Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Zion National Park, Day 1

As hot as it was when we got to Lee's Ferry Campground last evening, after the sun went down it did cool off some.  Had to run the generator to get some AC going until after supper, but we were then able to shut that off and open the windows, so we could hear the Colorado River, Paria Piffle, going in the background.  Pretty nifty way to drift off to sleep!  Woke up this morning to a lovely sunrise in Marble Canyon.  The river is so still and peaceful before it gets to the piffle and it's so nice to wake up to the sounds of bird singing, river running, and little else.  We sat outside to have our morning coffee and play a round of rummy, watching birds, the sun rise higher--it's a small campground, no hookups, but oh so peaceful and beautiful!  After the crowds of the South Rim it was a very welcome respite.  And we never would have found it had it not been for the recommendation of our friends Sue Ann and Jim--thanks guys!

We made our way on toward southern Utah, and the drive from Lee's Ferry to Zion National Park is truly marvelous!  Beautiful red rock formations, including massive mesas and plateaus, then the scenery would change and we would come into stands of stately tall pines, then more desert scenes and then, coming into Zion, I mean I just don't have enough adjectives and superlatives.  We just absolutely love all these canyons and scenery that's so new to us, and, even though we've experienced some sensory overload from time to time, we just can't get enough!  As spectacular as the Grand Canyon is, Zion is uniquely spectacular in its own right.  It's just so different--all sandstone, and the layers are just so amazing!  At one point as we were coming in, it looked like someone had started on an enormous painting, all beigey and sandy layers, and then, kapok, there's all this read--at one point it truly looked like someone had just hurled a bucketful of red paint at the wall, splashes of brilliant red and rust, looking as though it was paint dripping down the beige layers.  Wish I had been able to take pics of this particular scene, but we were driving and traffic was pretty heavy so couldn't stop.  It's also different in that you're right up against the canyon walls in places, much closer to the sides than anywhere we've been thus far.  I've said it so many times, but have to repeat myself--there's really no way to completely show, in words or pictures the enormity and gravity of the experience of being in these magnificent canyons.  Just know that it's an awesome place and if you ever have a chance to come her, don't think twice, just do it!

When you come into Zion the way we did, you have to stop and pay a fee to receive a tunnel permit--there's one tunnel that's short and nothing unusual,  But there's another one that's just cut through this enormous mountain, built by the CCC during the Depression.  They even measure your vehicle, since the clearance is lower on the sides, and they have the two lane road turned into just a single lane, with an escort vehicle.  They tell you to stay inthe middle of the road, which we were more than happy to do , since the View just clears the top of the tunnel at the very edges.  Jim told us later that it was built by 150 men, over 1 1/2 years, with only two trucks and one steam shovel--they would dynamite a section, the steam shovel wold go in to get it up and load it onto the two trucks.  It's nothing short of amazing to see this tunnel, and the whole roadway.  In places you're literally just clearing it through a cut in the rocks, and there's no room for error, as you're only inches from the jagged high rock face.  And a couple of tour buses came flying toward us and a couple of times we thought for sure we were going to get hit when they came into our lane and we literally had nowhere to go.  And the tunnel, even with your lights on and you know there's no oncoming traffic--I felt very hyped up and worried driving that.

But we made it to the Visitors Center, learned that all the campgrounds in the park were full, but met Sue Ann and Jim, who led us to a wonderful RV park right outside the park entrance.  These are our dear, dear friends from so many years.  Sue Ann and Trisha were friends from when they were little girls in Kingsport, TN and Jim was in their circle of friends before too long--then he and Sue Ann became a couple and have been ever since.  Sue Ann was in our wedding and we visited over the years, when Jim and I were in the Army--they came to see us once in DC where I was stationed and they were at Ft. Bragg--with their then little girl, Laura.  Fell in love with that sweet little girl and knew then I wanted a daugher!  Anyway, they now live in St. George, Utah, about an hour from Zion, and are inveterate hikers and bikers.  They spent 8 years fulltiming in an RV, then came off the road about 4 years ago and settled in St George.  But they know Zion like the backs of their hands and have hiked every trail in the park at all times of the year--told us of one winter hike in knee deep snow! Sue Ann had visited us in Cherry Log several years ago, but we hadn't seen Jim in over 30 years, so it was wonderful to see them.  They have lots of plans to take us places off the beaten path over the rest of this week, hikes and bike rides and just seeing the sights.  Today we rode bikes back into the park and along this wonderful bike path up the mountain, until it ran out and then we rode some more of the way to the top along the road that's closed to auto traffic--just the shuttle buses, but the buses won't pass a bike, so you have to stop and step off the road.  We ended up putting our bikes on one of the buses and rode the rest of the way up.  Saw the Zion Lodge and they pointed out some of the hikes for us to do later this week.

Hard to believe that we were riding our bikes along the South Rim of the Grand Canyon day before yesterday, and today through Zion National Park.  We are truly blessed and fortunate to be doing this!  Anyway, here are just a few pics from today's adventure, but this week will be really super!

Sun rising over the walls of Marble Canyon this morning; you can see the Colorado River here, upstream from the Piffle.

 The View at our campsite--isn't that a cute little windbreak shelter over the table?  Very unique design.
Several shots of Balanced Rock, as we drove out of Lee's Ferry

This massive boulder fell off the wall of the canyon and landed on what was a pile of sandstone; now the sandstone beneath the boulder has eroded away down to this relatively small pedestal, and the guide book says it, too, will eventually erode away completely, and the boulder will come down--just hope that doesn't happen when we're on the road where we were when we took these pics, downhill!
 Story board explaining this--we tried to compare the extent of erosion from when the picture on the story board was taken and today, when we took ours.  Comparing the above pic to the one below, at first we thought it showed about a 50% reduction in the size of the pedestal, but then we realized the above picture was taken from the side angle.  Still an amazing sight.
Some more views of Marble Canyon, as we drove out.

Now into Zion, and on the bike trail with Sue Ann and Jim

 These two shots are of beautiful prickly pear cactus blossoms along the bike path, second one is a closeup

Jim, pointing up to the peak of one of the hikes he and Sue Ann have done many times
Off the bikes and walking up to Weeping Rock, where water constantly seeps out of the rock

Trying to get shots of some lovely blossoms,but not the best clarity

 Trisha's standing under this ledge-if you stand right under the face of the rock, as she is here, you're likely to get doused by the water coming out of the rock above
 The four of us, looking back into the canyon
 Flowers growing out of seams in the rock

More spectacular views!


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  2. We have actually pulled into some campgrounds while traveling in our RV and made a quick U turn and left. It was easy to see at a glance that these campgrounds were not someplace you would want to spend the night, not to mention several days.

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