How often do you have a moment when you run out of superlatives? For us, it came about 30 minutes after we left our motel room in Torrey, Utah, this morning.
It stated with “wow”, then become “Oh wow”, followed by “incredible”, “amazing”, “stunning” and “breathtaking”. And after a while we sat in silence, stunned by the majestic scenery that unfolded before our eyes as we drove through the mountains on Route 12, looking down on the plunging red rock canyons as we approached and then entered the overwhelmingly beautiful Bryce and Zion National Parks.
The day actually began with a superlative of another kind. “Oh wow!”, we said, as we hauled our bags out of our room and discovered our car covered in an inch of snow that had fallen in the night. It’s April. It shouldn’t be snowing. We should be wearing shorts and leaping across hiking trails in the mountains.
Nonetheless, we wrapped up (I even wore my winter gloves) and decided to spend most of the day inside in place of our plans to hike and explore the countryside.
The motel owner told us it would probably be safe to cross the mountain as long as we took it slowly around the hairpin bends so we ventured out and were soon thrilled that we had done so.
At the risk of sounding repetitive, I have to say this is truly the most majestic part of the country we have seen so far. Not only did it leave us breathless and speechless, but I would strongly urge (or insist) that anyone reading this post grabs a flight to Salt Lake City, rents a car and drives south to explore the region. It’s something not be missed in this lifetime.
Some parts made me feel like I was on the moon, with craters and desolate landscapes and then the next moment I felt like I was in a scene from “The Sound of Music” and wanted to frolic across the snow-covered mountains singing “The Lonely Goat-herd”.
We reached the summit at 9,600 feet. And, a few miles on, came upon the Kiva Koffeehouse. Since it was mid-morning, we decided to pop in and, once more, had our breath taken away as we walked into a circular, wood-beamed coffeehouse with soaring cathedral ceilings and a view that looked across cavernous red rock canyons of the Escalante Grand Staircase National Monument.
It was constructed in 1998 by a fellow named Bradshaw Bowman, an artist, mentor, contractor, inventor and engineer who, at the age of 87, fulfilled his dream of building this structure from logs, stone and glass.
The latte was the best I’ve had in a while and the muffin delectably fluffy and light. If Skip hadn’t dragged me away, we may still be there.
The Koffeehouse was another treasure along the way and it also made us realize how so many places in this region had been incredibly comfortable without being pretentious and friendly without being cloying. Both restaurants in Torrey, Utah (a town of no more than 171 people) were better than those we have in Marblehead and every little motel was impeccably well cared-for and welcoming.
Many of the towns we’ve been through have populations numbering in three figures and one of them named Cannonville on the way to Bryce, was once called “Gunshot” by its residents who considered it too small to qualify as a cannon. Yes, they also have a sense of humour in these parts!
I won’t go on about the soaring salmon-colored rocks, the craggy peaks and the immense fields of snow. I won’t mention the rocks shaped like castles and chimneys against azure skies or the massive granite boulders towering above our car as we traversed the hairpin bends of Zion and Bryce.
I will, however, mention that there were sights today that moved me to tears. Views that made me give thanks for the opportunity which has brought me here. And many, many moments that made me oh so grateful to be alive.