20 August 65 : A Grand Canyon disappointment : Zion National Park, Utah

Friday 20th August 1965

Dear Family

Well, today is exactly 10 months since we arrived in the USA so it’s some sort of anniversary I suppose. We spent most of today looking at the Grand Canyon, and this to me was a great disappointment.

It certainly is big and awesome, but it lacked colour and although you knew it was huge (a mile deep) you couldn’t really see anything to actually prove it. I found it rather drab and uninteresting in comparison with some of the other richly coloured canyons we have already seen.


Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona P11
Tony’s postcard, captioned: Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona. The visitor to Grand Canyon finds many view points along the rim from which the immensity and beauty of the gorge present breath-taking panoramas that vary with the hour of the day and with the season.


Point Imperial Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona P10
Tony’s postcard, captioned: Point Imperial, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona. Visible from Point Imperial, highest point along the rims of Grand Canyon, are the vemillion cliffs with their breath-taking beauty and the gorge of the mighty Colorado River twisting across the colorful Painted Desert.


We looked at all the views on the North Rim and then headed off West once more towards Zion National Park and Las Vegas.

We entered Zion on Route 15, and this is yet another spectacular place. We came in through a mile long tunnel which goes right through a mountain and drops you into a deep, rich red canyon.

We found the campsite, which is surrounded by sheer red cliffs on either side, with a small patch of sky above. We are hoping and praying that there are no earthquakes while we are here. We learned when we were at Yellowstone that in 1958 a whole campsite was buried when an earthquake shook a whole mountain on top of it.


1959 yellowstone earthquake headline
Earthquake headlines


We didn’t have time to look at Zion fully as it was rather late when we arrived, so we set to and made a fire and cooked a meal. We have become quite skilled at fire lighting and find it far more efficient and much cheaper than using stoves.

We collect wood during the day on our walks in the Parks and use the ‘grates’ provided in all the campsites here. Tonight we boiled some water and did some washing. Also the smoke helps to keep away the mosquitoes which can be very annoying and painful.

We are once more in the Lodge having just seen another stage show. This will be our last national park for some time now as we will soon be on the coast. Actually we both feel a bit ‘saturated’ with scenery. It’s really too much in a short time and we are both looking forward to seeing the sea and some nice beaches again.




Temple of Sinawava, Zion National Park, Utah P19
Tony’s postcard, captioned: Temple of Sinawava, Zion National Park, Utah. Located at the upper end of the highway in Zion Canyon, the Temple of Sinawava is a natural amphitheatre almost surrounded by the vertical canyon walls. The canyon floor is flower-covered and shaded by giant cottonwood trees, and from this point an oil-surfaced foot path penetrates a mile farther up the canyon to the Narrows.


In case you are wondering how we keep our food in this heat, the answer is ice. Ice is big business in this country and you can buy it everywhere. We buy a large 25lb block approximately every 3 days and put it in our ice box, and this has proved to be as efficient as a fridge. There is an outlet to drain off the water as the ice melts. So – that’s how it’s done.

One thing I forgot to mention in my last letter was how we retrieved our meal after the stove caught fire. Colin swept the whole lot out and we had potatoes (raw), meatballs and peas everywhere. Not to be outdone we carefully picked every item out of the dirt, and picked off the dirt, and finally had a very enjoyable meal. The only casualty was one meatball which had been squashed beyond repair!!

The other evening we passed through a small town just south of Yellowstone, called Jackson. This was a fascinating place. It was really Western and had wooden board walks instead of pavements, and even had a stagecoach travelling up and down the main street (a tourist gimmick). There was a Rodeo on that night and there were cowboys tearing up and down the streets on horses, and great crowds watching. We were keen to see the rodeo but decided to wait until we can see a bigger one.


Horseback Riders, Bryce Canyon National Park Utah P15
Tony’s postcard, captioned: Horseback Riders, Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah. Popular with visitors at Bryce Canyon are the horseback rides down safe and easy trails into the fantastic formations and figures on the floor of the canyon.


The other night we were at the show at Bryce Canyon National Park and during one of the ‘fun song’ sessions, we all had to turn and introduce ourselves to people around us (as a means of getting everyone to know each other) and Colin turned around and spoke to an old couple behind and said “Bristol England” and nearly collapsed when they said “Salford Manchester”.

It was a fantastic coincidence. They are retired and have fulfilled an ambition to see the States. They have been here since June and have done it by buying a ‘$99 for 99 days’ unlimited travel by Greyhound coach (about £30). They have been all over the States and admit they have spent nearly all their life savings, but have had a fabulous time. We had a great deal of admiration for their spirit of adventure.

To be continued… 

The earthquake which Tony refers to actually took place in 1959, and cause widespread death and destruction around the area, trapping and sweeping away many visitors to the various lakes and national parks. It sounds utterly terrifying. You can find out more here –   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1959_Hebgen_Lake_earthquake

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