Thursday, September 9, 2010

Zion National Park

Welcome to Zion! It's an interesting national park, kind of hard to describe or show an iconic photo. The scenery is amazing - high cliffs and deep canyons. They have a great shuttle bus system to see the main gorge without driving/parking, and several fun hikes are accessible to a lot of people. However, I think a large part of the park is hard to get to, and it's kind of difficult to nail down the flavor or character of it without exploring in the backcountry for awhile. We did the most we could with the three days we had, and we enjoyed ourselves immensely.

We spent the first day between the Visitor's Center and most of the way up the shuttle route.

The shuttles near the entrance to the main canyon:

Pretty desert/mountain scenery:

Even though it was hot while we were there, the Visitor Center was nice and cool - without AC. Here are diagrams of the natural heating/cooling system:

We started the morning waiting in line for a canyoneering permit. Unfortunately there was a flash flood watch, so they couldn't issue permits yet - we had to come back at 2:45 pm for that. OK, let's go see some things in the meantime.

We began with a hike up to Angel's Landing. It seemed like a good distance and plenty of elevation gain, so we started up the nice trail:

The section called Walter's Wiggles, a bunch of short switchbacks up the side of a cliff - fun!

John playing around and pretending to be "tired":

John NOT playing around - he really is excited about something. Uh oh, that's never a good sign from my perspective:

And here's why - there's a TRAIL up this ridge - no way!

The views from both sides of the ridge were great - whenever I had ahold of something solid and could actually look:

I clung to many cables (placed there for safety) and didn't take a single photo for the next 45 minutes. John even had to use his hands a couple of times, that's how bad it was :)

We eventually made it to the top:

Clinging to my granola bar:

Mr Mountain Goat:

I attempted a couple of shots on the way back (this really needed to be documented!) but finally handed the camera over to John:

And here's my not-so-graceful descent:

Yeah, this sure is "fun" - with emphasis on the quotes:

Look Ma, only one hand:

It looks like I'm positively running (maybe to get off this rock), but I know better:

Hi shadows!

Doing MUCH better after getting back to the Wiggles:

Back on flat ground, we came back to town to check out the Farmer's Market (small but excellent) and have some lunch. John found this solar installation at the park museum:

We got back in line for another shot at a permit, and just squeaked in for 2 permits to travel to "The Subway" the following day - sweet! It's popular among tourists, and many people trek up from the bottom to see it. We had ropes and the desire to do some canyoneering, so we planned to approach from the top. More on that in the next post.

Heading back into the park, we stopped at the lodge to look around. A beautiful large tree graces the front lawn:

Admiring the adorable little dump trucks (and of course the Bobcat in the background!):

We hiked up to the Emerald Pools and found an amazing waterfull at the upper pool. The wind was blowing pretty hard, sending water in all directions:

You could almost put this photo directly under the one above:

John found a good way to stare up at the high cliffs:

That was very cool - and, as we found out later, people RAPPEL down that! Almost 300 feet, wow. We don't have quite enough rope, or at least I hope we don't...:

At the lower pool, we were rooting for the wind to shift just as this guy walked under the waterfull, and IT DID, and I even got it on film! Is that bad for our karma? It still makes me laugh though :)

We made it to a ranger talk about geology (one of our first ranger talks of the summer - how did that happen?). It was an excellent talk, including a comparison of the rate of fall of various rivers. The Mississippi is very flat, obviously, but even the Colorado River isn't all that steep compared to the Virgin River that created the main Zion canyon. The ranger with her tape measure prop to make the point:

She got an assist when the wind threatened to blow her hat away:

We finished the evening with a quick hike up to the Weeping Rock, and got back to Howie quite late. A long day of fun sightseeing!

A couple of photos of the high cliffs to end the day:

Back to Howie - and primitive camping again! This time in the "Coal Pits Wash" area. It was close to the road but not too loud, and still with nice scenery around us. And free :)

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