Thursday, May 16, 2013

Zion, Day 2--Hiking With The Experts!

Today was an unbelievable beautiful day!  Sue Ann and Jim picked us up at the campsite at 8:30 and took us hiking--first was the Canyon Overlook Trail, which is a short hike, but, as Jim says, you get a lot of bang for your buck!  Beautiful views all around.  To get there we went back through the tunnel, and this trip was much more enjoyable than when we came through yesterday in the RV!  Then, I was so nervous about staying in the center of the tunnel to avoid any issues of low clearance, I couldn't look at these holes we kept seeing in the tunnel as we went through, nor could I enjoy looking at the scenery after emerging from the tunnel--too many places with high rock walls by the road and very little clearance.  But today, since there was no one behind us, Jim was able to slow down and explain the holes to us--when they were building the tunnel in 1930, they cut out these holes so they could push out the debris from blasting through the rock down to the two trucks below.  Still just in awe of the fact that they built this road and tunnel the way they did with so little equipment.

Anyway, the parking lot for this hike is just when you emerge from the tunnel, and there are not many spaces, so that's why you come early.  But it was a great hike, and hiking with Sue Ann and Jim such a delightful experience.  Not only are they our good friends, but both of them led hikes throughout Zion over the years and know just about everything there is to know about the park and the different things you encounter.  So it was wonderful to have their commentary--like having your own private rangers to guide you!

After we did that hike, we headed farther east and did an absolutely magnificent hike off trail, up through the gorgeous pink rocks, to a little grotto where we stopped to eat a snack.  There were many small pools in the rock where water from snowmelt collects, giving frogs the perfect place to call home.  We saw tons of eggs, tadpoles and frogs, from teeny tiny to full grown, many of them sunning themselves on the rock by the water--when we got close they would jump into the pool and it was so fascinating to watch them swim around.  We also saw lots of beautiful flowers, and Sue Ann and Jim knew so much about the different varieties of plants and flowers.  They also regaled us with tales of the hikes they had led through this same course over the years, and had us almost falling down laughing at the stories they told!  But this is where it was just so wonderful to be here with them.  The second hike we did was not on any defined trail, and we never would have known of it or found it had it not been for Jim and Sue Ann.  They've done this area so many times and are both such experience hikers that they could help us by pointing out little switchbacks and ways to climb from one are to another for us, since we are by far inexperienced.  As Jim said, where he took us today was not only off the beaten path, but it really was a chance to see Zion as it was when it was formed.  He pointed out these black topped rocks high above our heads that had once been the river bed, millions of years ago.  And he also pointed out numerous rock formations way, way up, where he had hiked and climbed before, many where even Sue Ann said she decided to wait below for him!  So this was just a splendid experience and simply a glorious day--thank you Jim and Sue Ann!

They had to get back to St. George for an appointment later in the afternoon, but they showed us places to go in Springdale, the little community that starts right when you leave the park.  So, after they left we walked to town and visited this incredible gallery that specializes in locally made pottery, and saw some gorgeous pieces.  We had wanted to visit this studio/gallery of one of Zion's most famous photographers, but it didn't open until later, so we went across the street and got some juice and just relaxed, sitting outside, just enjoying the incredible views of the rock faces of the mountains.  Here you're just so close to the mountains and canyon walls, it's like you're just sitting in the palm of a giant hand, surrounded on all sides by sheer rock walls, but stunningly beautiful.

Went to the local grocery store and rode the free shuttle bus back to the campground.  The free shuttle service not only is in the park, but through town as well, and it's really nice.  Tomorrow we'll get up early and head up to do a couple more hikes Sue Ann and Jim pointed us to, and then meet up with them for dinner tomorrow night.

So, here are some pics--putting up more than usual since there's just not an easy way to pick and choose--hope you enjoy:

First two shots:  looking out through the holes in the tunnel

Looking up from where we parked to begin the Canyon Overlook hike
Looking back down on the parking lot as we headed up the trail

The entrance to this 1.1 mile long tunnel, blasted straight through this solid rock of the mountain
 You can see an RV coming through--they have escorts posted on either end and when a big vehicle comes, they close the two way traffic and just have it one way, for rigs like this to clear

Sue Ann and Trisha--best friends for over 60 years!
 Looking down on a little slot, but by the river, eons ago--everywhere you go here you can't help but come face to face with the evidence of the incredible power of water--how the river could erode this rock in so many ways is just awesome
 Some of the flowers we saw--some about to bloom out, some waiting for the sun to pop out, others already showing off in resplendent color!

Two views of a slot cut by the river

 Walking under this big overhang

Lots of places throughout the park you can see these beautiful arches cut into the rock by water

 Looking down on the road from Canyon Overlook Trail
A short bridge built to allow you to walk along the side of the rock face--Trisha had to concentrate on not looking down or giving into the fear that the bridge might not hold, while Jim did his best to try to make the bridge rock!  Alas, it stayed still, and we made it across and later back just fine!
 Two shots of some hikers going up to the outcroppings, called hoodoos, just to the right of the big rock, second one is through the telephoto.  Jim explained how he's done this hike many times and pointed out the places where you had to stay to one side or the other of various spots.  Needless to say, WE did not do this hike today!

At the top of the trail

 View from the trail of one of the tunnel holes
View of East Temple--an almost identical twin, called West Temple, is--you guessed it--to the west of this formation.  Sometimes called by local folks the cookie jar, since it looks like a big jar with a lid on the top!

 Now we're on the second hike, not on any marked trail, but just up the rock!

Just fascinated by the patterns of the rock as we climbed up

 Jim told us about reaching the top of this rock in the middle--when Jim says something is steep, us mere mortals know it's not for us!
 Jim, leading the way for Sue Ann, Trisha and me, bringing up the rear

Beautiful cactus flower

 The Whale--appears to be a petroglyph on the face of the rock in the back of the arch
Some of the pools we encountered on the way up

 Beautiful layers of pink rock!

Tiny frog swimming in a pool
 While his older cousins sun themselves on the side of the rock above the pool

 Another little slot canyon

 Heading into this neat little grotto, where it was cool, to stop and rest and have a snack

 Lovely geological specimen

 Looks sorta like a stack of pancakes!
 Heading down
 Looking back up to where we'd been

 Now we're coming down to a dry river/creek/wash that eventually goes under the road--here looking up the sheer rock face
 Amazing how this paintbrush flower can grow just hanging out of the rock--water seeps through the rock to keep it going

 Looking through a tunnel under the road

 Above and below:  two shots of Checkerboard Mesa
 In these next three shots, you can see the back topped rock that was once the river bed

 Just love these colors in the sandstone!

Cottonwood trees in our campground
 Lots of the "cotton" from these trees on the ground this time of year--yesterday it really affected Trisha's allergies, but today was better
 Above:  just a typical street scene in downtown Springdale!
Below:  Some of the lovely poppies and iris along the sidewalk

 Sculpture and pottery gallery

A sampling of the beautiful pottery from the gallery

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