Full disclosure — I stole that line from the inscription on a baseball cap I bought at one of the four national parks my wife, Betty, and I visited in southern Utah on our way back home from Arizona. But it’s a fitting description.
Up until a week ago, I thought the fjords in Norway were the most physically imposing and beautiful works of art Mother Nature ever created. Then I visited the Grand Canyon, also on our way home to New Hampshire. I’m uncomfortable ranking natural wonders, but as massive as the fjords appear, looking up from the deck of a boat, trying to take it all in, peering over the rim of the Grand Canyon was another experience entirely.
I’m glad now that I never researched the Grand Canyon’s vital statistics, the how-deeps, the how-wides, etc. It was enough for me to gaze across that divide and not even come close to seeing the end of the other side, or sides. I’ve never felt smaller in stature, or as insignificant, but simply gobsmacked at vastness in front of me.
But back to southern Utah, home to Bryce Canyon, Arches, Canyonlands, and Zion. The rock formations in Bryce, Arches, and Zion are right out of a science-fiction movie set on Mars, the Red Planet. At least in my mind, this is what Mars must look like. Stalagmites on steroids, some forming in clusters that from a distance look like the remnants of some lost civilization. Others stand independently, rising hundreds of feet into the air, like scarlet, craggy castle keeps. Cliff faces are dotted with pine trees and traces of winter snow, adding to the spectacle.
All it takes is a 20-mile drive in any of these parks to get an eyeful of the kind of natural beauty that’s difficult to describe in words. Think of Canyonlands as a mini Grand Canyon, though still enormous and just as eye-popping. Bryce, Arches, and Zion look like the work of some Bunyanesque sculptor who got bored about two billion years ago and decided to give what is now the American southwest a unique look.
All of these geologic wonders are the result of millions of years of erosion, uplifting, and shifting that is beyond my capacity to fully understand. But I do know that paleontologists still discover fossilized bones in the various layers of rock, and local merchants still find creative ways to remind consumers that they’ve entered the land Tyrannosaurus rex once roamed.
I’ve been fortunate to have traveled to Europe several times, and seen my share of natural wonders there. But I’ve learned firsthand that our national parks, particularly those in southern Utah, rival any manmade or natural creation I’ve ever seen. These parks should be on the must-see list of every American.
John Edmondson writes from Londonderry.