Last night, as the fire started to dwindle, the creatures of the dark began to stir. We would hear them creeping around the tent until we fell asleep. We wake early enough to watch the sun come over the mountains. We pack up the car and go for a walk around the water and watching how cute the dogs are waddling in their coats that Caleb made them. Continuing east on Hwy 50 we will see an old railroad tunnel, a cowboy mural, and a windmill (wind turbine) farm – not the old wooden rickety ones romanticized in the movies, but the large steel or aluminum ones with three blades 147 feet in length.
We turn right on State Rd 487 at 9:00 a.m. and arrive to the park entrance 40 minutes later. The next tour doesn’t leave for an hour so this gives us time to meet aliens, find leprechaun doors, and unicorn forests. Along the way we will also see trees and rocks that smile, a bear less cave, and a marmot cross the road. We get back to the visitor center in time to meet the other couple going on the tour with us. They are from Alberta, Canada on their ninth day of travel. They too are headed to Zion and Arches National Parks.
We are joined by our tour guide and a law enforcement park ranger; the difference being that one carries a gun, taser, and handcuffs. When there aren’t that many tourists it gives the bored law ranger something to do. We are told about the cave myths and its history. Early tour guides allowed the ‘If you can break it, you can take it’ method of souvenirs. Very long ago, before more advances in science, people believed that stalactites had growth rings like trees and would simply grow back in a few years.
They couldn’t have been further from the truth. We got to see a developing stalactite. In 100 years it was maybe an inch long and not more than a quarter-inch in width. There is an extensive amount of soda straw stalactites and an even more impressive amount of cave shields – over 300. This cave is still growing and has developed many assorted layers. We are able to see eras of evolution as we walk through time in mere minutes. On the ceiling are names and dates of people who were exploring this cave by candle light in 1892, just four years before the first electric lamp was invented.
After an hour of spelunking we are back in the sunlight. We check on the dogs before going on to explore trees, ditches, feces, berries, flowers, and butterflies. We plan on camping at Zion Nat Park and turn around after Mather Overlook to give us enough time to drive over a high clearance road to the trailhead of the Lexington Arch and get to Zion before dark. We have to drive into Utah and then back into Nevada – a 30 mile trip. Eleven of those miles will be on uneven dirt road with a puddle or two to cross – depth may vary.
Dogs are allowed; we are thrilled. Caleb grabs water for us and them, and I grab the cameras. We start off in a wooded area, walk through prairie, then follow the switchbacks on our way up the hillside. The trail is 1.5 miles and more than halfway up we are met with over a foot of snow. We could see the trail on the other side and the dogs, no jackets on, weren’t slowing down either. We make it to the viewpoint, take some pictures, and Piggy is ready to get back to the car to warm her pink feet and fill her belly with food.
Back on the dirt road at 4:30 p.m. and we are warned about cows on skateboards crossing the road; we get sheep instead. There are so many of them and a guy on a four-wheeler trying to keep them off the road. We make it to Parowan Gap before sunset and it’s another hour before we make it to the Kolob Canyons Visitor Center to find out they have backcountry camping with a minimum three-mile hike. We have no idea what to expect, besides tarantulas, and no map to bring with us so we will have to find somewhere else to call a bed for the night.
We drive about 10 exits away to an RV park. There is one spot designated for tent camping. It is a spotlighted, bumpy patch of grass. We go to the office to register and the only thing there is a locked door with a free map. We would have put money in a drop box or envelope but there were none. We worry about karma and then notice a code for the shower on the map, perhaps tonight is on the house. We arrive after everyone else is cozy in their large metal boxes and we will leave them the same way.