Friday, September 30, 2011

Good-bye Salt Lake City, Hello to the Real Utah

We left Salt Lake City this morning with no regrets. Traffic was horrible -- shades of the Washington Beltway. There were orange construction cones for miles with little evidence in most places of anybody working. Finally, about 30 miles from the city, the highway went down to two lanes in each direction and a more country landscape. (Sigh of relief...) It reminded me of our Interstate 81 in the Shenandoah Valley with a large grass median and mountains to both the east and west, although the mountains here are much more rugged and with less vegetation than ours back home.

The ride was beautiful through the country, especially when we turned off Int. 15 and turned onto Utah 20 to go over the mountains and then onto US 89 down the valley. But the really incredible views began when we got to Utah 12. We drove into Red Canyon with bright red-orange rock formations, tunnels cut thorugh the mountain, and towering cliffs on either side of us.

But nothing could have prepared us for the incredible sight of Bryce Canyon. After we set up camp we drove into the park and went out to Sunset Point. We looked out over miles of towering rocks rising from the canyon floor in an amazing variety of shapes and forms. Some looked like giant chess pieces, others like walled cities and castle turrets. There were cathedral-like spires and rocks that resembled all kinds of things just like cloud pictures. I took one picture that appeared to have a duck in it and one group of rocks reminded me of the model of Jerusalem we saw at the Morman Temple visitor's center. Some of the rock formations looked absolutely impossible with large boulders balancing on the tops of skinny pillars. How could such a place exist? To me it is an absolute wonder of nature and should be listed among the wonders of the world.

This, to me, is the real Utah, the rugged natural landscape that celebrates the rugged individualism of the people who settled this great state. Larry read me an entry about the early settlers of Panguitch which is about 25 miles from Bryce Canyon. We passed through it on our way and will return on Sunday to attend Mass there. The early settlers had a difficult first winter when the crops failed. They were starving, so an intrepid group of men set off to Parowan about 40 miles away to get food for the settlement. The ox-drawn wagons couldn't make it through the deep snow, so the men abandoned them and used quilts to walk the entire way - putting one down, walking across it and putting down another in front while they retrieved the quilt behind. The town still celebrates the "Panguitch Quilt Walk."

That story speaks to the spirit of the people who settled this country. What a courageous band. Would that we had that same spirit in facing the challenges of today. We are stewards, individuals created in God's image and entrusted with the care of this beautiful country and the people in it beginning with the least ones, the little babies in the womb waiting to be born. May we be faithful stewards quick to respond like those men whose ingenuity and courage saved their families from starvation.

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