A Memorable Place Lessons learned at Zion National Park...


October 20, 2002|By Special to the Sun

A Memorable Place

Lessons learned at Zion National Park

Beyond its timeless beauty, there was something more the land had to offer.

By Cara Cannon Byington


We started the two-mile hike to Scout's Landing in a misty rain. As we threaded our way up the steep switchbacks known as Walter's Wiggles, the mist turned to light snow that melted on our boots.

My husband, John, and I had just come through the dry wastes of the Mojave Desert, so the rain and snow, like Utah's Zion National Park itself, was a blessing.

It had been a hard year. We went west in late December seeking a little refuge and a little peace. Zion seemed a good choice, and I did find comfort there -- more than I expected.

Great natural places, majestic or subtle, can be a balm to tired spirits the way nothing else can. Zion is a beautiful place, even in winter, even in the rain. The towering canyon walls seem more stark and foreboding and somehow more brooding under gray skies, with water making the rock faces slick and ice blanketing the trails.

But beyond its timeless beauty, there was something more the land had to offer. There were lessons here, I thought as we hiked -- lessons about change and hope.

In the winter, there are no wildflowers at Zion, and the cottonwoods and aspens raise their bare branches to a leaden sky. Only the firs hold their color against the season. The river is low and almost gentle as it murmurs between its banks.

Though it should have been startling, the stark landscape seemed surprisingly familiar to me. It was comfortable and strangely comforting.

Zion's constantly changing scenery appealed to me -- it has a kind of consistency that is reassuring in a world that so often seems random and ephemeral.

Every day, Zion changes. Wind and water nibble and gouge at the sandstone, and erosion gnaws at the cliff faces. Large rocks tumble into small rocks, small rocks tumble into the Virgin River and are slowly, inevitably, eroded down to sediment.

The mightiest monoliths will eventually succumb to the patient flow of water or the sudden violence of earthquakes. Somehow, the knowledge that Zion changes so continually and yet remains, is comforting.

Zion teaches a simple lesson that I had perhaps forgotten -- or maybe I never really knew until that hike to Scout's Landing.

Creation cannot exist without destruction. Destruction is really just change, sometimes devastatingly quick, sometimes almost invisibly slow. But still, all things remain part of the whole.

Cara Cannon Byington lives in Crofton.

Market day in the Andes

My Best Shot

Herbert Goldman,


"When visiting the weekly market at Chinchero, Peru, my wife, Harriet, and I brought pens, crayons and hair ribbons for the local children. The little girl in this photo, sitting with her mother, was the happy recipient of a box of crayons. Chinchero is located high in the Andes, and a trip there on market day provides visitors with the opportunity to witness considerable trading among the nearby residents as well as the chance to buy local handicrafts."

Readers Recommend

Yorkshire Dales, England

Kathleen Plasse, Columbia

"As a fan of the James Herriot books (All Creatures Great and Small), I found it wonderful to spend a day touring all the places Herriot visited as a veterinarian in the 1930s in the Yorkshire Dales of England. We experienced the beauty and quiet of the dales, and learned fun facts and stories about the people who live there. Be prepared to see lots of organic lawn mowers -- we Americans call them sheep."

White Mountains, New Hampshire

Bernice B. Beavin, Hanover, Pa.

"On a trip to the White Mountains, my husband and I were driving on the scenic Kancamagus Highway between North Conway and Lincoln. Even though it was a cloudy, overcast day, we turned off to see the covered Albany Bridge, built in 1857. The White Mountains are beautiful in any weather. There is one majestic mountain after another, with waterfalls, rocky gorges and, of course, covered bridges."

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A Memorable Place: In 500 words or less, tell us about a travel experience that has changed you; the nostalgia a special place evokes; the power of a favorite beach, the mountains, a city cafe. (Cash value: $150.)

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