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Utah's red rock is next stop for group of Irish trekkers

The Great Wall of China, the Amazon jungle and Mount Kilimanjaro have nothing over Utah, according to a group of international hikers.

The Irish Terracotta Ramblers have made it a point to trek to the world's most fabulous destinations.They've done China, Brazil and East Africa. Now, they are headed for Utah.

They are calling the adventure through southern Utah's red rock "The Utah Navajo Trail," though they may be actually visiting a Paiute Indian reservation near the Arizona border. But the rest of the adventure includes some of the state's most celebrated red-rock destinations.

The trek, as the others before it, is an effort to raise money for blind and brain research in the Emerald Isle. So, incredible destinations are always on the itinerary, though all the fund raising goes on in Ireland.

During the trip, the group will feed back stories to newspapers and television stations in Ireland every other day. The trip to Utah comes after adventures that included meeting President Nelson Mandela in South Africa last year.

In 1994, the group traveled to Xian, China, where officials allowed two of the disabled members of the group to enter the tombs of the terra cotta soldiers, an honor so rare that former President Ronald Reagan and Britain's Queen Elizabeth are the only others to have been allowed inside.

"What does that say for Utah? It says something for what we have here," said Mark Wade, manager of St. George-based Adventure Unlimited, the high-end touring company which will lead the group.

Wade, former director of tourism for the state's five southwest counties, said southern Utah's diversity is worth traveling across the globe.

"The terrain in southern Utah is more unique than you would find anywhere in the world almost. You can go to great places in the world and see other things, but you can't see what you see in southern Utah anywhere else," Wade said.

The Irish Terracotta Ramblers arrive Thursday. During their stay, the group will visit Kodachrome Basin State Park, Kanab, Lake Powell, the north rim of the Grand Canyon and Capitol Reef, Bryce Canyon and Zions national parks.