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-- Doug McConnell
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Back in the late 60's, I worked for awhile on the Navajo Reservation and had a chance to explore the Grand Canyon and the colorful landscape of southern Utah quite a bit. I was hooked by its sheer beauty and wildness, and have returned as often as possible to visit some of my favorite haunts and to discover new canyons and vistas. In addition to the stories on this week's show, you can find some of our other tales from the southwest in the column to the right.
I've been to Zion National Park and its neighborhood many times and in every season. One of my favorite trips was long ago, in the winter of 1971 and 1972. In those days, Zion was very quiet in the "off season." Which meant it was the "on season" for me. I spent about a week in Springdale, Utah, at the west entrance to the Park. As far as I remember, I was about the only tourist in town and the only guy in Zion for 8 days.
A light snow fell in the first few days I was there, and I spent many hours cross-country skiing absolutely alone beside the North Fork of the Virgin River and beneath the towering cliffs of Zion. It all reminded me of a red rock version of Yosemite Valley.
One day, I took my four wheel drive, an old Ford Bronco, and drove deep into the high backcountry. The snow was deeper there, and as I skied through it the only tracks I saw belonged to a mountain lion. I encountered its large and very fresh prints high on a remote ridge line, and decided it was wise to make a gradual u-turn and descend slowly back towards the car. The lion surely had its eyes on me, but was even more leery than I was I'm sure.
I've always loved being in places where I'm not at the top of the food chain. It heightens my senses and gives me a visceral appreciation of the power of nature and the the vulnerability of humanity. It's pretty humbling really to be in the presence of lions, bears and sharks for example...and we humans need to be humbled every now and then. Hubris will take us long before the lions ever do. Tragedies do happen, and people are killed by predators. I don't mean to minimize those dangers or make light of deadly encounters, but when you think of the millions of us wandering through their habitats every year, the numbers of human deaths caused by critters is miniscule. They've always had much more to fear from us than we have to fear from them. Be smart. Take appropriate precautions. Be alert. And then, with rare exceptions, the animals of the West will give you a wide berth. Frankly, after all my time in the backcountry out this way, I'm still
waiting to see my first mountain lion in the wild. They're pretty shy.
Zion's wildness was bracing and beautiful. I hated to leave that winter retreat, but I've returned to watch nature's handiwork there many times since. She always puts on quite a show....and I hope you go see it for yourself.