Friday, September 9, 2011


The trip from Hoover Dam to Zion took about 3.5 hours. The heat was striking, peaking at 107 in the middle of the desert.

Mountain Along the Way to Zion. One of the first things to catch our attention was the different landscape as we dipped into and out of a tiny corner of Arizona, coming upon this giant mountain poking out of the middle of nowhere.

Rock upon Rock. Still driving along the road to Zion, we began to see very interesting rock formations and patterns.

Striations. Here we can see many layers of sand and sediment compressed into solid rock. These people apparently brought everything they own for their camping trip.

Zion. One of the first sights we encountered in the park was this lovely cliff.

Pink Wall. This typical cliff facing shows what happens when Navajo sand, heavy with iron oxide, becomes rock. The beauty and uniqueness of these formations reminded us of the Cappadocia region in Turkey.

Hanging Grass. Claire was taken by this clump of grass clinging to a vertical wall--one of our earliest discoveries.

Hanging Garden. The shuttle bus drivers and the film on Zion spoke of the hanging gardens in the Park. This was one sample we could see up close and personal. Overall, we were highly impressed with the amount of water and greenery surrounding us, here. But, early Mormon settlers had terrible problems with drought and flooding along with extremes of temperature.

Virgin River at End of Riverside Walk. We were tired when we first arrived here; but, we decided to do what we could, since we only had two days in Zion. This was a flat easy walk along a paved path (mostly covered in dust.) The walk ended where you could continue on to The Narrows; but, this could be a full day hike largely through water. And it was late, we were tired, and Claire did not have on waterproof shoes. There were constant reminders on the shuttle bus that "you are responsible for your own safety." They don't want people going into slot canyons during flash floods and they don't want people to be careless climbing or hiking up to the tops of peaks--six people have died here since 2004.

Specimen of Fawna. On the way back from the 3 mile (round trip) Riverside Walk, we encountered a family of 5 Mule Deer.

Orange Wall. This is one of many example of the color and majesty of the cliffs and rock formations.

Red Road. We found it fascinating that almost everything around Zion is some shade of red--even the roads.

Court of the Patriarchs. In 1916, Frederick Vining Fisher, a Methodist minister, named this area, calling the peaks Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. We first viewed them from the street level where we were dropped by the shuttle; we were then startled to see how much more impressive the peaks were from the slightly elevated vantage point of a viewing platform situated 300 steep, zig-zagging feet up.

On the Trail. We headed for the park so early this morning it was almost dark. We beat the crowds, the heat and managed to hike 4 trails before noon. As we hiked along our 3rd trail today, Claire picked up on the accent of a couple walking in the opposite direction, asking asking if they would take our picture. "Australian?" she asked. "No, they laughed, New Zealand." After chatting for a while about travel, Richard and Sandra said we should come visit them when we get to New Zealand; I gave them an American Adventures card and told them to email us, so we could keep in touch. We took their picture too.

Tree Frog. Canyon tree frogs are common by the Emerald Pools. They are supposed to sound like bleating sheep; but, we heard nary a peep from this camouflaged little guy.

Hornet's Nest? We are at a complete loss, here. We found this on the ground exactly as you see it. It must have been someone's home, but we dinna know whose. Any guesses or knowledge from out there?

Claire Hiking. Claire stopped to pose for this photo along the Upper Emerald Pool Trail.

Claire at the Upper Emerald Pool. We finally arrived at this lovely spot. We are no longer alone--there were about a dozen others here; thank goodness we like to travel early. This pool is surrounded on 3 sides by sheer cliffs and on the other by significant boulders; fortunately, the trail leads through the boulders to the beach.

Cliff Above the Upper Emerald Pool.

Path to Lower Emerald Pool. As I walked along the path to the lower pool, I stopped at the edge of the drizzle dropping down from the cliff wall. Note the damp ground. We were blessed with cool weather, today, during our time on paths--it never got above 80 degrees F. Temperatures and people are the primary reasons we like to travel early; but, today, we wanted to beat the thunderstorms predicted for afternoon. We did beat them. Later, reading, hot tubbing and swimming in the pool, I went into the lobby and the clerks instructed me not to return to the water due to the lightening. I had been watching it; but, it was so far away I was not concerned. I was struck (no pun, I swear) by the visual (not liquid) white lightening. I commented to several people about this, but they were not as impressed as I. I think of CA lightening as being quite yellow, but this seemed pure white.

Claire on the Trail to the Lower Emerald Pool.

Claire at the Lower Emerald Pool. The Emerald Pools get their names from the algae which color them.

Park Shuttle Bus at the Museum.

From March through October, there is a shuttle bus system in effect in the Park, run by the Park Service. This dates back to 2000. Each bus has two connected coaches and two bike racks--this one carried a wheelchair. They make about a dozen stops in just over an hour. The goal is to reduce confusion and pollution from passenger vehicles. There is a local system in the town of Springdale; it carries you from one end to the other, stopping at convenient points along the way every few blocks and ending at the entrance to Zion. You then exit, walk across the bridge and on to the Park shuttle service.

Two conveniences we especially appreciated were the frequency of bathrooms and the free Zion Spring water delivered by spigot to your own bottle.

We are finding a few kinks in our newly-adopted mode of travel. After traveling for a year in a camper, once we worked out the logistics we were able to sleep in the same, comfortable bed every night--and some afternoons. We also had easy access to refrigeration and cooking facilities--all within about 10 feet of us whenever we were "home."

We are finding it more challenging to figure out what we need to carry in to our motel rooms each day, and how few containers we can get by with. We are currently down, usually, to 2 trips to bring in a total of 2 suitcases, duffel bag, cooler and some external food items. With the heat, keeping our cooler in ice is problematic. Sleeping has been difficult for both of us. Claire finds that earplugs help a lot. I have been sleeping poorly and this impacts the energy I have--or don't--to carry me through the day. Last night our bed was lumpy, had ill-fitting sheets that did not hold the mattress pad in place; so we were aware of lumpy, sliding support.

Finding decent, healthy affordable food is not easy. When we have a fridge, it is often too cold--but, it would be worse to have it too warm. I did have to throw out a frozen hard-boiled egg this morning. On our way back from hiking today, we walked through town to scout out eateries for this evening. We really liked Blondie's Diner. It is a family-run restaurant with excellent food, casual ambiance, reasonable prices and extremely welcoming.

Inside Blondie's Diner

Wifi access has been free and nominally available, but access can be tricky. Still this is, so far, better than we experienced in Europe.

We have a long way to go and we are surely adaptable; so, please stay tuned...

Costs for today: $135. This is for food ($38) and lodging ($97). We don't have to pay, now, for entrance to National Parks, and we didn't do any tours. We did have some snacks.

In the American Southwest, I began a lifelong love affair with a pile of rock. ~ Edward Abbey