On July 7th, after rafting the 4th of July weekend, I left my Colorado friends in Crested Butte, and drove towards Los Angeles, California to meet a new special friend, hang with old friends, work at Lightning in a Bottle Festival, and begin touring the West Coast. I planned to either drive straight through Utah or I was going to stopped at Zion National Park, UT for a night. I knew I wanted to drive the route South by SouthWest; I-70 to UT-24 to UT-12 to US-89 to UT-9. This route has several National Parks, State Parks, and other outdoor recreation and geologic sites along it, and is one of the most beautiful and dramatic landscapes I have ever driven through. Some of the parks include Goblin Valley State Park, Capitol Reef National Park, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and Escalante Petrified Forest State Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, and last and definitely not least Zion National Park.
As I drove towards LA, I had clear weather in Colorado and Eastern Utah, until I started to head South on UT-24. I quickly found myself heading into a lightning storm with intermittent heavy downpours of rain along some of the windiest paved desert roads in the country. I checked the radar along the way and thought I could skirt the storm, but the entire Western half of Utah was engulfed in one big low pressure system, so no matter what route I would have taken I would have been driving through the storm. Growing up in Houston I learned how to drive in heavy rain very well. Driving in the weather here did not concern me, but the potential risk of flash flooding creek drainages and falling rock on the road did cross my mind. The lightning picked up and the rain came down harder. I cheered as lighting and dark black clouds barreled over the desert landscape. I love desert rain and lighting, because I'm reminded of West Texas storms. I stopped a few times to shoot some photos while staying mindful of the lighting from above.
This was my first time to drive through all of these State and National Parks in Utah. I saw so many beautiful places along this one route in North America that it would take lifetimes to explore all of them. I will do my best to explore all of these places, but I especially want to return to Zion National Park. Photos of aid-climbing in Zion inspired me to rock climb and learn about aid climbing gear as a kid. The massive sheer walls with thin seam crack routes requiring extra small and micro aid trad gear in Zion always more than impressed and humbled me. As I drove through Zion those, feelings from when I was a kid returned, and made me want to start climbing something right away. I couldn't get on anything big alone because I needed a climbing partner, the rain had cleared, but the weather forecasted up to 110F the next day, so I continued my journey towards LA and the west coast. I said goodbye to Utah and it's beautiful landscape, and the sun set as I arrived in Nevada on I-15 West and continued to Hollywood, California, arriving there in the early morning hours to the greetings of my special friend, Danielle Camastra.