Upon arriving at the train station in leaving San Fran, the schmo's at Amtrak told me that the line was closed between Salt Lake City and Denver for the next few days and that train would be re-routed through boring-as-hell Wyoming thus missing the Rockies entirely! This would fuck my plans up royally. I had intended to ride the Slickrock Trail in Moab, the most famous mountain biking trail in the States.
I decided to head to Salt Lake and take it from there. Twas my first day time train ride but i came prepared with a 12 pack of cans which i shared with two english backpackers - David (around the world in 3 weeks) from Aylesbury and Becky from Harrogate. The journey took us climbing up into the spectacular Sierra Nevada mountain range before reaching the seemingly endless desert which spanned Nevada and most of Utah.
I hopped off at Salt Lake at the ungodly hour of 3 am whereupon I decided to seek a bit of kip in the luxurious surroundings of the floor in the nearby Greyhound Bus Station. Anyone who's ever been to one of those will know what joyous and upstanding places they can be. On learning that my Amtrak Pass afforded me a number of free bus journeys I set off for St George in southern Utah. From there i would chance my arm at getting to Zion National Park (of which i'd heard snippets of positive reports).
Once again neccessity forced me into using the thumb. Similar to Montana, I found hitching in a conservative state like Utah less facilitating. Thankfully, Eliza (i think) picked me up and extremely generously dropped me way beyond her chosen destination. Eh, an interesting ride divided between her offering me a Californians perspective on life in mormon Utah (including her stories of the polygamist cults in Colorado City) and her having an almighty domestic on the phone as I whistled to myself and starred blankly out the window !
She tried to explain half way through that she was facing a divorce from the geezer on the other end of the line (she couldn't have been more than 22). Anyway, I got another lift, from where she dropped me off, from Larry who instructed me to turn up at his restaurant in two days time when he was driving back to St George, an hour away. Sweet.
As per fucking usual, the endlessly atrocious Lonely Planet guide books half a page write up on Zion bore no resemblence to the quality of place that was awaiting me. Holy shitballs. Absolutely spectacular scenery abounded. Ok, maybe my memories of my visit to the Grand Canyon 5 years previously had faded over time but I do think that Zion Canyon was more impressive. While the Grand Canyons' fantastic appeal lay in its amazing vastness and scale, Zion was incredibly intricate and its topography seriously intense. Another contrast which may have shaped my opinion was that you can just arrive at the Grand Canyon and a phenomenal view awaits you. But you can potentially spend half an hour there, jump back in your car and tick it off the list. On the other hand, arriving in Zion, you've got a hell of a lot of work to do to get your rewards.
I camped out for two nights and blitzed it by cramming the two major hikes into one day in record time and had seriously earned the rewards. What made it better was that none of the hundreds of fat-assed tourists could be fucked getting sweaty so it was just a token few people at the top to savour the breath-taking views.
Now, there's no way you can fault a gaff for being popular with tourists and you certainly can't fault the people for flocking to areas of such outstanding natural beauty but some of these pricks just took the piss. Par example, when I saw these 2 chinese tourists (camera's around the necks) dressed as cowboys I nearly lost it. Now, I dont mean they had cowboy hats on. I mean they had the whole fuckin lot - denim shirts, leather waist coats, leather boots and fucking chaps !!!
I felt like telling them that they were a disgrace to their country but really I just had to laugh my ass off........