Thursday, May 16, 2013

Zion, Day 3--Hiking Riverside Walk and Emerald Pools

Today we hiked two trails Sue Ann and Jim had recommended for us.  We got up early and walked to the Visitors Center, where we caught the shuttle to the top of the canyon to do the Riverside Walk.  It follows along the Virgin River with some spectacular views of the canyon walls, and it is so fascinating as the width of the canyon narrows and you are closer and closer to both canyon walls.  At the end of the trail you can wade in the river--Jim and Sue Ann had told us to take water shoes--but it was much cooler this morning and since we had started early to try to get ahead of most of the crowds, it was still quite chilly when we got to that part of the hike.  We had seen several people who had rented gear from  one of the outfitter stores, including neoprene pants and water hiking shoes, which left them much better prepared for the cold river temps.  But since we were just in our shorts and had our water shoes, Trisha opted not to hike up river.  I did for a way, but it was fairly slippery among the rocks, so I didn't go very far.  It was still a fun experience to hike up the river a ways, but we heard from the shuttle bus driver on the return trip that the water temp today was 46--after a while my feet just got numb, and then I decided it was best to return to dry land!

On the way back to the trailhead we saw a young mule deer buck, with a growing antler rack, still had the fuzz on them, which was cool.  Then we took the shuttle back down to Zion Lodge, where we hiked the Emerald Pools trail.  This is a trail up the mountain leading to 3 different pools, aptly named Lower, Intermediate and Upper Pools.  They got their name when the first Mormon settlers saw the pools--apparently there was a lot of green algae along the sides of the pools so they called them emerald.  Not too much water today in the Lower or Intermediate Pools, but a bit more up top.  It was a nice hike with some great views, but the day was really heating up and the crowds were getting bigger by the time we finished around noon.

Came  back down and walked to our now favorite little cafe between the campground and the park entrance, where we ate another delicious vegan super food wrap--lots of greens, seeds and berries--and then back to the RV to rest a bit before Jim and Sue Ann joined us later in the afternoon.  Jim shared with us plenty of his discoveries of out of the way, off the beaten path places around southern Utah for us to see over the next few weeks, so that was really helpful.  Had supper at a superb little Mexican restaurant just up the road from the campground, and then they drove us to another area of the park where they hike a lot and from where we could get some marvelous views of the back side of many of the peaks we had been viewing from the other side for the last few days.  Everywhere you go here you get just some amazing views of gorgeous scenery.  This is truly a glorious area and we know we'll have to come back to see more of it in detail.  They drove us by a house that backs up to the mountain where a gigantic boulder had come tumbling down off the mountain and crashed into the back of the house.  Fortunately no one was hurt, but it destroyed part of the house.  So, the owners just remodeled around it and how have a big room off the back of their house designed around the boulder--just remarkable!
The drive was incredible also due to the rapid elevation gain--where we ate supper is at about 4000 ft., and where we ended up and got out to take some pictures is at about 8000 ft!  A 12 degree drop in temperature just due to the elevation gain, and it was decidedly chillier and windier up there, but the views were amazing.

Here are today's pics:

Views along the Riverside Walk hike

 Looking downstream on the Virgin River
 While I was looking upstream on the river, Trisha was looking a bit farther "upstream"--to the heavens, perhaps?  Like I've always said, with her keeping her eye on the prize, my best chance to make it through the Pearly Gates is if I just hang on to her skirttails for dear life!!
 Little grotto along the trail
 Trying to get as much of the canyon wall as I can with Trisha in the photo to give you a sense of the magnitude of this place--I'd have to rate the result as about maybe one tenth of what it's really like, you just can't believe it!
 Interesting patch of grass, just growing down from the side of the rock
 Everywhere you go in Zion, you see these massive arch formations
 Above:  Mr. Squirrel--despite the many warning signs all over the park not to feed the animals, so many people have fed the squirrels that they are so unafraid of humans--later, when we were taking a break at the Upper Emerald Pool, some folks were actually holding nuts out for the squirrels, and we saw a couple actually come up beside a woman sitting on a rock and climb up the side of her purse.  Big problem is that squirrels carry some diseases that easily jump to humans with contact and the less afraid they become of humans, the more likely the contact.

Below:  first shot is from a distance, and second is with telephoto--Trisha under an overhang

 This shot is tot he top of the canyon wall where she was standing
 Just love how the sun's changing light makes such different scenes
Some of the beautiful flowers along the way, shooting star, columbine and paint brush

 Most of the columbine we've seen have been bright yellow, but loved this orange one!

 Hiking in the river!

 Above and below:  Emerald Pools trail, near the Lower Pool

 Above: Intermediate Pool

 Below: at Upper Pool

 Rocks reflected in pool
 Views along the trail on the way down

 Nearing Zion Lodge on the hike down, the horseback tour crossing the river
Above:  the house with the rock in it!
Below:  views from our drive after supper tonight; Jim and Sue Ann have hiked many trails along the tops of these ridges!

 Spectacular view of East Temple, Court of the Patriarchs and West Temple

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