Canyons Ride 2003 – Day 5: The Grand Staircase

(click map to enlarge)

Tuesday, May 27

  • Jacob Lake to Zion National Park
  • Scott, Trev & Vince
  • 196 miles

Joe leaves Jacob Lake and heads north and west to St. George to buy new tires for his Bandit as he’s been riding on that plug we put in on Sunday. The rest of us head east. We Washingtonians are unprepared for the spectacular beauty of House Rock Valley and the Vermillion Cliffs

What we are experiencing is the Grand Staircase, an immense range of mountains stretching 100 miles x 200 miles from Bryce Canyon, through Zion Canyon, to the Grand Canyon. We rode down it on day three but traveling up it provides a much better perspective. 

We arrive at the Marble Canyon Trading Post and have a hearty breakfast. After crossing Marble Canyon, we part company with our Arizonan brothers. They head south for Tucson and the three of us head north to Page. It zooms up into the upper nineties really quick and by the time we motor into Kanab, UT, we’re pretty overheated. (Learn more about Kanab on Max Bertola’s southern Utah website.) We stop at a superb espresso, book and outdoor equipment shop called the Willow Canyon Outdoor Company to cool off. Trev and Vince pick up these nifty Cool Off Ties that soak up cold water and are then tied around one’s neck where they slowly release that water thus keeping you cooler for hours. They are also available from Aerostich for $4.

As we rehydrate and slowly cool off, feeling very cooked, we are simply in awe of the bicyclists that are riding the same roads we are. They appear just fine and superbly fit. We are clearly not worthy. We keep our heads down and sip our ice teas in utter humility. 

We arrive at the Zion National Park gate and once inside, the scenery quality goes right off the scale. There is so much to see that it’s hard to keep one’s eyes on the road. Adjectives just don’t cut it. It’s simply breathtaking and mind blowing. 

Traveling through Zion requires driving in a mile long tunnel. Not content with the usual practice of honking the horn or revving the engine in the tunnel, Scott decides to take a photo of the others over his shoulder while riding. Imagine the shock of the flash going off in a pitch black section. Sorry!!

It’s mind blowing enough to think that some crazy engineers tunneled a mile through solid rock. But then, as you are driving through, you realize that these guys had the great idea to carve windows in the side of the tunnel so you can get glimpses of the amazing scenery! This is taxpayer money well spent!

The rangers don’t want you to stop in the tunnel so you have to look quickly as you drive by. One of us decides to snap pictures as he rides through.

By the time we meet Joe at our reserved campsite in Zion, it’s over 100 degrees. Joe has already set up camp but the mind baking heat, the talcum powder dust that poofs up as you walk through it and the prospect of no showers sends Vince looking for an air conditioned motel room in nearby Springdale. It’s takes awhile but, in the end, we all abandon the camping idea for real comfort. In cooler weather, it would have been fun. 

It takes lots of air conditioning, good food, cold beverages and just sitting around doing nothing more than chewing the fat to get back to normal. We Northerners definitely got a bit cooked! We picked a good place to do it as Springdale, just outside the west Zion gate, is very scenic. I remarked to a store clerk that we should have come a week earlier to beat the heat and she laughed as she told us that there was snow on the ground last week. She explained how it does this every year and May 15th is generally the breaking point between Winter and Summer around here. Ok then. 

(click a photo to launch slideshow)

Go to Day 6: Dodging Tar Snakes on the Hogsback

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