Sunday, March 23, 2014

Of creeks and crags

Cannonville, UT – When Val went out and checked our water hose this morning, it was crunchy with ice, so our precaution to detach it last night and drain the pipes was merited. Tonight the park management will be cutting off the water supply before dark, because the low is expected to hit 23 degrees Fahrenheit. New neighbours in the campground are planning to spend the night in little pup tents; I hope they have warm sleeping bags!

There was one more part of Bryce Canyon we wanted to see today – the Mossy Cave nature walk, located outside the park proper on the road toward our campground. The path was steep but not long, climbing to an alcove of rock where large pillars of ice fill the gap between floor and ceiling. The plaque next to the cave said it’s sometimes late June before the pillars melt, and the cool, shady hollow fosters the growth of moss that gives the spot its name.

A lovely sound of trickling water graced our ears, from these icicles as well as other rivulets seeping through the rocks.  The water gathered at the bottom in a creek bed known as Tropic Ditch. We learned that the Mormon settlers who lived here took two years to dig, by hand, a channel from a fork of the Sevier River 10 miles away to their farms and homesteads in the valley.  The land was well suited to their farming needs, except they needed a more dependable source of water. Even to this day, water flowing through the ditch supports the crops of the area.

After a picnic lunch, eaten in the car where it was warmer, we headed for Kodachrome Basin State Park, nine miles beyond our RV park. The sun was bright and there was not a cloud in the sky, although they did start to accumulate as the day progressed.  We passed a wide valley with farms and open range, studded with sagebrush, on the way to the park.

A crew of photographers from National Geographic made a trek to this area in 1948, taking spectacular photos of the striated rocks, hoodoos, chimneys, wind-sculpted walls and desert vegetation. They were the ones to call the region Kodachrome Flat, after the new brand of film they were using. The name, with the term ‘basin’ to encompass the larger tract of land, became official a few years later once the state received the Kodak company’s blessing for its use.

In the visitor center at the park entrance a cartoon from the New Yorker in 2006 shows rangers removing the “Kodachrome Basin” sign and replacing it with “Digitally Enhanced Pixelated Basin” when Kodak discontinued its film!  Well, even without Kodak film, the pictures I took today of the park look like postcard or calendar material, simply because everything was so gorgeous.

We were delighted to find a nature trail with signs posted every few feet describing the plants and their characteristics – and a trail on the flat that didn’t leave us panting at this high elevation. The variety was amazing, and the list of medications, food sources and applications of the plants most impressive. So were the wonderful rock formations, in all their amazing colours, that surrounded us.

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