Friday, May 13, 2011

Zion National Park

This makes more sense if you first read the Bryce entry below. Blogs always seem a bit broke if you have one event spread over multiple days.

After two very nice days in Bryce Canyon, we took off for Zion National Park, about two hours to the east. When we arrived, it had clouded up and looked like it might rain soon. The bad part was the howling wind, gusting up around 40 mph. So much for hiking.

Fortunately we have found a wonderful hotel to stay in when visiting Zion. We visit the Cable Mountain Lodge in Springdale. It is a very nice, comfortable, spacious place to stay and is a two minute walk from the entrance to the park.

The Virgin River runs through the park and right behind our hotel. After a night of heavy rain, it had transformed from a swift current to standing waves and big rapids. I was glad to see the water still had a ways to go before filling our parking lot.

Another day of no hiking. We decided to head to St George where the weather was supposed to be better.

Since we stayed at the Cable Mountain Lodge a year or two ago, they added some new high tech toilet seats. Here is the remote. Yes, this is the remote for the toilet seat. I was a little uncomfortable sitting on a toilet seat that was plumbed and had an electrical cord. I was going to take pictures of the auto-bidet in action, but I never could get our to work.

The timeline gets a little confusing, but a few days later, we drove the hour back to do some hiking in Zion. We will keep the organization by park instead of time.

This day brought gorgeous weather. It was sunny and warming into the mid 70's.

One thing you lose in photographing Zion is the scale. This picture looks up at a sheer rock wall. Hard to tell that it is about 3,000 feet high.

Our big hike for the day was up to Angel's Landing. This hike is about 5 miles round trip and is one of the more interesting mixes of hiking you could put under one name. It starts with a 2 mile walk up about 1,000 feet of vertical. We were expecting a decent trail. Instead we got a concrete sidewalk. Some poor guy was building a concrete sidewalk two miles and 1000 feet up from the nearest road. Have you ever seen how heavy a small bag of concrete is?

When we get to Scout Lookout, they actually had a pair of outhouses. I can only imagine the conversation between the manager and the workers. "You want me to build what? Way up there?"

From here, the last half mile got very interesting. Instead of a nice paved sidewalk, you had a trail that wandered along the narrow edge of a long, steep ridge, with thousand foot sheer drop-offs on both sides. They lose about one person each year to falls. At least you don't hit much on the way down.

There were big metal chains bolted into the rock for you to hold on to, but if you had any fear of heights, this could be a miserable experience. Julie and I both ventured part of the way, to a nice overlook. Julie stayed there while I went on to the top.

It was a game of attrition. The further you went up, the harrier it got, and more people decided that they had ventured far enough.

This is a view from part of the way up the last climb. If you double-click on the image, you can see two small buildings. Those are the outhouses we just left.

And if you get to the top of Angel's Landing, here is the view you get. It's pretty spectacular, but I was bummed that it had gotten cloudy. Of course, 30 minutes later, heading back down the hill, the sun was out in all its brilliance.

Chipmunks and squirrels are everywhere in the park system. Even when people don't feed them intentionally, there is nothing like a stiff breeze blowing a half full bag of potato chips down the hill. None of these animals looked like they had just struggled through a long snowy winter.

For our last hike in Zion, we walked down towards the mouth of the Narrows. In drier weather, you can walk up the Virgin River through a 16 mile slot canyon. With the river running so hard, the Narrows were closed.

There is a little beach area at the mouth and several people had decided to decorate it with rock art. They built carefully balanced Zen-cairns out of rounded river rock.

We got robbed of our first day exploring Zion because of the high winds and rain. We were very glad we did the one hour drive back from St George to get a good day of hiking in. The cliffs and canyons of Zion are amazing.
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