The Stark Beauty of Zion National Park

IMG_0623One of the wonderful things about hiking Zion is to move between sharply different terrains from woods to more desert like conditions. In reviewing some of my iPhone pictures this morning, some of those desert shots stood out for their dry, stark beauty.


These shots were on the top of the Sentinel trail on a 100 degree day while hiking with my son Jack. It was glorious. Here are a couple more shots of the dry vegetation.

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37 thoughts on “The Stark Beauty of Zion National Park

  1. It is beautiful, but I personally prefer the lushness of a deciduous forest. Green, green and more green, with the gold of sunshine through the trees. All that brown in the southwest is a bit depressing.

  2. Annie – I had a girlfriend like that, she got over it. What you are seeing as brown are shades of different colors. And we do have the forests you like, if you want them. The West has everything. Arizona has all the climate zones within the state. Here in the desert Southwest you never have to shovel sunshine.

  3. What amazes me is that

    I’m no longer in charge of many hundreds of persons, have no business empire remaining, am homeless more often than not;

    and I’ve less time available to smell the roses, view the parks

    than ever in my life.

  4. Beautiful. I do not understand provinciality. This is the most wondrously diverse geography of any country. Each has its own beauty and majesty. I grew up near the ocean and have a nostalgic affinity for that. But, as I have visited all but 4 US states, I appreciate the diversity. Provinciality is a myopia prescription lens cannot fix. Great photos. The beauty of digital age is the ease of photography. We have volumes of scrapbooks from our travels. Our kids always open them up when home.

  5. Paul, Arizona is an underappreciated state. It’s as diverse as NM but doesn’t get the same love.

  6. Annie,

    It’s like Poi or Potatoes. If you are not used to them; the flavor seems bland and almost un-noticeable but after you eat a bit; the subtle flavor creeps up on you and you an awakening.

    The browns show themselves to be yellow, purple, red, and blue and a plethora of shades of all of these; and brown.
    Greens become vibrant against a background of more subtle colors and an entirely different “life” becomes evident.

  7. As someone on the East Coast, I am also used to more lush forests and enjoy hiking in our mountains of Virginia and Maryland. It is some of the most spectacular hiking anywhere. However, there is a special beauty found only out West. The incredible hues of the rock, the splashes of color in desert flowers and green trees, and of course the sunsets. Perhaps the most spellbinding moment that I have had in nature was when I was doing the Area 51 case and was out in the deep desert around the perimeter of the base. It rained and suddenly the dusty and burned landscape came alive with green plants and an overpowering smell of creosote bushes and sage. It was intoxicating and I just sat there for hours mesmerized by what I was seeing and smelling. It is a harsh environment to be sure but the contrast and power is unique in this ecosystem.

  8. Until the age of the photograph, people in the East did not believe the stories about the beauty of the West. I have been to the Area 51 area and there is next to nothing there. Rain would be a nice break.
    However, if you enjoyed the rain at Area 51 you must drop by the Phoenix area for an afternoon haboob. The power is overwhelming, both literally and figuratively.

  9. By the way Professor;

    Did you do (I may have missed it) a story on Massachusetts Supreme Court decision to permit the command of Pledge of Allegiance to have “under G-d”

    as okay?

    As a Christian studying Judaism (learned late in life of yiddish roots);
    I find that issue perplexing – Greatly!

  10. I’ve been to many states and several countries, I’ve yet to find a match for the beauty of the Austrian Alps. Western Wisconsin reminds me of the foothills in some ares. I also find the Pacific Northwest beautiful, wouldn’t mind living there.

  11. Incredible landscapes made Western movies popular and compelling because of the unique beauty of the region. Of course it didn’t hurt that it was easy to tell who were the good-guys and the bad-guys unlike today.

  12. Plus, you can gamble on the Nevada side of Tahoe. Some great hiking around that most pristine lake.

  13. A must see visit…Modoc forest and the Lava Beds War site.

    If you ever wanted to disappear or make someone disappear, this the place to do it. The rangers are spooky. Has a museum too. I spent a week in there.

    The Modoc Indian war of 1872-1873 was similar to Little Big Horn. Rangers said, it is still possible to find human bones and guns there.

    The war began when troops tried to force Captain Jack’s band, camped on Lost River, back to the reservation on November 29, 1872.
    As the Indians fled, they murdered thirteen (or eighteen) settlers. The Modocs retreated to “The Stronghold,” a vast lava bed honeycombed
    with outcroppings, caves, and caverns, making it a virtually impregnable rocky fortress.

  14. This is one of my favorite places on earth, and we humans are loving it to death. Zion, Bryce and Grand canyons were the first national parks our family visited 50 years ago.

  15. Enjoy this until the developers arrive.

    Orange County, CA, was equally pristine and beautiful before the massive uncontrolled foreign invasion was engineered to generate huge profit for developers (when the American birthrate leveled off, developers needed new customers). People were shipped in here from home countries as fuel for the engines of profit. Orange County used to actually be orange trees forever and a trip to Irvine Park was a dangerous safari through remote country of trees, canyons and hills; beautiful – well it used to be.

    People should be able to do what they want with their private property, but to ship in millions and millions of foreigners to enhance both the top and bottom lines seems like someone broke the rules. Is a nation a profit factory? That a nation’s population has chosen population control through the birthrate, then for that choice to be nullified by developers solely for profit seems inherently wrong.

    I hope you can keep your favorite place. We lost ours in California due to uncontrolled invasion for the benefit and profit of developers. Geez. What is it you call what we have now, by the way? A teeming cauldron of…

  16. John, If you’ve ever been to the canyons of Southern Utah you can see there is little risk for development. It is miles of the most rugged terrain in the country. This is where Butch Cassidy grew up. And, when the posse was on his tail he headed to Robber’s Roost, near Circleville, UT. The lawmen didn’t have a chance of tracking in this terrain.

  17. Good news. BBC is reporting the Sudanese govt. is planning on releasing the courageous Christian woman who just gave birth to her 2nd child while shackled. She was sentenced to 100 lashes and death by hanging. It wasn’t govt. but millions of people, of all faiths, taking to social media, that helped bring this nightmare to an end.

  18. I spent about half my life in a semi-arid environment were sagebrush is plentiful and after a good spring rain as Professor Turley writes it is a wonderful diversity of aroma to behold. Forest land was just a half hour drive and lush forest land was an hour and a half. So, I was lucky in a sense.

    One place to see some strange variances in climate within a short distance is in Kauai, Hawaii

  19. Spinelli,

    Yeah, go ahead. Totally destroy the place I grew up and keep Utah pristine.

    Sorry, I tried to sneak in the point that California was destroyed by artificial “immigration,” when Americans limited population by lowering the birthrate, purely for profit by greedy developers. When I was a kid there were no freeways – wide open fields and countryside from Los Angeles to San Diego. Now there is gridlock on 14-lane freeways full of foreigners that were brought here for profit by greedy developers. Developers deliberately overpopulated California for profit.

    The underlying message is that overpopulation is the root of all environmental evil.

    If you believe “it can never happen here,” take a side trip down to Sedona and immerse yourself in the disturbing development that has encroached on that pristine, aesthetic landscape.

  20. John – there is nothing wrong with the businesses in Sedona. What is really wrong is charging people to hike around Sedona.

  21. John, I am a lover of history and have read books about how SoCal was back in the 50’s. I saw a documentary on Netflix on the history of Sunset Blvd.. from farmland to burlesque to strip clubs to rock n’ roll. Spending winters in San Diego, it is one large sprawl from Santa Barbara to Tijuana. The only gap is Camp Pendleton. Could you imagine what those 20 miles of pristine coastline is worth? Of course, the govt. would probably get kickbacks and sell it for 10% of what it’s value.

  22. My point is that if they were compelled to save the precious Snail Darter, they should have been compelled to save the native Californians from encroachment on our habitat? I mean, you fill the campground then Mr. Ranger comes along and closes it. California was “mature” in 1960. The residents ended population growth by limiting their birthrate but that was unacceptable to the politician/developers who were greedy for profits so that modified the concept of “immigration” to include “homebuyer invasion. “Mr. Ranger should have closed the campground. But NOOOO! The politicians/developers saw nothing but dollar signs and we saw our beautiful state invaded, overpopulated, overdeveloped and destroyed.

    I hope that doesn’t happen to Zion!

    Consider yourselves warned. I see nothing but infinite tracts of gorgeous new homes and sparkling swimming pools in the elegant and stunning “Zion Estates.” Wow! Somebody should run down to the planning department and find out if any permits have been issued. I might like to have a house on the golf course at Zion Estates, gate-guarded and 55+, tennis courts, clubhouse, library and athletic club. Oh yeah! I can see it all now.

  23. My wife and I drove Highway 1 from beginning to end. It is a beautiful drive. Sadly, it is slowly falling into the ocean in places and you have to jog around those spots now.

    California did try to keep itself pure by posting guards at the southern borders during the Dust Bowl to prevent Okies from entering the state. And the Governor of California, Earl Warren assisted with the deportation of the Japanese from California to more Eastern states.

  24. Amazing snaps! No question, the West is a beautiful region of the country, as are the woodlands of the North and East. However, I prefer prairies like Nachusa or Midewin.

    Compared to the drama of mountain ranges and gorges, the prairie has an understated, yet awesome beauty that may be something of an acquired taste.

    The emphasis of ecosystems in the Midwest, with their subtle topography, is on the plant life; out West, the stark geological features are what tends to captivate the attention and the plants are often seen as adornments and phenomenal events. But just as the plants of the desert regions amaze us with their adaptations to the harsh geology and climate, the plant life of the Midwestern prairie is equally amazing, or should be.

    The gently rolling terrain of the Midwest allows these plants to occupy the focus of attention. Hiking around places in Illinois, one can still hear the echoes of retreating glaciers in the landscape; the Earth is still rising now after the bedsheets of ice have been pulled back. This geology is as awesome its own way as the Grand Canyon, when we think how it has been scrubbed flat by those glacial events ebbing and flowing, yet it’s the plants, and how they’ve adapted to the geology and climate, that occupy the focus. By observing the different plant associations, the vegetation reveals subtle differences in the geology and climate. And a sense of respect comes out of the realization that root systems created the soils and transpiration altered the climate by adding moisture to the dry air as it moved east, helping to create the conditions that made woodlands possible.

    The Vegetation of Wisconsin, the classic ecological study by John Curtis, describes the plant associations of the North American continent as one large community, varying by region. Standing out in the middle of a grassland, with endless horizon all around, one can get a sense of what that world may have been like.

    Nebraska is probably the most under-appreciated state in terms of natural wonders. After that might be Illinois, which only has 1/100th of one percent of original prairie remaining. The state’s not all flat, however. There’s the Garden of the Gods, with gorges that rival anything in the West for beauty if not size; Shawnee National Forest, which is really a swamp, in Southern Illinois; and the Driftless region in the northwest section.

    As an avid hiker myself, I’m always paying attention to what the plants are telling me about the geology and climate, the hydrology and microclimate of their place. I always carry a couple of plant guides, a dichotomous key, and a hand lens, trying to better understand out why certain plants grow in a particular place, always on the lookout for the rarities. It’s my version of stopping to smell the roses.

  25. RTC, Great comment. I assume you’ve been to Devil’s Lake in Wi. It is an incredible anomaly, and great hiking.

  26. Thanks Nick: If there’s anyone who can appreciate the natural beauty of the Midwest, it’d be you. I was at Devil’s Lake a long time ago but I didn’t really do any hiking at the time, but I have spent time exploring and studying Cedarburg Bog. One of my goals is to hike the Ice Age Trail straight through someday.

    The world’s first prairie restoration project is right there in Madison at the Curtis Prairie. The more I learn about Wisconsin’s tradition of environmental preservation, the more impressed I become. That’s why it’s so troubling to see when efforts are made in that state to weaken or eliminate regulations that protect the land, air, and water.

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