Thursday, August 27, 2009

A Once-in-a-lifetime Walk in the Zion Tunnel

Est Temple from the Zion Tunnel by Roland Lee
I was one of 300 lucky ticket holders who were allowed to walk through the mile-long tunnel at Zion National Park last night. As part of the Centennial, they blocked vehicle traffic making it "legal" for the eager participants to walk the length from top to bottom.

Walkers begin to enter the Zion Tunnel during the Centennial Tunnel Walk event
Re-enactment of the way it used to be done hiding from the cars and the rangers in the Zion Tunnel Everyone had different reasons for being there. Some had relatives who built the tunnel. Many remembered being able to stop at the open windows or "galleries" when they were kids and it was okay to do so. Many others just wanted to do something that will probably never be "legal" again in our lifetime. Of course some people (not mentioning any names) participated in the exhilarating and dangerous event of illegal "tunnel-running" in their youth, but they didn't get to see much at midnight.

Pine Creek from the window of the Zion Tunnel, taken legally during the Centennial Tunnel Walk
For me, this was a chance to grab my sketchbook and camera, to capture the unique views of Pine Creek Canyon, and East Temple that are only seen from those windows, and I was amply rewarded. I have sketches, I have photos, and most importantly I have indelible memories. Yep, I feel a painting coming on!

Barbara Aikens and Sandra Sandberg join others looking out the gallery window from the Zion Tunnel
For Zion-lovers the evening was all we hoped it would be. The comraderie was wonderful, the combined enthusiasm was rivaled only be Christmas mornings past, and park service employees and volunteers went above and beyond to make this once-in-a-lifetime event possible. Kudos to everyone.
Walkers approach the west end of the Zion Tunnel

Howard Berkes from NPR interviews Lyman Hafen during the Zion Tunnel WalkNPR's Howard Berkes interviewed participants for the public radio show "All Things Considered." If you listen to public radio you may have heard a quote or two from Lyman Hafen and me.
Link to NPR's Radio program "All Things Considered" with quotes from walkers


  1. LOVE it! Just made the drive through a few months ago.
    What a cool experience.

  2. Laura heard you on the radio! She was so excited. On one of our trips we stopped to look out those oppenings to see the beautiful scenery. I wonder if it looks any different today than it did then--40 years ago.