Monday, November 18, 2013

Zion National Park

November 11 - 17, 2013:

We get off to an early start from the Valley of Fire campground at 8:30 AM for the trip to Zion National Park in Springdale, Utah.  As we are driving through Valley of Fire, we come around a curve and right next to the roadway are a herd of Big Horn Sheep.  That was quite a thrilling way to start our trip and we saw it as a good omen.  We then got to the town of Overton and squeaked through Main Street just before they were going to close it for their Veterans Day Parade. The ride on Route 15 north took us from Nevada into Arizona through the incredible Virgin River Canyon and then into Utah.  The Virgin River Canyon was a big surprise, enormous mountain peaks all around a downward spiraling roadway.  We went through the impressive upscale border town of Mesquite, Arizona then the equally prosperous looking St. George, Utah.  We exited onto route 15 east to the town of Springdale, Utah at the southern entrance to Zion National Park.  We checked into the Watchman Campground at Zion, which is inside the Park, right at the Park entrance.  Our reserved campsite was an awkward back-in site, but I got in in better than expected.  Once in, it was beautiful, we have a picture postcard view of The Watchman Mountain from our dining table window.   It is an electric only campsite, but water is easily available, there is a dump station and all for $9 a day.  We went out for dinner in Springdale, which is a small tourist town with lots of restaurants, hotels and shops.  We had seen good reviews for "Cafe Oscar" and we were not disappointed, huge portions and really good ! 

View from the RV window

Watchman Campground entrance

The Watchman mountain

It is another dark sky place here, I went out the door to take a look and was startled by a deer less than 10 feet away.  Latter in bed, we heard some scratching noises up on the roof, initially we thought there might be some wild creature up on top of the RV as we have a tree overhead.  It turned out to be a low hanging tree branch rubbing against the roof.  Will the park service be upset if I trim the tree branch ?  

After last nights huge meal, hiking is mandatory on Tuesday, so we are off to the Emerald Pools trailhead.  It is about a 3 mile hike, much uphill with many steps/rocks, but super scenic views in every direction.  The trail takes you to the lower, middle and upper pools which are fed by small streams which drop over the cliffs as waterfalls.  We then visited the Zion Human History Museum and watched the inspirational movie.  There is so so much to see in this area, could spend a lot more time, definitely a return trip is needed.  Finally, the highpoint of the day, a much needed visit to the Laundromat !  

The Zion Lodge, really nice !

This is what you see across from the Lodge

Waterfall dropping over ledge above
on the Emerald Pools Trail

Amazing view on the trail

Towering Sandstone rock face

View from above of the stream dropping over edge

Great cloud formations

Wednesday is a solo (separate ways) day for us with Twinkles wanting a somewhat relaxing day and an easy river hike.  She wants me to go off and do a more challenging hike, claims she is holding me back, or has she taken out a large insurance policy on me ?  Anyhow, I go off and start on the short 1/2 mile Weeping Rock Trail which is pretty wimpy but I wanted to see the water that comes out of the rocks that has been dated at 1,2000 years old.  That's how long it takes for the water to percolate down through the sandstone from the mountain top to the bottom. 
I then did the Hidden Canyon Trail with a little apprehension about the heights and the warning signs.  The trail was all rock and very steep for a mile with short portions following a cliff ledge on which they had chains for handholds.  Once at the top you enter a narrow Canyon with incredibly huge vertical rock faces.  The Sandstone is eroded in places like a work of art.  It is difficult to stay focused on where you are planting your feet when you are constantly looking up, mesmerized by the beauty around you.   

One of the most scenic parking spaces I ever had

View from the Hidden Canyon Trail

The top of the trail ends at a hanging Canyon
which at times becomes a raging river and waterfall

I venture into the narrow Canyon

Incredible vertical wall of rock

Really massive wall of rock !

A stone arch where the canyon trail ends

The erosion and colors were spectacular

Artistic shapes in the rock from weathering

The trail had some areas to tread carefully

I then went to the Temple of Sinawava parking area to hike the easy Riverside Walk Trail.  This is a trail that goes increasingly deeper into the Canyon until you need to walk in the river to proceed further. I stopped at that point as I had intention of walking in the icy cold water.  It is possible to rent waterproof gear for this purpose, but it is definitely more of a summer time thing.  The trail known as the "Narrows" becomes a slot canyon and is a huge Zion favorite attraction. 

Entrance to the Riverside Walk Trail

The Virgin River from the Riverside walk trail 

View from the River

People going into the river

The Ancestral Puebloans lived in the Zion area for many thousands of years, they eventually disappeared and were replaced by the Paiute Indians around 800 years ago.  In the 1860's Mormon's settled in the area seeking a haven from religious persecution.  That was the beginning of the end for the Paiute Indians. The Mormon's called the Place "Zion" representative of a place of safety and refuge for them.  The Mormons also gave most of the prominent mountain peaks biblical related names such as; East Temple, West Temple, Temple of Sinawava, Angels Landing, The great white Throne, the Pulpit, Court of the Patriarchs.  

In between all this beauty, some RV maintenance was required, I  repaired another failed window shade and removed a trailer tire that was not looking healthy.  After removing it and looking closely, I was real glad to get it off, it was about ready to self destruct.  I was initially going to swap the spare tire onto this wheel, use the old tire as the spare, (being cheap).  The tire shop guy downtown took one look at it and said he wouldn't even use it as a spare.  He had a pair of new better quality tires in stock so I ended up buying two of them for some peace of mind. I have now replaced all four tires on the RV.

In contrast to neighboring Nevada where about everything is legal, Utah has very conservative Mormon influenced liquor laws.  There does not seem to be an actual bar in the town of Springdale.  In restaurants, you can't just have a drink, you must order food first.  Also all alcohol has to be metered out, no happy hour drink specials, very restrictive laws.  Lots of confusing liquor licenses for special occasions, clubs, etc.

On the weekend, auto traffic is not allowed in Zion Canyon, a shuttle bus service is run to the various shuttle bus stops.  They do this every day during the peak season time.  We are looking forward to using the shuttle as it is not always easy parking the dually at the smaller parking areas.

A ride on Sunday to the east side of Zion Park on the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway through the historic tunnel.  A special permit was needed to drive the dually through the tunnel, they shut it down to one way and then allow you drive down the center.  The 1.1 mile tunnel, completed in 1930, was at that time the longest tunnel in the country. It's hard to believe, but the east side might even be more scenic than the main Zion Canyon area.  We saw many Big Horn Sheep along the road and in the road.  

Zion Mt-Carmel Highway view

Could be a GMC Truck advertisement ?

Highway scenic view

Incredible shapes and contours

Another Highway scenic view

Weird Sandstone shapes due to erosion

Large Lava rocks in foreground make for interesting shot

We continued through the East Zion Park gate to the town of Mt. Carmel Junction which had an old stone Mormon Church and historical markers for an early Mormon settler, Isaac Behunin. 

Mt. Carmel also has the Thunderbird Restaurant, hotel and golf course, home of the HO-MADE PIES with a scantily clad woman on the sign.  We had to stop for lunch, the food was good and the HO-MADE Bread was really great.  It's a restaurant started in the 1931 with an interesting history and still family owned and operated.  When they painted the sign, there wasn't room for Home Made, so it was abbreviated to HO-MADE and in the 1930's HO didn't mean what it does today.  They have kept the signage and have even developed a whole line of merchandise to sell with the HO-MADE theme.

The Thunderbird Restaurant sign

We took the short but very interesting Canyon Overlook Trail near the tunnel where we saw more sheep up on a mountain side.

This guy was crossing the highway and stopping traffic

Twinkles crossing bridge on Canyon Overlook Trail

Sheep high above us on the Trail

Next stop on the Red Rock Tour is Page, Arizona, gateway to Glen Canyon Dam, Horseshoe Bend, Antelope Canyon and much more.

Keep on rocking in the Free World,
Twinkles & Slick

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