Zion National Park

We had a scenic drive from Red Canyon to Zion National Park via I15.  We elected to not go through the Zion-Mt Carmel tunnel.  The coach would get through there, no problem (we would need an escort that costs $15), but the roads on either side are narrow and busy, it’s just less stress to go the long way, and it’s a really nice drive.

We are staying in a town called Virgin, named after the river that flows through it.  Virgin is about 14 miles away from Zion.  There are parks closer but you have to book way ahead to get closer-it’s fine where we are, in fact Zion River RV park is really very nice.

There is a large swimming pool, restaurant and the parks are spacious.  Great views too.  Once settled into the park, we chilled out and then went for a drive into Zion.

I’ve come to the conclusion that the Bryce/Zion area is the most beautiful and extraordinary natural environment I’ve ever been to.  It surpasses Egypt, Israel, Europe etc.  I’ve never seen such impressive cliff faces-shear vertical walls of Navajo sandstone in every shade of red you can imagine.  We were lucky enough to see some desert bighorn sheep on our drive.  They live in a very dry and harsh environment!

The drive we took last night was magical also because the sun was setting and the light on the surrounding mountains we brilliant.

We drove into the tunnel to realise our lights weren’t on, and we couldn’t figure out how to turn them on-this was a stressful moment as it was pitch dark in there and we had cars behind us.  We figured it out and I drove us through and continued the drive on the other side-this eventually goes through to Bryce Canyon National Park.  Eventually we turned around as light began to fade and returned to the coach.

The next day we drove back to Zion and parked on the outside of the park and caught the free shuttle bus.  This was new territory for us as the road last night was different, only shuttle buses are allowed into Zion.

We got off the bus at the Emerald Pool trail.  We hiked for 20 minutes with many other people to what essentially is a cliff overhang that water runs down creating a natural eco system.

This is rain water that has been slowly permeating through the sandstone.  These cliff overhangs are throughout Zion and are referred to as hanging gardens.  They are beautiful and the cool water that runs down from the overhang high above is refreshing to stand under.  There are many interesting plants here, wild grapevines oak, ash, maple and elder trees.  Aside from the desert bighorn sheep, there are mountain lions, deer, lizards, snakes, infact there are 69 species of mammals and 208 varieties of birds.  We saw a chipmunk and a little lizard-or what we would call a skink in NZ.

 

The Emerald Pool itself was disappointing.  NZ has much prettier rock pools than this, but in July earlier this year there was a huge monsoon deluge that created lots of devastation in the park.  Many landslides, rockslides and flooding which has resulted in tracks being closed and pools like the Emerald pool getting cut off from its natural path and becoming stagnant.  I’m sure in that in a future flood it will find it’s path again.

We then caught the shuttle further up the canyon to Weeping rock.  This was a similar overhang that we had seen earlier, but there was another walk there called Observation Point via East Rim Trail.  We could vaguely make out the route it took up the mountain and decided to walk it.  It was tough going and was a long way up one switch back after another.

It’s an 8 mile (6 hour) walk to Observation Point.  We got about three quarters of the way there but decided to turn back.  By then it was very hot-the car read 107 deg.  We had been walking on that track for about 3 hours-it was a great walk.  By then it was mid afternoon and we decided to return to the coach for some rest.  The day was full of the colour and texture of the surrounding hills and mountains.  The layers of sandstone swirl one way and then another in ever changing colours.  The photos that S took will describe the environment better than I ever could, except to say it’s been the most scenic couple of days I’ve spent so far, ever!  Next we head to the Grand Canyon-could it possibly be better?