Sunday, May 19, 2013

Zion, Day 5--Hiking Snow Canyon

Saturday, our last full day here, was yet another action packed, fun filled day with Sue Ann and Jim!  Friday evening, after we had dinner at the restaurant near their house in St. George, we drove one of their cars back to our campground in Springdale, about an hour's drive.  It was just a fantastically beautiful drive, to see the sun going down, painting these majestic mountains and canyons in a gorgeous mural of outrageous colors.  Then, Saturday morning, as we drove back to St. George, it was so different, to see the ways the light of the early morning bathed the landscape in such different colors and shades--just an ever changing tableau of absolute beauty.  You can just stand still out here and look at the same spot in the distance, and in just a few minutes the way the sun hits it, with cloud shadows, etc., the look will change into something else altogether.  Like Sue Ann and Jim have said so often since we've been here, they've been here 4 years and never quit saying "Wow" every time they look out the window!

So, we got to their house and were grateful for their letting us use their washer and dryer to do laundry, so we didn't have to sit and wait on it at the campground laundromat.  Jim was already down at the community center playing pickle ball--a game we'd never heard of before coming here.  It's a game played on a court similar to a tennis court, but smaller--you can fit two of these courts into the same space it normally takes to lay out a tennis court.  You use a hard surfaced paddle, a little bigger than a raquetball raquet, and a whiffle ball.  It was developed by a man some 15 years ago, and he and his family had a dog named Pickles, who would chase the ball, so they got to calling it Pickle's ball, and eventually the name pickleball attached to the game.  As I understand it, the game is very popular out in this area of the country and Jim says it's growing in popularity in Florida.  A fast paced game, and a real workout.  So Sue Ann, Trisha and I walked over to watch Jim play as he finished a very fast paced doubles match.  They have 10 or so courts and at 8:30 in the morning they were all filled, and had been for quite some time.  We got to meet lots of their friends, and it's really a wonderful group of people there.  This development is truly the definition of a place for active adults, with so much going on, adjacent to a public golf course, all sorts of sports and other activities, numerous clubs and groups, and facilities like game rooms, craft rooms, woodworking shop, library and book exchange.  As we were walking back through the community center, we passed the lawn bowling green, where a big group was beginning to play, a pet festival, where residents had pets of all kinds, from tiny puppies to horses--and met a friend of theirs on her way back to her house, riding in a golf cart done up like a Land Rover, who had the cutest little shihpoo dog with her.  Trisha went nuts over that dog!  Fortunately, Sue Ann and Jim had too much planned for the day to have any time to get on the computer looking at ads for dogs!!

They took us to yet another fantastically beautiful area to hike, outside the national park, called Snow Canyon, which is actually a Utah state park.  It is an area of this gorgeous pink sandstone, with areas of whiter rock that just offers such contrasts in colors and textures.  We thought it may have gotten its name because of a lot of snow at some point during the year, but learned that it was named after an individual named Snow.  Anyway, it was another unbelievably beautiful hike, across some sandy low levels, and then up and over vast arrays of pink rock, with brilliant contrasting colors of green trees against the rock, bright sunshine and a sky of perfect blue, with an occasional white puffy cloud to add to the picture.  What an incredible hike!! I kept stopping every few feet to take pictures and look at the views.  Everywhere you turned there was another sight that just took your breath away, in awesome wonder at the magnificent beauty of it all.  Jim, who is one of the happiest people you'll ever meet, took great delight in teasing Trisha--just like he did when they were growing up together in Kingsport!--pointing to seemingly unclimbable peaks and telling her that was the way we were going, just to see her reaction!  But, of course, he always led us along paths that he knew well, finding flat ledges for us to walk on along the side of seemingly sheer straight up rock.  Even still, when we looked up to the top of where we were headed, it looked a good bit more daunting than we thought we could do, and in places it was pretty steep, but we made it to the top and the views were just glorious!  Everywhere we would look, though, we could see much higher peaks and ridges where Jim had hiked before.  Some of them were so steep and seemingly impossible to climb, we just had to shake our heads in wonder at his ability to do it.  Sue Ann had done many of them as well, but on some she said she would just stop and wait for him to go on to the summit and come back down. This is an area where there is a proliferation of another geologic phenomenon, moqui marbles.  There are large areas of black volcanic rock, in great big chunks and boulders--as you get close to them you can see they look like conglomerates, with tons of round, marble shaped stones of various sizes, but usually about 1/4 to 1/2 the size of golf balls.  Then, as the softer rock erodes around the marbles, they come loose and are scattered all around the rock surface.  You have to be really careful not to step on them--remember the scene in Home Alone where the kid scatters marbles and the bad guys hit them and go skidding to the ground--same thing would happen, only at much higher altitude!!

As we were coming back down, there were more people hiking the area, lots of families with kids hiking.  It was wonderful to see families getting young kids out hiking, but as is too often the case, sometimes folks get out in an area where they are in over their heads, ability wise.  As we were driving out of the canyon, Jim pointed out an area where he had once come across some kids who had scrambled up the canyon wall to a point where they didn't know how to get down, and the parents couldn't figure out how to get up to get them, so Jim went up and brought them down.  Sometimes people are not careful, and sometimes they're downright crazy--several times on our hikes we would pick up discarded beer cans and pieces of broken bottles, trash that people had just thrown on the ground.  But to take the cake, the other day after we had done a hike in Zion, as we were riding the shuttle back down the canyon, the driver told us someone had gotten bit by a rattle snake the day before--but the reason is that the guy had seen the snake, decided it would make a great picture close up, so he kept getting closer and closer to the snake and finally got close enough to lean down to take a close up, and guess what--the snake bit him!  There are signs all over the park saying to stay away from snakes if you see them, but some folks just don't seem to listen.

Anyway, after hiking, Sue Ann and Jim took us to see this wonderful amphitheater where they have excellent outdoor plays and other performances through the summer and at Christmas have a live nativity scene/performance.  It's set into the canyon, with the stage backing up to the wall, and there are cables attached to the rock walls where they use from time to time for actors to "fly" down from the sky in productions.  Just beautiful.  It's a big revenue source for the town of St. George, and it's also adjacent to a high school, which is really a wonderful opportunity for the students.  It's hard to really describe the setting, but there is a long plaza area as you approach the steps leading up to the amphitheater, with a trough running down the middle of the steps and through the plaza, which they often have filled with running water on nights of performances.  We could only imagine how spectacular that would be!  There was an outdoor market along the plaza and we got some beautiful Navajo crafts--but the funniest thing was that they were offering camel rides!!  The two camels they use in the Christmas production were there and Jim said we just had to do it.  Trisha was a bit reluctant at first, but knew she'd never hear the end of it from Jim if she didn't ride, so we took a short spin on top of a camel!!  Definitely something we'd never done before!  Jim was laughing so hard he could hardly take pictures!

From there they took us to Kayenta, a beautiful little community on the canyon floor, with beautiful homes, constructed according to fairly strict guidelines, all one story, but often quite large, set low, and partially below grade, but all with fantastic views of the canyon.  And there was a wonderful little village shopping area where we ate lunch.  We also visited a photography studio where they had unbelievable large photos of the canyons and other sights in the area, many of which Jim and Sue Ann had hiked, but just stunningly beautiful shots--got us really excited about going to Antelope Canyon!
Got back to their house and while Trisha and I finished up the laundry, Sue Ann went to the pool to do some laps and Jim went to the gym to workout on the bike.  These guys are in such incredible physical shape, here Jim had been up at the crack of dawn playing pickle ball, then hiking, then riding the exercise bike!

We had dinner at another delightful Mexican restaurant in St. George and then drove back to Zion to another amphitheater near our campground, for the first concert of the community symphony summer series.  Talk about a wonderful way to cap off an incredible week here, I mean, Sue Ann and Jim could open a tour planning agency and run everyone else her out of business!!  Here we are, sitting in the glorious outdoors, as the sun was going down, looking at the peaks of the canyon walls, the stars shining, the moon coming up, it just was fantastic!  Since the program was all about Americana, they also did an armed services tribute, similar to what the symphony does at Aspen on the 4th of July, where they played the anthem of each branch of the military and as each anthem plays, veterans of that branch stand to rousing applause.  Since Jim and I both were in the Army, we had fun teasing some of their friends from their neighborhood who were sitting in front of us, and who were Navy vets!

So, we finally bid adieu to Sue Ann and Jim last night after the concert, and will head out of here this morning, toward Lake Powell and Antelope Canyon.  But it's been such a wonderful week with them.  It's always great to see where your good friends live, and to get a glimpse into their lives.  Now we have a visual of where they are, and it was just so good to reconnect--not only to reminisce about fun times growing up, but also to see how happy they are now.  They live in such a lovely setting of natural beauty, have a wonderful neighborhood and community of friends, are active in their local church and are co-directors of the local soup kitchen.  As we all said many times, when we hear some people say how they wish they were such and such a younger age again, we are all so glad to be at this age and stage in life, to be able to enjoy the things we do, it's just absolutely wonderful!  But we know we'll be back here, 'cause we hardly scratched the surface of exploring all this natural beauty--and Jim is itching to get us up on some of the more challenging hikes, if for no reason than to see Trisha squirm!!  Thank you, thank you Sue Ann and Jim, for an unforgettable week!

The pics:

Jim on the pickle ball court--is this guy determined or what!!

 Driving into Snow Canyon State Park--love the contrast between the pink and white rock formations

Heading out--just look at that blue sky!  I love to see these different colored striations in the rock.

 These layers never cease to fascinate me!

That's our destination, up top!
 Looking back down, at a stop along the way
 Some closeups of interesting formations

Beautiful multicolored berries on a juniper

No, we're not going to the top of these peaks, but Jim has hiked all along the top of these ridges!

 Isn't this just so cool??  The small arch, at the top of the peak we're climbing.

Some other places Jim has been

Walking along the ledge, high above the floor!

Shots of the volcanic rock, with moqui marbles showing in the surface

Jim has such amazing strength--he's just holding this rock up with a single hand!! LOL!
 Our fearless leader!!

Some more amazing scenes on our way up!

 Isn't this just hurt your eyes beautiful??
 Sue Ann and Trisha reliving happy times from their childhood when they roamed the hills of Kingsport--only this time at a bit higher level!!
 Be careful and don't step on any of the moqui marbles!!
 Stairway to heaven, perhaps?
 Almost there!!

We made it!

Love all these contrasts

Heading back down

 "Can you believe we were way up there?"
At Tuachan Amphitheater--"Give me some sugar, good lookin'!"

 Now we can mark camel riding off our bucket list!

The waterway, as we climbed the steps to the amphitheater
 Beautiful flowers around the theater walls

Looking down on the amphitheater stage, where they were building the set for Mary Poppins

At Kayenta, as we were leaving after lunch, Trisha saw a sign for a labyrinth and sculpture garden--here is a lovely storyboard, with symbols explaining the stages of walking a labyrinth.
 Sculptures along the path to the labyrinth

 Beautiful Chartres style 11 circuit labyrinth--just loved these pink rocks set into gravel paths
 Is this just a gorgeous setting for a labyrinth or what!!

 Altar at the center, where people have left various objects in memory or honor of loved ones

One of several memorial benches around the labyrinth
Another labyrinth, this one in Sue Ann and Jim's neighborhood, built by the community meditation club

Walking up to the concert
 What a place to experience a concert

Wow!  What a week!  As we've felt in many of the places we've been so far, we're feeling sad about leaving here, as we've become familiar with many of the places here, and, of course, leaving our good friends.  But we know we'll be back, and we also know we have many more wonderful adventures ahead!


  1. We just returned from four days visiting Washington DC. Could not wait to get up to date on your travels and pictures. Not disappointed.

    Jack you folks are educating me. I talk to friends about the places you have been as if I had been there with you. I can not believe how many times now at church for example someone talks about places you/they have been to and I can relate.

    I so much appreciate and enjoy your blog.


    1. Rod, thanks for the kind words, and I'm glad you're enjoying the blog!