a muddy, dangerous, ugly, erosive force.  When it’s all over things just might look a little different.  Lots of stuff that used to be upstream is now downstream.  The washes that used to be dry and sandy are now wet and muddy (and full of new debris).  As the mud dries, you get areas that look like this picture.  The mud sticks to the sand, the sun comes out, the water evaporates, and the surface of the wash starts to crack and curl.  Interesting, but messy.  If you try to walk on top of it – or in it – you wind up with something that has roughly the consistency of cement all over your hiking boots.  When it dries, cleaning it off isn’t easy.  It doesn’t do much for the floor of your car, either.

After the rain it got hot.  Not just warm, hot.  For Zion, it was uncomfortably hot (well, at least for me).  If you didn’t go out early, you thought seriously about not going out at all.  Partly because it was hot and partly because there must have been about a zillion people wandering around.  We’ve visited Zion quite a few times and have never seen it this warm or this crowded.  If and when I ever go back, it’ll be in February.  Never again in the warm months.  The place has just gotten too busy.  And that’s a little sad – it’s my wife’s favorite spot on earth.  Apparently, somebody let the cat out of the bag.


6 Responses to “Hot, Crowded, and Curly”

  1. Earl Moore


    Glad you guys made it back home safely. It was lucky you missed the big rains in Springdale by a day…it must have been chaos during the downpour and flooding.

    You’re right about the road construction…it’s everywhere and it never ends. You have the tough luck of having to hit so much of it in the final leg of your western return journey so it’s still fresh in you mind when you get home.

    Traveling out there when it’s cooler sounds like a winning idea to me and if that means less people, well, then I’m all in.

    I look forward to seeing some of your photos when you have time to process them.

    • Paul Maxim

      I don’t know if you saw it on the news, Earl, but there were a number of those downpours in the southwest while we were out there (fueled by the remnants of Hurricane Norbert). One of them completely washed out parts of I-15 about 60 miles north of Las Vegas. That one created some very interesting (and very long) detours, especially for trucks. Amazingly, they managed to get this critical piece of road fixed within about a week. Well, not completely “fixed”, but at least it was open.

      I-70, of course, is another matter entirely………

      If I ever write a book on travel in the U. S., the very first chapter will be devoted to when NOT to travel. If you don’t have to go when it’s warm, don’t. Go when it’s snowing. It’ll be better for picture making and easier on your nerves. Cheaper, too!

  2. Cedric Canard

    Road travel isn’t what it used to be. At least not according to my memories. Our roads here, are also often under construction and repairs. Damn it, that’s why we need flying cars, which, if I remember the 70’s correctly, were supposed to have been here last decade.
    I can handle heat but crowds are a little more disconcerting for me. Crowds in cities I can tolerate but in natural environs, not so much. Crowds can quickly kill the mood.

    • Paul Maxim

      Yes, I definitely remember the flying car predictions. I always thought that they’d make things worse, though. Too many people still can’t drive on the road. Can you imagine those same people in 3-space?

      I totally agree with you on crowds “killing the mood”. Too many people seem to view these places of natural wonder as amusement parks. I have no idea as to what the solution is, though. They certainly have as much right to be there as I do. I’m just afraid that sooner or later the crowds will destroy these places. And that’s a very depressing thought.

    • Paul Maxim

      Thanks, Markus. I have to admit it’s a different kind of image for me. I suppose a lot of people will see it as just a picture of “dirt”, but for me it was altogether something else.


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