Sunday, April 20, 2008

Utah - The Beehive State

Utah! The Beehive State, symbol of industriousness and the pioneer virtues of thrift and perseverance. Well, we'll have to see about that. This is my first "real" visit to Utah. Sure, in my past lifetime, when I traveled for business, I had a few quick stops in Salt Lake City, but I've never been here as a tourist. Man, oh, man are we in for a treat, but that doesn't make itself apparent right off the bat. First stop, a tourist information center in St. George. A clearly marked sign on the highway gives us the exit, another sign sends us eastward and then nothing. No more signs, no buildings marked tourist information center. Hmmm. Turn around, head to a local gas station for directions. The poor lady, very nice, is sighing heavily in response to the question. Seems as if everyone looking for the tourist information center has to stop and ask where it is. Oh, we passed right by it - a clearly marked building that indicates BLM Land Office and Recreation Center. Now, to me (and obviously everyone else) that doesn't mean "Tourism or Welcome Center." Then go in, this looks more like a book and map store than any tourism/welcome center I've ever been to. Where are the state published maps and guides? Where are the many brochures published by the attractions, the National Parks, etc? We ask. Oh, they're in a cabinet behind the counter. Might just have to drop a line to the Utah Tourism Bureau. Not very "industrious," not very welcoming.

Oh well, onward we go. First stop, a small ghost town called Silver Reef. Obviously a silver mining town during its heyday, there's not a lot there, but still well worth the trip. The old Wells Fargo Express Office serves as a gallery and a museum. A powder magazine remains intact, the old bank building still stands, and the Cosmopolitan Saloon has been rebuilt and now serves as a restaurant. In the gulley behind the town, numerous ruins and the old mine continue to speak of more prosperous days. Nearby are two cemeteries, one Catholic, one Protestant.

We then begin our trek eastward and just beyond Toquerville, at Ash Creek, I get see my first ever Shoe Tree. Now, I know these things are all over, but I've yet to run into one, so of course, we make an immediate stop for photos. Just a little start for "Quirky Utah."

Next stop, Virgin, Utah, where I can't resist having my picture taken beneath the city sign. Talk about quirky, huh? Then more eastbound, where we begin to see the beauty that will present itself at Zion National Park. In Rockville, we take a detour south and back westward to the old ghost town of Grafton. Quite a treat, this old Mormon settlement, in a scenic hidden valley, once was a thriving farming community. Today, it continues to display its 1886 school house, several historic homes, and a cemetery. Dave and I think the place is so beautiful and romantic, we can just see ourselves settling down in the pristine little valley.

On to Zion National Park, we are "wowed" by its soaring red monoliths and cragged rock formations created by Mother nature over the eons. Final destination Kanab for the night where we are greeted by some very nice folks, but also treated to our next bit of Utah quirkyness when we spy a dummy in a city police car parked at the side of the road. Now this attempt to get drivers to slow down obviously works because we get to see a few more of those lifeless cops in cars over the next day.

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