After our lookout stop at Cedar Breaks, we continued south. Our drive back was turning out to be quite relaxed and enjoyable - full of variation and contrast. We were travelling through the landscape and experiencing it, rather than just having it slide past our car windows in a half-noticed blur.
Zion from the north
We soon came to the junction with UT-14 - another scenic highway that would take us west, down off the Markagunt Plateau, to Cedar City. We would then catch the Interstate and head south towards Las Vegas.
The westward descent off of the plateau provided some interesting and wonderful views across the high country north of Zion National Park, its forests ablaze with fall colors. In the distance beyond we could see glimpses of Zion Canyon, including the distinctive top of the West Temple. Just a week ago, we were having interesting adventures down there!
Soon we are back down to the 6000-foot level, and high desert returned. A final stretch of colorful orange sandstone walls, and we arrived at the mouth of Cedar Canyon. Ahead of us was the fairly sizable town of Cedar City, Utah, home to Southern Utah University (which is much in evidence as you drive through town).
We turned south onto Interstate-15, commencing a high speed run back south towards Las Vegas. Kyle pointed out the spot where had had realized he'd missed the turnoff to Zion eight days earlier. We were quite surprised - he had almost made it all the way to Cedar City!
Vegas in sight
A couple of hours' worth of Interstate driving brought us within sight of the hotel-dominated skyline of Las Vegas. Even with all of our scenic detours and stops, we had made good time, and we had perhaps an hour to burn before we were scheduled to return our rental car and check in for our flights. Kyle indicated interest in experiencing a bit of the Vegas strip, and so we exited early and drove down Las Vegas Boulevard.
We decided to walk around the interior of one of the mega strip hotels, and chose the Venetian/Palazzo complex. It took almost an hour to park, wander through the shops and casino section of the hotel to the street, and then return to our car. Just one hotel!
The rest of our trip was standard boilerplate return-home stuff: return the rental car to the combined McCarran Airport rental car center, take the shuttle bus to the airport, check in, and get ready to fly home. Our low-cost tickets had us on a 2-stop red-eye itinerary, via Los Angeles and Chicago. We had a fairly nice dinner at a Wolfgang Puck restaurant at the Los Angeles airport, and a delay and incident-free sequence of flights. We arrived back in Ottawa on a bright fall morning, fairly sleep-deprived from our overnight journey. After a quick catch-up nap, Jenn drove Kyle to the train station for his final journey back to his home town of Toronto.
I'd like to thank everyone for their patience and resilience in the face of many obstacles (from the failure to get permits, to the government shutdown, to the logistics around so many trip members coming and going at different times). I think we managed pull a fairly satisfying itinerary out of it all.
Attention, Lady Mountain and The Subway: we're coming back for you!