Thursday, October 18, 2012

We spent the day today at Zion National Park. What a wonderful and peaceful place. The Park is closed to vehicular traffic except on Hwy 9 which runs through the south end of the park. In order to see the park, you must take their shuttles. At first we were a little skeptical as we like to visit places at our own pace. Those concerns vanished after our visit to the visitor's center. The shuttles run every 7 minutes and you can get on/off at your leisure. They are free too! We experienced the same shuttle service at the south rim of the Grand Canyon. We elected to take the shuttle all the way to the end and then return at our own leisurely pace. This turned out to be a wise choice for several reasons. First, there is a guided narrative that tells you what to expect at each drop off point and gives you a lot of information about the park and the area. You don't get the same narrative coming back. We also discovered the farthest point of the shuttle stops at one of the longest trails leading back to the canyons. All told, by the end of the day we had hiked 8.8 miles. We are bushed. The jacuzzi at the campground will be a welcome relief. I took a total of 180 pictures and several videos. Here is a very small sample. 

Cars were lined up to get into the park. So while Debi waited in line, I stepped out to snap this picture. It was a short wait as the rangers were very efficient. You can park in Springdale, Utah and take a shuttle to the park but then you have to walk to the visitor's center. We thought we would chance finding a parking space inside the park since it wasn't too late in the day. We were lucky and found a spot very near the entrance.

These are the shuttles that take you into the park itself. They were very comfortable and they have hatches on the roof, which you see open here, to provide fresh air inside. They do not exceed 20mph so the ride is easy and informative.

One of the first things you notice are the sheer cliff faces. What made these cliffs? Mud deposited in streams millions of years ago were covered by wind blown sands. Centuries of pressure squeezed the mud to form shale and the sand to form sandstone. It is this mixture that both holds these monoliths together but also causes the sheer cliffs.

Water from rains seep into the crevices in the rock and the cold weather freezes this water. As the water expands it pushes and splits the shale and sandstone causing large chunks to break off an tumble down leaving sheer cliffs exposed. Many of these cliffs are treasures to mountain climbers.

After riding the shuttle to the farthest stop, you can hike back into the canyons as far as you like. There is a nice walkway that takes you back about 1 mile. From there you're on your own. We started at the Temple of Sinawava, which is the shuttle's 8th stop. This trail meanders through majestic canyons and borders the Virgin River.

Here's another picture along the trail. Although I would estimate the visitor count in the thousands, we encountered very few people throughout the area. The feeling was one of peace and tranquility.

Once you get to the end of the 1 mile walkway, you're on your own if you want to continue. However, in order to do so you must ford the river several times moving up the canyon. We removed our shoes, rolled up our pant legs and headed upstream.

As we continued upstream the canyons and the river were spectacular. Debi is here, waiting for me to catch up.

I asked her if she was enjoying herself. I think this picture answered that question.

Yes, that water was COLD!

We encountered this little fella simply enjoying the day sunning himself on a large rock. He stayed there enjoying the warmth of the rock while I snapped several pictures. We left him there and continued our journey.

More sheer cliffs and the plants clinging to these drop offs. Their root system plants itself on a ledge or rock opening and the plant grows over the side seeking sunlight. Water seeping through the rock feeds the plant.

This picture and the next are simply for your enjoyment and need little explanation. It is an area of unsurpassed beauty and an opportunity for one to simply stop and enjoy the peace and quiet of nature.

This is "Weeping Rock". That is not snow you see in this picture. It is falling water as raindrops although it is not raining. This rock outcropping is about 60 feet long and similar to walking behind a waterfall except the water is mostly in the form of droplets instead of a steady waterfall. Water passes easily through sandstone but not shale. Rain and snow falling on the plateau above soaks into the sandstone. When it reaches shale, it moves sideways to emerge from the cliff as a spring.


More beautiful pictures. As you can see, the weather was simply beautiful. There was a slight breeze as you would expect in mid October at 4000 feet.

As always, Debi was thinking ahead. I got to carry the backpack but was treated to a delicious lunch that she had packed. We stopped at "The Grotto" and had lunch at their picnic area.

We ended the day observing these Bighorn sheep that were as interested in us as we were them. I counted about 14 sheep and was amazed at how nimble yet sure footed they were. You can see the lookout perched on top of the rock while the others grazed nearby.

I would encourage anyone who has the opportunity to visit this wonderful place to do so. Plan on spending a very relaxing and calming day. It really was awe inspiring.

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