Friday, October 7, 2011

Zion National Park: Bryce's Big Brother

Monday-Tuesday, October 3-4

After Bryce I thought Zion would be just a walk in the woods since we'd been told it's very different with lots of green because of higher moisture. Well, it is greener than Bryce; it is also has bigger rock formations, higher and steeper cliffs, a pitch-black, mile-long tunnel through a mountain, and a breath-sucking entrance from the east on Rte. 9 that takes you around hairpin switchbacks in a long, steep descent. Pulling a trailer made it especially hair-raising. We decided when we left we'd take the longer way to the Grand Canyon, only about half an hour, via the south entrance.

Our two days in Zion we hiked about eight miles. Doesn't sound like much, but my knees could sure feel it. We hiked the Watchman Trail which was only about a 400 foot rise all together but was rocky and steep in some places. It went out to an observation point that gave a great view of Watchman mountain. Interestingly, Zion is still in late summer. Flowers bloomed everywhere and most of the trees hadn't changed color yet. Funny to have seen autumn changes only an hour and a half farther north in Bryce and find Zion still dressed in summer finery. I took a lot of wildflower pictures on our hikes, especially up the mountain.

We also hiked one of the really easy trails in the park - the scenic river walk. It's paved all the way and a popular spot for tourists. We felt like we were in Central Park there were so many people, but since we enjoy people watching that was part of the fun. One poor Hispanic couple had a little boy, about 18 months old, who must have screamed for at least 45 minutes. We saw him first at the end of the trail then kept passing and being passed as we walked along and stopped to take pictures or just enjoy the view. It reminded me of the time I left a grocery cart in the aisle and walked out of the store with a two-year-old having a rip-roaring tantrum. I passed one tight-lipped lady who looked very disapproving of the poor family. I remember those folks too. Life isn't hard enough, there are people who see their vocation as making it harder for others.

The river trail led out to "the narrows." That's another trail in the park but it's unmarked because the trail IS the river. We stood on the bank and watched the folks wading across, but we didn't bring enough shoes to be willing to soak a pair. One lady coming back across the river said she waded until she saw people in up to their waists. She was carrying a large, expensive camera and said it just wasn't worth risking it. It was also a little chilly for that. I think the water was 58 degrees. The air temp was in the upper 70s.

A highlight of the river walk was seeing a great blue heron fishing on the bank. And the squirrels! They were so tame and funny running around our feet clearly looking for a handout although people aren't supposed to feed them. There was a prominent picture in the park literature showing a person's hand who had been bitten and scratched by a squirrel and required stitches. Personally, I'm not interested into coming into contact with those sharp teeth!

After the river walk, we hiked up to the lower emerald pools and came back via the grottoes trail. What a beautiful area of the park. Around the pool water was falling off the rocks, not enough to make a real waterfall, but enough to be kissed going by. Sometimes after thunderstorms there are gushing waterfalls that only last an hour or two. What a sight that must be! But actually, every trail in Zion offered scenic views and opportunities to just sit and reflect on the glory of God in nature's cathedral. Many mountain vistas have religious names, not surprising when you consider the impact of the Mormons in Utah. The patriarchs is one stop on the shuttle bus which moves tourists around the park. At that stop there's a short paved walk to an observation point with a view of three mountain peaks named Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Jacob stands behind Moroni. The same religious orientation was true at Bryce and at Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons. We found peaks and geysers called cathedral, altar, and grotto. I wonder what the ACLU will do to try to eliminate the religion reflected in the wonders of nature. Even the name Zion is based on scripture.

We left the park reluctantly to head for the Grand Canyon, the granddaddy and patriarch of the great cliff, mountain, and canyon vistas.

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