Linnie Aikens Arts and Letters • HeART Haven Studios

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The Rock formations bove Springdale, just outside of Zion National Park, Utah

 "Warming Up!"


Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn.  ~ John Muir (1838 - 1914), Our National Parks, 1901


My first glimpse of these majestic mountains of Zion, and all the pains and hurts of the past few weeks slipped almost effortlessly from my shoulders like an unnecessary dark, heavy coat in summer.  I glance back and wonder where it fell.   But only a glance.    All I know is that the call of the Ancients beckoned and began to fill me with new energy and vitality, in body, mind and spirit.  I can feel the presence of God here.


Today I decided to warm up on some easy scenic hikes.  “Scenic” is redundant as I don’t think there’s a trail or vista at any given spot in Zion that isn’t utterly breathtaking.  You can’t actually drive through Zion, so I parked at the Visitor Center and took the tram up to Zion Lodge.  From there, I walked the 1/2 mile Grotto walk through the Fremont Cottonwoods and Golden Columbines that grow down by the Virgin River. From there I took the Kayenta Trail, named for the Kayenta Shale that slopes below the Navajo Sandstone in a deep rich vermilion.  



The trail grips the side of the cliffs as it winds it’s way around and several towering peaks, and the  Single Leaf Pinion and Utah Juniper grip the edges of the trail with their twisted and gnarled hands hanging on for dear life.  I walk carefully around them, respectful of their effort and beauty.   I find it utterly inspiring how the plant life survives in these harsh conditions of little water and heat, which can easily soar into triple digits in the summer and plummet to single digits in the winter.  They send their roots wiggling through the crevices and fissures in the rock in their search for water.


Way up high on seemingly the sheerest of rock faces, cryptobiotic soil forms on the tiniest of ledges, and tiny plants find home, against all odds.  Cryptobiotic soil is not just dirt.  The microorganisms that make up the cryptobiotic soil are essential to desert ecosystems, but very fragile to human contact.  They help plants find purchase on the tiny cliff ledges by promoting retention of moisture and contributing atmospheric nitrogen.  This picture is taken of a cliff face hundreds of feet above my head and even farther above the river valley.  The way nature finds to adapt and endure is inspiring.  It doesn’t complain---it just finds a way.  Would that we more often take a lesson from observing nature.


Virgin River below (zoomed in photo)


This year I can’t learn over the shoulder of my daughter, but of course, I brought my flower, plant and tree mini guide books to identify each, and I visit the park’s historical museum to fill in the bigger picture.   I’m sort of a geek in that way I guess.  An authentic mountain girl geek.



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