Day 8 – 30th August 2008 – Zion National Parks
Up at a reasonable hour this morning – about 7:30am – I pop across to the on-site star bucks and fetch us two lattes and two freshly baked muffins – very nice. I take my latte and sit beside the Virgin River contemplating how this pretty little river could scour a 2000 foot gorge into what looks like impenetrable solid rock – amazing – methinks this pretty little river has a darker side …………… a much more darker side…………..
Right we really only have today to make the most of Zion – must make sure that make the best use of our time – the walk to Angel’s Landing looks fun but Lyn is not good with heights and so this option is immediately discounted - I think the description of “Anchored support chains are attached along some sections of the sheer fin”. Put her off.
Not to worry there is plenty of other options. We board the free Springdale shuttle which takes us to the park entrance from there we take the short walk into the park. We then board the free park shuttle which delivers us to our first stop – Zion Lodge.
For information access to the trailheads along the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive is only possible by shuttle bus – private vehicles are not allowed. There are 9 shuttle stops along the 6 mile drive and a round trip will take about 90 minutes – buses run about every 6 minutes.
Zion is a totally different experience to Bryce and the Grand Canyon – whereas these canyons are mainly viewed from the rim looking down where as with Zion you are on the valley floor looking up – makes it a very dramatic and imposing experience.
So from Zion Lodge we take the very pleasant and easy walk to the Lower Emerald Pool – the walk itself is about a mile and you are rewarded at the end with a waterfall. We of course were travelling towards the end of the summer and I think the Emerald Pool was struggling to justify its glamorous title and the waterfall was almost in danger of violating the trades description act – but not to worry the walk by itself was beautiful – plus the fact that when we are holiday we have to visit anywhere that has emerald in the title because Lyn’s engagement ring is an emerald and she loves emerald – there thought you might like to know that – too much information?
Anyway, based on the evidence of the Lower Pool we decide not to take the walk to the Upper Pool but instead take the path back to The Grotto via the Kayenta Trail – total walk was about 3 miles. The trail is studded with spectacular rocks, vista points and vegetation – I was particularly taken with the prickly pears and the yucca plants.
The trail ends at The Grotto shuttle bus stop and so we climb onto the next bus and we are delivered to our next destination the Weeping Rock – great name very intriguing – again this is a short but fairly steep walk – it is probably one of the easiest trails in the park and the most popular. Your short walk is rewarded by a the sight of water literally oozing from the rock face – this is due to porous rock sitting on top of non-porous rock – the water has to find a way out and so it seeps out of the porous rock – neat!
We were told how many years it took the water to seep through and now I’ve forgotten – I think it was 2,000 but I’m not sure now – I’m sure someone will provide the right information if I am wrong. It’s very slippery up there so be careful – and you may get a little wet – but if it is as hot as the day when we visited you will be glad of the cooling experience.
Right crack on back to the bus – next stop The Temple of Sinawava – this is a fabulous walk alongside the Virgin River - this trail was once called the Gateway to the Narrows, but now the popular name is Riverside Walk and is a 2 mile round trip hike. This path leads us to the start of the world renowned Zion Narrows Trail – exciting! Before I get to the Narrows I must say that the Riverside Walk is just the most fabulous walk – it’s mainly on the flat and it goes without saying that the scenery is stunning – however it is a popular walk and you will not be short of company.
Ok after a good walk (which seems more than a mile) we reach the Narrows – well I have never seen anything quite like it in my life – now bear in mind I did a little research on the Narrows before we came and I got the distinct impression that yes you may have to get your shoes wet in places but nothing prepared me for this!
People were wading into the Narrows water up to their knees – Lyn and I look at each other – the unspoken question – do we want to do this? Hell yes!! Well at least I do Lyn looks at me as if I’m crazy and declares that she is more than happy for me to walk the Narrows but she will be finding something a little less life threatening to occupy herself. Well maybe I exaggerate but you get the gist.
Assured that Lyn will be happy on her own for I while and filled with a certain degree of trepidation I begin the Narrows walk. It is worth mentioning at this point that the Narrows are over 12 miles long – and the guide suggest you should allow between 2 and 5 hours to do this walk – I would also suggest that you where something a little more substantial than sandals – empty your pockets of anything you don’t want to get wet and look after your camera.
I start off very timidly – to begin with the water is only up to your ankles but the river bed is full of rocks and boulders that do not give you a sound footing – you cannot see where you are putting your feet and virtually have to test every foothold to see if it is secure. The Narrows are a series of switchbacks and at every bend there is normally a slight rest bite where you can get to dry land – everyone is having a great time – there are no end of occasions we people stumble and almost fall into the river which brings smiles to the faces of those around but no one laughs too much because you know you could be next. People of all ages are up and down the Narrows – the kids are loving it – no tip toeing through the water for them – let’s get in there.
The people who have come well prepare go striding through leaving a wake behind them – I cling to the wall and allow them to pass.
As you go further into the Narrows it does become decidedly narrower and the cliff faces rise higher – it is awesome – I guarantee if you do it you will not forget the experience – I’m still having the nightmares to prove it –only kidding.
I walk for what seem miles but I’m sure it wasn’t – I think it was because every step was so precarious – I desperately didn’t want to fall in and give the camera a bath. Every time I was about to turn back I thought to myself maybe I ought to walk just one more bend – I could imagine having conversations when I got back with people saying oh you didn’t turn back then did you if you have just gone around the next bend you would have seen……. So I kept going – bend after bend.
Anyway by now I must have been at least two hours into the walk and I noticed that clouds were starting to close in – I started to think of all the safety notices such as – in the case of flash floods do not try and out run the floods (oh yea) but try and find some form of high ground – some form of high ground – we were surrounded by 2000 foot sheer cliff faces – Sir Edmund Hilary would have been pushed to find high ground here. Time to go back I think.
To be fair the gorge was as pretty narrow now and my need to experience the Narrowness of this gorge had been satiated. I reluctantly turned and made the long journey back. The way back was with the current and would surely be a lot quicker plus I’m sure I could remember all those shallow parts that I so carefully picked out on the way up – ha you’ve got to be kidding!!
Anyway the walk back wouldn’t take so long would it, after all I was an old hand at this now and it was time to demonstrate to the rookie Narrow walkers that there was nothing to this and us returners could now stride out with a new purpose – well I got soaked on the way back – no I didn’t fall in – there I know you all wanted me to fall in didn’t you - however I did see a couple of spectacular falls – the best or the worst depending on your point of view was this poor old Chinese lady – she was walking with her family and I think she must have been the Grandmother –she was literally with 20/30 yards of completing the walk when she decided that it was time to have a relaxing sit in the water – her family ran to her rescue but they were laughing so much (including her) that no one could pull the poor lady to her feet. I tip toed on my way praying not to slip now – so close to the end.
Well you’ll be pleased to know I made it safely back, shorts wringing wet to the top of my legs but otherwise unscathed. However, I had rubbed two or three bad blisters on my feet – the sandals were not a good idea – be warned if you are going to walk the Narrows wear something sensible on your feet. Still great fun.
I walk back along the River side walk and catch the shuttle bus back to the Visitor’s Centre – oh blisters really are playing up now – the cloud had really set in now and we have a short lightening storm – I get a little concerned for my fellow Narrows walkers – I hope every one is safe down there - I’m sure they were the rain did not last that long.
I get back to the Desert Pearl about 5:00/6:00pm – Lyn is already back. We exchange stories of our afternoon – she returned to the Visitors Centre and watched the film about the history of Zion – which see described as brilliant and well worth seeing. She then took herself off to the shop at the Visitor’s Centre to look over the amazing Photographic Exhibition and Museum of Photography – in fact she was so impressed with the Photographic Exhibition that she insisted that I go and have a look before we go out to dinner. She then returned to the room and sat outside to read my book and watched the thunder clouds gather over Zion and saw the lightening (I can’t remember her saying that she was concerned for my safety when she saw the thunder storm gathering – I’m sure she did I must have just missed it).
After showering and changing and of course showing Lyn my blisters (not a lot of sympathy there I fancy) – we make our way back to the Photographic Exhibition at the Visitors Centre – unfortunately by this time it had closed but I could see some of the fantastic photographs on display from outside – well worth a visit. We satisfied ourselves with a quick look around the Museum of Photography and then walked into Springdale for dinner – its really not that far (but far enough with blisters – I don’t seem to be getting the sympathy vote here).
The evening is nice and cool – and for once I am grateful for a bit of cloud cover. This is of course the beginning of America’s Labour weekend or is it Labour week and so everything is very busy. We decide to eat at Wildcat Willies – it is full at the moment and a line(queue) has developed for those wanting to be seated. We stand in line – I, of course after my gas(petrol) station incident am very well versed now in line etiquette. Anyway we reach the front of the line only to be told that we should have registered our names before we had got into the line and now that we had registered our names we would have to go to the back of the line – maybe I’m not so well versed with line etiquette as I thought.
Anyway, we are eventually seated – average food – average service and overpriced and that is he first time I could say that – big thumbs down I’m afraid for Wildcat Willies – should have gone back to the Pioneer!
As soon as we had finished our meal we walked back to the Desert Pearl – our Zion experience was coming to it conclusion. Sat and watched the television for a while – America was preparing itself for hurricane Gustav – looking very serious.
Zion was absolutely fabulous certainly Lyn’s favourite to date – I think Lake Powell may still be my favourite with Zion a close second – that puts the Grand Canyon third – that can’t be right can it. Tomorrow the heat of Death Valley – heck!