Monday, November 17, 2014

View from the Handlebars

The blistering heat has dissipated. The jostling summer crowds have disappeared from the trails. Shuttle buses still whoosh quietly up and down the main canyon, but only on the weekends. The sun casts its lengthening shadows on the towering cliffs of Navajo Sandstone. There is a definite chill in the air. This is Zion National Park in November, and it is a perfect time for a bicycle ride.

View from the handlebars

A bicycle offers opportunities to pause anytime, anywhere. In Zion, this means the eight–mile pedal up–canyon can easily take two hours. Or three.


Or in my case, it can take all afternoon. Over these eight miles, the elevation gain is around 600 feet. I stop a lot because I can, and it seems a shame not to.


Other folks have the same idea. We pass each other with a wave, or a nod, and a smile. We know how fortunate we are to be there.


There is nothing more important on my Saturday schedule. I can think of nothing I would rather be doing.


I have always wanted to photograph this wall of cross bedding in the sandstone. Now I have the perfect scale. It looks like a bit of soft sediment deformation had occurred, too, some time in the distant past.


Cliff. Slope. Cliff. Slope. It is one of the first concepts learned in geology class. The contact between the crumbling slope of the lower Kayenta Formation and the massive overlying cliffs of Navajo Sandstone is a textbook example.

Unlike those of the eastern US, maples in the southwest are usually shrubs. However, a tree here can grow to 20 or 30 feet high, depending on the conditions it finds itself in. In Zion Canyon, conditions seem to be just fine.

The views are endless.

The beauty of Zion Canyon in November is breathtaking, and nearly overwhelming.


A breezy sunshine greets me at the canyon turnaround point, so I sit for a while and watch as shuttle buses calmly whoosh to a stop or head back down canyon. My ride down will be windier and colder than theirs will, so I add another layer of gloves and earmuffs.


At a bend in the river, a tiny movement catches my eye. It is an American dipper, doing what dippers do best.

They dip.
I breeze down the canyon road on my two wheels. Still, I cannot help but stop to absorb the magical light and color of the canyon.

A pale autumn sunshine filters through high clouds to kiss the trees and touch the roadway.


Farewell for now, Zion Canyon. It is time for me to head home. I do have one more stop, however. A sixteen–mile pedal leaves me with a mighty thirst!


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