Sunday, October 18, 2009

Zion National Park 2009 – Part 4 - Flora and Fauna


During our almost three week  stay here at Zion National Park we have seen:






and Flowers.

But mostly we have watched Autumn come to Zion. On our many trips into Zion Canyon we have seen the tress change from  day to day.



The slideshow has a collection of the flora and fauna of Zion National Park we have seen and the changes during our wonderful visit.

Zion National Park 2009 – Part 3 - Emerald Pools Trail and Kayenta Trail


Looking down canyon

The Emerald Pools are a series of small pools, cascades and waterfalls located about midway up the Zion Canyon. The trail begins at the Zion Lodge and the hikes to the 3 pool become more strenuous as you go to the next higher pool. The Kayenta Trail starts further up canyon and traverse a bench about 150 feet above the Virgin Rover and gives nice views until it connects to the Emerald pool complex of trails. This is our favorite part of the Zion Canyon. During the almost three weeks we were here we hiked in this area 3 times. On our first hike we walked from Zion Lodge to Lower Pool and then back.


Waterfall from Middle Emerald Pool to Lower Emerald Pool


Lower Emerald Pool

On our second hike we took advantage of the shuttle system and walked the Kayenta trail from the Grotto shuttle stop to Middle Pool and then on to Zion Lodge.


The trail to Middle Pool


Middle Emerald Pool

On the third hike I walked from Zion Lodge to Lower Pool, then to Middle Pool, then to the Upper Pool and finished my hike by walking the Kayenta trail to the Grotto shuttle stop.


Almost to Upper Pool


Upper Emerald Pool

As you can see the Upper Pool is larger than the other two pools, but none of them really is much of a pool nor did they look emerald to me.

Zion National Park 2009 – Part 2 - River Walk Trail


Entrance to the “Narrows”


Kathy on the River Walk trail

At the end of the road in Zion Canyon is the Temple of Sinawava. Sinawava is a deity to the South Paiute native Americans that lived in Zion Canyon before the area was homesteaded in the mid-1800s. This area is also the trailhead for Zion’s most popular hike the Zion Narrows. The first mile of the trail is paved and named the River Walk Trail. After the first mile the “trail” is the river. We chose to walk the paved section of the trail. This is a remarkable section of the canyon and we shot more pictures on this two  mile round trip than at any other time in Zion.

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Scenes along the trail


The above pictures shows where the River Walk Trail stops and the actual Narrows Trail starts. The “trail” continues on for 16 miles, the water is cold  and in some section the canyon is less than 20 feet wide. Many of the iconic Zion National Park pictures that you have seen in books, posters and post cards were taken further up river. Another thing that the above pictures show is how many people of all ages, sizes and shapes take this hike. Even though these pictures were taken after lunch and in the middle of the week, there are 8 people visible in this picture. One morning a field trip of 30 high school freshmen were on the shuttle, all headed for the Narrows Trail. Our visit to Zion has been in the “off season”, but we have found the park and the trails to be very busy even at mid-week.

Zion National Park 2009 – Part 1 - First few days in Zion


The Altar of Sacrifice


The only other time I had been to Zion National Park was in 1972, for part of an afternoon. Kathy was here on a family vacation trip back in 1965. Needless to say neither one of us remembered the park very well. Zion National Park is smaller than either of us had remembered and Zion Canyon is much smaller than we thought.

In 1999 Zion National Park had a number of days when daily visitation was 3,000 to 5,000 cars per day. However, Zion Canyon only has 450 parking spaces. As you can imagine it was total gridlock. In 2000 the park service banished cars from most of Zion Canyon and started a free shuttle system. The shuttles run from 6 AM until 10 PM and during mid-day the shuttles are only 6 minutes apart. This is absolutely the best run most efficient shuttle system we have ever come across. If only all National Parks had a system like this. At the entrance to Zion National Park is the town of Springdale, Utah. It is a typical tourist town with one RV Park, dozens of restaurants,  souvenir stores and a huge number of hotels, inns and motels. Zion’s remarkable free shuttle begins in town with shuttle stops at the various hotels, shopping areas and restaurants. . Since there isn’t any parking in Zion Canyon the park  service encourages everyone to park in town and to leave their cars behind. We walk out of the RV Park to the shuttle stop and head toward the restaurants in town or away from town to the park entrance. At the park entrance you exit the town shuttle, cross a bridge to enter the park and hop a park shuttle. It takes a shuttle about 90 minutes to complete one loop of Zion Canyon. Along the way the bus has a narrative track of about the history, geology and hiking trails in the canyon. The shuttle makes many stops as it goes up the canyon so that you can get off to take pictures, go for a hike, have picnic or visit the museum.

We came to Zion National Park to stay for a week. After a week we added 4 more days; after those 4 days we added another week. The weather has been wonderful. Since Zion is a “hikers park”, because it has many trails, we have been doing a lot of hiking.   Some easy, some moderate and some difficult. With the wonderful shuttle system, our hikes didn’t have to be out and back. We could string trails together to hike up or down the canyon to any other shuttle stop. Since we have been here we have walked all of the easy and moderate trails and some of them more than once. Because of the deepness of Zion Canyon, the many colors in its walls and sun and clouds passing over it, every scene in Zion changes constantly. Every wall, peak and rock looked different every time we passed it.

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We have taken hundreds of pictures while we have been here and have been trying to edit them down to something manageable. To keep the slideshow manageable we have broken the Zion National park blog entry to four separate entries each with a different theme.

This first slideshow is a collection from various hikes and scenic overlooks and gives a good idea of the diversity of Zion National Park.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The 180 mile Day Trip to Bryce Canyon National Park



Bryce Canyon

We continue our stay at Zion National Park and are sorting the hundreds of pictures we have taken. Unfortunately, every time we return to the park we take even more pictures. So, I am going to hold off on our Zion National Park blog until we leave Zion and write today about our daytrip to Bryce Canyon National Park.

Bryce Canyon National Park is 90 miles from Zion National Park, with one small caveat it is only 90 miles if you go through the Zion-MT. Carmel Tunnel. The tunnel was completed in 1930 when cars were much smaller so the tunnel has size restrictions. Completely banned from the tunnel are “Vehicles over 13'1'' tall.” and “Combined vehicles over 50' long.”. Those parameters exclude us from taking the trailer though the tunnel. Taking the non-restricted way to Bryce Canyon is 150 miles one way. Since Bryce is over 8,000 feet elevation, it is much colder. The trip there and back with the trailer would be 300 miles. We decided to go to Bryce as a 180 mile daytrip. The mile long tunnel also has restrictions on width “Vehicles sized 7'10'' in width or larger, are required to have a 'traffic control through the Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel. Vehicles this size are too large to stay in their lane while traveling through the tunnel.”. However for a $15 fee they will close the tunnel to allow wide vehicles to drive down the middle of the tunnel and thus get through. The tunnel can only be closed for this during the hours of 8 AM to 7 PM.


Tunnel window for light and to let exhaust escape   

Bryce Canyon National Park is a small National park at only 56 square miles and according to their web page “The park is not a canyon. Rather, it is a spectacular series of more than a dozen amphitheaters”. The first proposal sent to congress to make Bryce Canyon into a National Monument was in 1919, however it didn’t become a National Monument until 1923. Bryce Canyon became a National Park in 1928.




The columns and spires of Bryce are known as hoodoos

The Bryce Canyon web page says “The geologic term, hoodoo, lives on at Bryce Canyon National Park as perpetuated by early geologists who thought the rock formations could cast a spell on you with their magical spires and towering arches.”

On a visit to Bryce the road runs about 10 miles along  the rim going from  one unbelievably stunning overlook to the next.




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Catching Up and 500th Life Bird


Catching Up

Wow, two and half weeks since we last updated the blog! What have we been doing? Hiking mostly here in Zion National Park, but more on that later. In this blog I will try to bring you up to date on how we got here and our day trip to Bryce Canyon National Park.

The day after our last blog posting the National Weather Service posted a Winter Storm Warning for Idaho, Montana and northern Utah. They were predicting very cold temperatures, high winds and heavy snow. The warning was so dire that the owner of Red Rock RV Park decided to close for the season a day early, so that he and the workcampers could get out of the area before the storm hit. This was fine with us as we were scheduled to leave that day anyway, but the storm warning had us reconsidering our plan to go to Craters of the Moon National Monument in central Idaho. We decided to head due south and to a lower elevation to at least out run the snow if not the storm. We drove 300 miles (a very long day for us) to Kaysville, Utah just north of Salt Lake City. We signed up for two nights to let the high winds and expected rain to pass before moving on. We used the non-travel days to do laundry, get flu shoots, the truck serviced along with reading and beading. The big storm was all that the Weather Service had predicted; high winds and roads closed due to ice and snow throughout Idaho and Montana. In just two days Island Park had gone from a high of 78 to 28! When the clouds lifted from Kaysville we saw that the snow line was just a couple of hundred feet above us.


We decided to go further south to warmer weather and picked Zion National Park about 330 miles further south. We split the trip in half with an overnight stop in Fillmore, Utah. The manager of the campground there said that they had had snow the day before we arrived.

When we arrived in Springdale, Utah, which is 1/4 mile from the entrance to Zion National Park, it was 78 degrees. We signed up for a one week stay, then extended it to 4 more days and when we heard about the storm that was going to hit west and north of here this week we signed up for another week. Zion deserves an entire blog to itself and we have taken hundreds of picture so I will hold off saying more about Zion National Park for now.

500th Life Bird


Picture of a Juniper Titmouse from the Internet

We haven’t done any “serious birding” this year. First with getting a new camera in May, we have been concentrating on photography. That being said we never go anywhere without binoculars and always notice birds that we see. While on a hike in Zion we saw our 500th Life Bird!!! It was a Juniper Titmouse!! This is not a particular difficult bird to find, but we had never been in an area were they were located before. We have been bird watchers for over 30 years, though I would say only 20 of those years we were "active Birders". So, I guess it has taken us 20 years to get to our 500th bird. Since we have only birded east of the Mississippi once (Canadian Maritime provinces and Newfoundland) we have done as well as could be expected. If you are wondering, we didn’t start out trying to get to 500. We just have been keeping track of the birds we have seen and somehow got to 500.