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USA – From Arizona to Utah

April / May 2015

Phoenix, Arizona

My trip to the USA began in Phoenix, the capital of the US state of Arizona. The temperatures were over 30 degrees. Thanks to the very dry desert air, the city lies in the Sonoran desert, the stay was nevertheless pleasant. Huge cacti grow around the city and live for several hundred years. These giant succulents only develop the first branch from an age of 50 years. In order to survive the dry periods, they can store up to 6,000 litres of water inside.

A bird nesting in a giant cactus in the Sonoran Desert

The city has several excellent museums that show the history and way of life of the Indian tribes living in the state. In the past, these tribes endured terrible times. In the end, the American government has given them huge reserves where they can live autonomously. They have their own police and can even decide for themselves which time zone to use for their area.

Cave Creek

An hour’s drive from Phoenix is Cave Creek, where bull riding takes place twice a week. Young men receive $1,000 if they can stand it longer than 8 seconds on a bull. Nobody did that that evening. Before it started, a priest blessed the riders. Afterwards, the American military around the globe was remembered for “keeping our country safe”. Also the singing of the national anthem could not be missing. It was a perfect introduction to the American psyche, because religiosity and patriotism are very important to many Americans.

Americans are a religious people

A horse in a bar waiting for its drink

Bull riding

The next day I started my journey across Arizona and Utah, visiting eight national parks and a few state parks.

Grand Canyon

First stop was the Grand Canyon, which stretches over 446 km and reaches a depth of 1’857 meters. The “Bright Angel Trail” is a day trip on which one can hike from the edge of the canyon over the whole depth of the canyon up to the Colorado River. The park administration strongly warned not to walk down and back to the river in one day. Too many had already died of exhaustion and dehydration or had to be rescued at great expense. That’s why I decided to hike to the lookout, which is a few hundred meters above the valley floor and from where you can see the Colorado River. The route was easy, so I would have made it to the river and back.

Grand Canyon

Lower Antelope Canyon

By chance I found the “Lower Antelope Canyon” on the internet, which was on my way to Utah. It turned out that this canyon was a stroke of luck for me as a photographer, as the photos show.


The local mountain of Kanab, UT

My day destination was Kanab, from where I wanted to visit the area “The Wave” ( Fantastic rock formations with great photo opportunities would have been waiting for me there. Since the area belongs to an Indian reservation, only 10 people per day get permission to visit this place. A lottery is held the day before each visit. Over a hundred people waited with excitement for the ball with its number to roll out of the wheel of fortune. Unfortunately, on both days that I reserved for the lottery, I had no luck. Instead I visited from Kanab on one day the Zion National Park, on the other a hiking area right next to the city. The following day I drove to The Toadstools area.

The Toadstools near Kanab

Zion National Park

The Zion National Park offers countless large and small hikes. The most difficult and coveted trail leads to the “Angels Landing”. On a vertiginous path you hike to the top of a huge rock from where you have a view into the depths and over the valley of the national park.

View from “Angel’s Landing”

Horseshoe bend

On my way to the Canyon de Chelly I stopped at the “Horseshoe bend”, which consists of several spectacular loops of the Colorado River.

Canyon de Chelly

From Kanab I drove on to the Canyon de Chelly. The Canyon de Chelly is a national park in the area of the Navayo Indians. These indigenous people used the Canyon as a refuge. Their houses are often built in cracks in the canyon wall that the American soldiers and settlers could hardly reach.

Abandoned Indian Houses in the Canyon de Chelly National Park

Since many places in the canyon are sacred to the Indians, only a hike into the canyon was possible. Unfortunately, the spectacular 229 m high Spider Rock could only be admired from a viewing platform.

Monument Valley

The next National Park “Monument Valley” is also part of the Navayo State. Again only a hike was offered. With the car one could drive a given route and stop at marked parking lots and enjoy the beauties of this park. This National Park is particularly well known because it was here that the famous Marlboro Man advertisement was made.

Natural Bridges Park

I drove on to the park “Natural Bridges”, which, as the name says, is known for its natural rock bridges.

Kachina Bridge

Owachomo Bridge

The two national parks Canyon Lands and Arches can both be reached from the small place Moab. As the tourist season in the USA started slowly in the middle of May and this place was very popular thanks to its location, I could not find a hotel room there anymore. The next place was Monticello, 87 km away. It was a small place with a big intersection, a few motels, gas stations, restaurants and a camper parking lot. The most beautiful and largest building was the Mormon Temple. The first two days I visited the two national parks in beautiful sunshine.

Canyonlands National Park

The “Church”

One of the many impressive rock formations

Breathtaking landscapes

A three-day storm low, which even brought snowfall to the 2’000 m.a.s.l. area, forced me to stay in my hotel room. I slept long in the morning, took care of computer work and visited a small local museum that showed the history of the place. Monticello, like many other places in the area, had been founded by Mormons.

Arches National Park

As the weather improved, I again visited the Arches National Park with its many attractions and hiking possibilities. In the park there are countless rock bridges, partly even two at the same place.

The Double Arch

The Balanced Rock

The Park Avenue

The “Delicate Arch” is the landmark of Utah. It was very well visited and therefore it was very difficult to take a photo without people.

In Devil’s Garden

Dinosaur Museum of Balding

On the way to Capital Reef National Park, I made a stop at the Balding Dinosaur Museum, which specialized in feathered dinosaurs. According to the latest research in this museum, the birds are not descended from the dinosaurs, but from a common ancestor.

The Capital Reef National-Park offers some scenic hikes. The sky was mostly covered by clouds, therefore no photo of this park made it into my travel report.

The weather forecast again announced a longer period of bad weather. For Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon, which I wanted to visit next, snowfall was even predicted. I therefore decided to move my stay to Salt Lake City forwards. In the city I could visit museums and stroll through shopping centers regardless of the weather. Since I didn’t feel like driving four hours (350 km) to Salt Lake City and then back again, I left my car at the airport parking lot of Cedar City and flew to Salt Lake City.

Salt Lake City

Salt Lake City is the largest city in the state of Utah and its capital. It was founded by Mormons in 1847, after a year-long trek from east to west, after the founding pioneers could no longer stay in Illinois. Church-internal disagreements and the claim of their leader Joseph Smith to also marry the wives of his companions led to the fact that he was probably murdered by members of his own church. Today Joseph Smith is revered by the Mormons as a prophet and martyr. Church members repeatedly quarreled with non-Mormons. The mood toward the Mormons continued to deteriorate as many people in Illinois lost money because a Mormon-sponsored bank went bankrupt. In Salt Lake City they hoped to find a place where they could leave the past behind and practice their religion undisturbed. Utah did not become a US state until 1896, after the Mormons reluctantly abolished the polygamy that was actually part of their religion. The religion of the Mormons (or “Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” as they call themselves) is now practiced by over 50% of Utah’s residents. Utah is a special state in the USA. Thanks to the highest birth rate of all US states, Utah has by far the lowest median age with 29.2 years.

In the center of the city lies the temple district, which consists of different buildings. The temple is in the center, which also Mormons may enter at the earliest one year after their baptism. In a long faith interview with the bishop, the faithful must also prove that they are worthy to visit this sacred building. When you enter the temple area, you first come to the Visitor Center, where you are welcomed by young missionaries in chaste clothes. After I said that I was from Switzerland, they called the twenty-year-old Sister Stüssi, a Swiss woman. Her task was to convince me of her faith. But with a free thinker, like myself, conversion was impossible. I noticed that a world without religions would be a better one. Mrs Stüssi grew up in Interlaken, where she was introduced to religion by Mormon missionaries. She was so enthusiastic that she wanted to work as a missionary herself. She applied without knowing in which part of the earth she would be deployed. Of course she was delighted when she was told that she was allowed to work for 18 months in the center of this religion, in Salt Lake City. After this time she wants to return to Switzerland and begin her studies.

The Temple of the Mormons

The Tabernacle Building

Interesting was also the “This is the place Heritage Park”. From this point the first settlers saw the valley for the first time, whereupon their leader Brigham Young is said to have said: “This is the place”. The park includes a number of historic houses where park employees teach visitors about the lives of former residents. For example, you could watch a shoemaker, a barrel maker or a teacher do their work. Another highlight was the Natural History Museum, famous for its impressive dinosaur collection.

Translated with

Back in Cedar City the weather, as announced in the weather forecast, showed itself from the sunny and warm side. So my change of itinerary was worth it. By car I drove to the Zion National Park, which I visited three weeks before. This time I chose another day hike that led me to another point with a magnificent view.

Zion National Park

An American Squirrel

Bryce National Park

Bryce was my last National Park. This spectacular park was a worthy end of my journey. Bizarre rock formations in various shades of red impressed me.

In fairyland

My last place to stay was typically American, as I spent the last night before Salt Lake City in a Harley-Davidson-styled room of a motorcycle motel.

All in all, I felt very comfortable in the USA. The people were nice, communicative and helpful. It seemed to me that as a European I enjoyed an additional bonus. What surprised me the most was that breakfast in plastic tableware was offered frequently and also in better hotels. This is unthinkable in Europe. And of course the breakfasts were very sweet. Donuts, cakes and sweetened cornflakes were always available.

My abbreviated Pan-Americana was a complete success. I met countless people, experienced a lot and enjoyed unforgettable landscapes. As a price I was only in one place for a few days and was constantly busy planning my next trip. The next trip I want to approach therefore much more calmly. I have decided to stay much longer in the areas I have traveled to, so that there is time for idleness.


This text is an automatic English translation from the German original by