We wanted an early start so we arose at 6:30 a.m. and went downstairs to the hotel breakfast room only to find it chock full of Japanese tourists. Their bus was waiting outside, but rather than sit around we went back to our room and waited for things to clear out a little. We had our steak left from last night for our lunch, and despite the sign stating “Do not remove food from breakfast area” we managed to steal a couple of bagels for our lunchtime sandwiches.
We made it to Zion ahead of any big crowds (and saved $25 at the entrance) but due to typically heavy traffic, visitors are required to park at the Visitors Center and take shuttle buses through the park. Actually this worked quite well—there are numerous stops and enough buses that the wait is not significant anywhere in the park. Later in the day the buses got a little crowded but we had no problem getting around.
First stop was the Court of the Patriarchs, which are mountain peaks named for Hebrew patriarchs of the Bible. The white stone peaks, from left to right, are Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Jacob is mostly hidden by the red rock peak in the foreground named Mount Moroni, after the Mormon angel. After all, we are in Utah.
We hiked both the Lower and Upper Emerald Pool Trails in spite of the signs warning of pending doom.
These photos give you an idea of the scenery along the trail.
Soaring heights and sheer cliffs
A refreshing waterfall
And behind the waterfall
We also hiked the Kenyatta Trail alongside the Virgin River. The river looks harmless enough, but in the event of severe thunderstorms, flash floods tear through the valley and on occasion the main road in the park is washed out. Needless to say, the park is evacuated when there are signs of approaching danger.
The calm Virgin River. It’s hard to imagine this stream as a raging river. Cottonwoods along the river were planted by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930's.
Lots of rock and elevation change on the trail
After lunch (those pilfered bagels were delicious), we hiked the Weeping Rock Trail to the “waterfall,” which was actually springs dripping over and through the cliff walls, creating hanging gardens and an oasis-like environment.
You can see the water “weeping” and plants growing out of the rock wall.
From under a shelf in the cliff wall
Note the mix of colors—red, green, brown, black, white—on the mountainside.
We exited Zion to the east on the Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway, traveling up steep switchbacks and through a tunnel carved in the mountains. Along the way, we saw numerous interesting rock formations.
Checkerboard Mesa: Note both the vertical and horizontal erosion markings.
After taking the above photo, we experienced a brief but intense rainfall, resulting in the photo below.
On our return trip to Cedar City, we not only enjoyed the quaking aspens but caught sight of a little wildlife on the road.
A white tail in the woods
And a few wild turkeys crossed in front of us.
For dinner tonight we went to La Casa de Don Miguel. We ate at a number of Mexican restaurants on this trip, but Don Miguel was easily the best. Judging by the outside you’d never enter, but inside the fajitas and tortilla soup were que bueno and the Modelos were ice cold.
Tomorrow we leave the great state of Utah and head south to Arizona and the Grand Canyon.