Through Colorado City, Arizona

September 4th & 5th

As I leave Zion Park this morning I see a cavalcade of vintage cars driving through the town of Springdale, Utah, the port of entry, so to speak, for Zion Park. I’m in the Café Soleil, having breakfast as they go by, with my computer set up, busy with an article, and I’ve left my camera in the car.  I content myself with watching the cars go by. I suspect they’ll join the people I met the other day as I left Bryce, perhaps at the Zion Canyon Lodge.

I leave early and drive all the way to the town of St. George, the biggest city in southern Utah and whose name has nothing to do with the Saint George of dragon fame. No, the town was named after a saint (in other words a Mormon) whose name happened to be George. That’s the story they tell here.

I spend a few hours this morning at the visitor’s center of the St. George Mormon temple…

3_St. George Temple

4_not so photogenic as Manti

…which is not nearly so photogenic as the Manti temple.

I also drive by the local tabernacle:

5_St. George Tabernacle

At the visitor center they show me a film and answer a few questions. I really just want to be polite and learn something about what I see as a local institution. I openly tell them that I’m not a potential convert. If you want to learn more about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints you can go here. If you simply google Mormon Church you’ll come upon a vast bank of resources, both sympathetic and antipathetic towards the Church. I maintain my position that the Mormon migration to Utah is a fascinating chapter in United States history.

I return east that afternoon to the town of Hurricane on Highway 59 where I spend the night in a motel in order to have an internet connection and to get some work done.

The next morning I take a few photos from the parking lot:

1_leaving Zion...Hurricane

The desert is never far, nor are the mountains.

And then I head east and south towards the Arizona border and the towns of Hildale, Utah and Colorado City, Arizona.  These two towns, formerly known as Short Creek, are the stronghold of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS). The highway passes outside of the two towns. I drive by Hildale, but I turn off the main road and drive around Colorado City for a while.

Since 2006 this community has frequently been in the news for many reasons in relation to the FLDS practices. I won’t go into it here, but the town’s residents are wary of and hostile to outsiders. What I see largely confirms everything I’ve read about these communities. The streets are empty, the few women I see are indeed wearing those pastel prairie dresses and the children run inside. The houses are enormous, some of them apparently unfinished and are often surrounded by high fences or brick walls. There are few shops or offices.

I get a certain sense of forboding, of being watched. Of course, I’ve been noticed. An unknown Dodge Grand Caravan with a flashy yellow mountain bike strapped to its back will not go unnoticed here.

I take no pictures, I don’t need to. You will find many on the internet.  For more information I suggest that you google:

Colorado City


Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS)

Warren Jeffs (the FLDS prophet)

the book Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer

the documentary film Banking on Heaven (the trailer is particularly interesting)

the Lost Boys


You’ll find many photos and resources that merit attention but that need to be studied carefully. You’ll see why, in Utah and Arizona (and in many other communities in the US and Canada too), polygamy is no laughing matter.

And now I want to get out of here.


Into Utah…

August 24th and 25th, 2014

I drive down the canyon from Great Basin National Park toward the dry valley and small town of Baker below:

1_as I head down into the dry valley

The desert is never far.


On the way I see this ancient wreck in a field beside the road:

2_I come upon this 1920 Dodge and its driver

The driver doesn’t look like he’s fit to be behind the wheel of a car.  Someone has written “1920 Dodge” on the side of the car. I turn around to look at my own 2011 Dodge, some distance back:

3_and I cast a glance at my 2011 Dodge Grand Caravan

I have a decision to make. I really don’t know which way I’m going when I get down to the highway, either left to go into central Utah, or right, to southern Utah and the string of national parks that await me there. This type of dilemma will arrive more than once.

I decide that I want to see central Utah too, so I turn left and soon cross the stateline…

4_cross into Utah, yellow flower and desert grass

…where these familiar flowers greet me and the clumps of desert grass are much thicker and more widespread than in Nevada.

We continue to go up over small mountain ranges and then through low valleys, but a new feature soon appears. This is Sevier Lake, a dry or not so dry lake (you decide, based on what you see here):

5b_Sevier Lake bis

Sevier Lake, into which flows the Sevier River…

6_into which flows the Sevier River, or what's left of it

…or what’s left of it after so much of its water has been taken for irrigation.

In the town of Delta the Sevier River welcomes me with those familiar yellow flowers:

7_Delta_the Sevier River with flowers

The Sevier is to become a friend that I will meet again and again.

From here I head north and east through Millard, Juab and Sanpete counties, through irrigated farmlands and neat little towns like Nephi, Fountain Green, Moroni and Ephraim. Moroni, if you don’t know, is the name of the angel who appeared to young Joseph Smith and instructed him several times. Regardless of what anyone may think of the Mormon Church, I’m struck by Mormon efficiency and ingenuity in making this desert bloom. After the dry valleys of Nevada, the town and entire valley of Nephi is particularly impressive with its green fields. Then again, Utah seems to have water that Nevada simply does not have.

Driving down the Sanpete Valley we see the profile of the Manti Mormon temple from some distance–somewhat incongruous in this terrain, yet entirely expected. Once in town I take this close up:

8_Manti temple, on arrival


Manti, named after a city mentioned in the Book of Mormon, is a very pleasant town…

9_downtown Manti-pleasant town

…and a historic one in the framework of the Mormon migration and settlement of Utah. It was the first settlement founded outside the northern Wasatch strip (Ogden, Salt Lake, Provo) and one of the first communities to have a temple…

This statue is of the Indian chief Wakara and some Mormon immigrants. Wakara is said to have invited the Mormons to settle here  to teach his people the ways of farming:

10_a historic Mormon town

I wonder if Wakara knew what he was letting himself in for.


I take several pictures of the temple at different times of the day:

That first afternoon, on arrival…

11a_Manti temple-afternoon

…that evening…

11b_Manti temple-evening

…the following morning, the north profile…

11c_Manti temple-morning

…and the south profile:

11d_Manti temple-south profile-morning


The temple grounds are a good place from which to take pictures of the town and its surroundings:


12a_view north_green fields

…south and west:

12b_view south_green Manti 12c_view west_green fields

Notice the shadow of the temple in the foreground of the righthand picture.

I take a long bike ride around the town this morning, taking pictures of the irrigated fields west of town; everywhere, everything is green:

12d_irrigated fields west of town 12e_irrigated sheep pasture


I take pictures of many of the houses, too. Manti appears to be one of those idyllic American towns of the late 19th and early 20th centuries:

14a_Manti house 14b_Manti house

14c_Manti house 14d_Manti house

14e_Manti house 14fbis_very nice

New or old, well kept or not, they reflect a period, and an image.  Of course, there are many houses of more modest standing too and also, as all over the US, a number of mobile homes.


Other noticeable buildings in town…

This was once a Presbyterian church, but is now home to the American Legion:

13b_old Presbyterian

The local Mormon church, with its characteristic low roof and short steeple:

15_Manti Mormon church parking lot

Not a very good angle, but it was the best I could do. This is taken on Monday morning. At 4 o’clock on Sunday afternoon this parking lot was full to overflowing.

Later this morning I go for a drive around the valley and take pictures of the countryside…

17a_green countryside around Manti

…and of the town from an overlook:

18a_view of Manti from above_west 18b_view of Manti from above_south


Manti is well known for its annual Mormon Miracle Pageant which takes place every year in the early summer. You can learn more about it here.

And you can learn more about the Manti temple here.