Just when I think we've topped the charts of landscape beauty, we drive into Snow Canyon, and there is a jaw-dropping moment of complete sensory overload. We discovered the Snow Canyon State Park, on the outskirts of St. George, UT, two years ago prior to Howard’s first Senior Games participation. Fortunately for us, the state park excludes a few sites from its reservation system, as we just drove in and knew this was the place for us. The cost is $20 per night with water and electric.
Scenic is an understatement for this 7400 acre park tucked amid lava flows and soaring sandstone cliffs, petrified sand dunes and volcanic cones; a strikingly colorful and fragile desert environment. The subtle play of light, shadows, and clouds dancing across the canyon walls with the passing of the sun is a marvelous thing to behold, especially if you’re holding on to a camera, as I usually am.
I venture off into Johnson Canyon, following a riverbed lined with willow and cottonwood, in search of the red rock arch that spans 200 ft. On another walk to find the pioneer register I discovered a small arch and hole in the rock, before climbing up the slickrock slopes to get close to the pioneer names written in axle grease along a rock wall, dating back to 1881.
The canyon has a long history of human use, dating back to the Anasazi Indians from AD 200 to 1250, then the Paiutes to the mid-1800s. Mormon pioneers discovered Snow Canyon in the 1850s while searching for lost cattle, and the park was named for prominent Utah settlers Lorenzo and Erastus Snow; not the white stuff that occasionally falls in these parts.
The town of Ivins, located at the base of the Big Red Mountain, is nearby with one of its claims to fame being the Tuacahn Amphitheater, a unique outdoor theatrical venue amidst a striking backdrop of red rock cliffs. No, I could not talk Howard into seeing either Hairspray or Aladdin, the current productions. Movie lovers will recognize the area of Snow Canyon as the backdrop for the films Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, the Electric Horseman, and Jeremiah Johnson.