Posts Tagged ‘Highway 89’

Checkerboard Mesa

Checkerboard Mesa

 “A journey is best measured in friends rather than miles.” — Tim Cahil

*Travels With Maggie

The fastest, shortest way to Ogden, Utah, from the Watchman Campground in Zion National Park is to head west to hook up with Interstate 15.

The longer, more scenic route with minimal truck traffic is to head east from the campground on Highway 9 and then take Highway 89 north as far as possible – which is of course the one I took.

"...at the lemonade springs, where the bluebird sings, oh the Big Rock Candy Mountain." Not just a song, but a place. Highway 89 passes right by it at Marysville. -- Photo by Pat Bean

This choice required me to backtrack up twisting hairpins to the mile-long mountain tunnel and then to retrace my route of a week ago through the park’s fantastic scenery, like Checkerboard Mesa. Unless I’ve been extremely pressed for time, its always the route I’ve taken between Zion and Ogden, where I lived from for over 20 years.

I had 360 miles ahead of me, the longest day’s driving since I started this journey. But my week in Zion had left me well-rested, and I wouldn’t be stopping to do any sight-seeing this day on this very familiar route.

Instead I would satisfy myself with simply seeing the world around me from behind my RV, Gypsy Lee’s, steering wheel. As I watched the familiar sights, and of course the birds along the way, Maggie snoozed beside me.

In the shadow of the Wasatch Mountains, I always feel at home. This is the view from my friend, Kim's, backyard. -- Photo by Pat Bean

As usual when driving, I don’t listen to music instead choosing to let the symphony in my mind entertain me. It was quite pleasant communing with my little gray cells until Spanish Fork, where Highway 89 meets up with Interstate 15 for the last 90 miles of my journey.

My timing at this point was as bad as it gets – Friday during rush hour when everyone wants to get home or away for the weekend.

Although Interstate 15 had been widened to eight lanes in many places, it still didn’t seem enough to handle all the vehicles on the road. While I was ready for my journey to include people again, I wasn’t ready for this fallout that came with it.

Maggie awoke when I finally turned off the interstate, and begin getting excited. It’s what she always does when Gypsy Lee gets close to familiar places. And when I finally pulled into the driveway of my and Maggie’s friend, Kim, we both felt we were temporarily home.

Maggie renewed her acquaintance with Neo, Kim’s dog that is six times as big as Maggie but whom she thinks she has to boss around. I, meanwhile, got caught up on all the latest news from Kim, who eased my long day’s drive with fried chicken and a Jack and Coke.

Everyone should have such a thoughtful friend.

*Day 18 of my journey, May 6, 2011.

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“Happy the man, and happy he alone, he who can call today his own; he who, secure within, can say, tomorrow do they worst, for I have lived today.” John Dryden

My RV site in Watchman Campground offered views of canyon walls in all directions. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Travels With Maggie

While leaving what many consider America’s most beautiful road behind me, this didn’t mean an end to the scenic landscape.

Highway 89, from its junction with Highway 12 south to Highway 9 continued to be an awesome rural drive with views of mountains, cliffs and roadside streams that this day were full and broad. .

The highway briefly passed through another section of Dixie National Forest and through the small towns of Glendale, Orderville and Mount Carmel, all early Mormon settlements begun at the command of the religion’s prophet, Brigham Young, between 1862 and 1875. Historic rock structures from those early days can still be seen today.

Each morning and evening I watched as the sun lit up the cliffs like a neon sign. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Orderville was the Mormon church’s failed attempt at communal living and Glendale and Mount Carmel, the earlier settlements, were abandoned because of Indian attacks. Many of Orderville’s men, meanwhile, were arrested because of their continued polygamous way of life after it was banned in the United States.

I left 89 at Mount Carmel Junction, where sits the Thunderbird Motel and Golf Course, and headed west on Highway 9. Thirteen miles later I entered Zion National Park, and traveled its winding road lined with colorful sandstone formations that boggle the eyes another 13 miles to the Watchman Campground.

The drive included passing through a 1.1-mile long tunnel that cuts through a mountain. The tunnel, built in the late 1920s, is narrow and dark. My very first drive through it took place in the 1960s, when one could park in a pullout and get out and look out one of the tunnel’s vast windows to a view of the canyon below.

My dog, Maggie, tried to chase a lizard into this cactus. Fortunately she was on a leash and I pulled her back. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Those pullouts are now blocked, and traffic is often regulated to one-way because today’s larger vehicles, like my RV, Gypsy, Lee, need to keep to the center line to keep from scraping the lower sides of the tunnel roof. I paid $15 for this center-line driving privilege.

I have visited Zion National Park over 30 times. This Southern Utah landmark, where peregrine falcons nest, mountains glow at sunrise and sunset, and the Virgin River tumbles downward in gurgling splashes, is my special place in the universe.

Hooking up my RV to electricity in Loop B in of the Watchman Campground, with the guardian mountain looking down on me, filled my soul with peace and contentment.

I was thankful that the coming week’s journey in my life would all be spent right here.

Continuing day 11 of the journey, April 29, 2011

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