Day 2: Zion National Park

Trip Start Nov 14, 2008
Trip End Nov 23, 2008

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What I did
Court of the Patriarchs Zion National Park
Read my review - 3/5 stars
Emerald Pools Zion National Park
Read my review - 5/5 stars
Riverside Walk Zion National Park
Read my review - 4/5 stars
Weeping Rock Trail Zion National Park
Read my review - 3/5 stars
Tribal Arts Gallery

Flag of United States  , Utah
Saturday, November 15, 2008

Day 2 began with an early start. Donna and Lindsay had contacted me last night to say that the car broke down in Death Valley and that they were running a day behind but hoped to be in Zion by really late tonight.

I decided not to waste a day and went into the park myself. Using my National Park book I planned some of the hikes I wanted to do. When I got to the Ranger's station I bought a National Park's pass, it costs $80.00 and is good for all the National Parks entrance fees and is good for one year. The daily entrance fee for a private vehicle in Zion is $25.00 so for our trip the Park pass was going to pay for itself in only a few visits.
I went into the Visitor's Center got a few maps of the park, got my passport stamped and found out about the shuttle system. The National Parks Passport program is run by a non-profit company that donates their proceeds to the National Park Service. The passport is a book that contains information and maps on all the Parks in the US. At each park you can find a cancellation station that you can use to record the date of your trip to the park. Its similar to an actual passport cancellation. The very helpful rangers informed me that the shuttle was still running this late in the season and if I wanted to use it I could park in the lot at the visitor's center and pick up the shuttle there. The shuttle in Zion is mandatory all summer long but optional in the fall. The shuttle system is great way to see the park and not have to worry about getting a very limited parking spot at any number of the scenic stops and hiking trails. I'd recommend you use it if its available to you. I also filled up my Camelback backpack with drinking water which is provided at the visitor's center.

My first stop in Zion Canyon was the Court of the Patriarchs. There is a short trail there that climbs 40 steep ft. I opted to take pictures from the bottom and take some pictures alongside the Virgin River. I saw several types of animal tracks and scat near the river. The park is home to mountain lions, ravens, desert bighorn sheep, mule deer, and many types of lizards. I got back on the shuttle and went to the next stop at Zion Lodge to access the Emerald Pools Trails.

My guide book told me that the Emerald Pools Trails had three different hiking options and that there were some beautiful waterfalls along the way. I opted to do both the Middle and Lower Emerald Pools Trail. As is common for me I went backwards. I misread the sign and started with the Middle Emerald Pools Trail. The Middle Emerald Pools Trail is rated a moderate hike, its 2 miles round trip. I found the sudden change in elevation to be a little hard on the breathing, but I am from the east coast.
The narrow trail climbs up and up to the top of a ridge where you come across pools that create waterfalls down below. The scenery is wonderful but the trails are narrow and you come across the edge of cliffs a few times. The Middle Emerald Pools Trail diverts into two directions. You could either go to the Upper Emerald Pools or down to the Lower Emerald Pools. I decided to head down and I was not disappointed by the view. The Lower Emerald Pools Trail is 1.2 miles roundtrip, rated easy and has beautiful waterfalls and hanging gardens along the way. You do get to walk behind the small waterfalls, the steps are slippery so be careful but its worth the view. There is a chain link fence along the most treacherous portions of the hike. The rangers say this is one of the more crowded hikes in the park. I saw only a handful of people while I was hiking but I was also there in non-peak season. I also saw more animal scat which turned out to be from a mountain lion. Its a good idea to keep an eye on the trail for markings from animals that are possibly still nearby.

I returned to the shuttle pick up and continued north-bound through the Canyon Loop Trail to the next stop at Weeping Rock. Weeping Rock is the most crowded hike in the park given the fact that the trail is paved, its only .5 miles in length, rated easy and has little elevation change to speak of. Weeping Rock is an overhanging blind arch in which spring water seeps through the Navajo sandstone that creates the illusion that the rock is raining or "weeping". True to fact there were many more people here than at the Emerald Pool Trail. I took several pictures, there is a great view of Zion Canyon from here. Some other tourists took a picture for me and I took pictures for them. Overall I spent about half an hour at Weeping Rock before continuing north.

The next stop on the Canyon Loop was Big Bend. Its so named because the park makes a huge bend to the right. When I got off at the shuttle stop I could see a crowd of people staring at one of the cliff walls. It took a few minutes for me to find what they were looking at. There were a group of rock climbers rappelling down the cliff. If you look hard at the picture you'll notice a blue spot, that is one of the rock climbers. I walked around here a bit taking pictures of cactus and there were some great views of the Virgin River from this area.

I caught the next shuttle heading north.....the shuttle buses come by about every 8 minutes so its really convenient. My next stop was going to be the Temple of Sinawava. I decided to do the Riverside Walk at the Temple of Sinawava. Its a 2 mile roundtrip hike, rated easy, along mostly paved roads that leads to the Narrows section of the Virgin River. I found more people and families with strollers in this area as it was easy access for them to get to. The scenery is lovely here. The trees still had alot of fall foliage on them and the sounds of the river is very soothing. I couldn't help but work my way out onto giant boulders in the river and just sit there a while and stare at the beauty of this place. When you get to the end of the paved trail you have two choices, turn around or continue through the riverbed to hike the Narrows.

The Narrows is a 4-10 mile hike through the riverbed of the Virgin River in the Narrows section, they say the scenery is out of this world but due to the fact that it was so late in the season none of the outfitters were offering hikes in this area. The water temperature would have demanded dry suits due to say I was a little disappointed is an understatement but if I ever return to Zion I will be hiking the Narrows.

I took the shuttle back down to the visitor's center to get my rental car. I decided to do the Zion/ Mt. Carmel Highway drive since I was hiked out for the day. Its not a long drive, there are several scenic pull off area but the scenery can't compare with what you find in Zion Canyon. I stopped a few places to take pictures and got a picture of Checkerboard Mesa before returning to Springdale for the rest of the day.

Next I decided to stop in the Tribal Arts Gallery to take a look around. Whenever I go somewhere I like to pick up a piece of art from local artists that represents the place it came from. I saw alot of beautiful sculptures and some blown glass fetish statues really caught my eye but I didn't buy anything because it was still very early in my trip and who knows what I would find later.

I went to the local gas station to get some soda and a few snacks, then I went back to my hotel to eat my leftover burger, watch some tv, shower, pack up my gear and talk to Eric on the phone before going to sleep. I had a really productive first day in Zion and I planned a few more things to do the following day.

Things learned on Day 2 out west:

 1. Zion National Park's website and some other helpful information

2. If you are going to be stopping at multiple National Parks, its in your best interest to purchase a National Parks Pass. It costs $80.00, is good for one year and gets you into all the National Parks.

3. The National Parks Passport program is a great way to help fund the parks and record the dates of your trips. Each park has a cancellation station where you can stamp your passport.

4. Always take drinking water with you if you plan on hiking in the National Parks, or anywhere for that matter. Do not drink from springs or pools of water, you can get a terrible infection that way.

5. Talk to the rangers before heading out on any strenuous hikes. They can inform you of trail closings and other hazards.

6. Be aware of elevation changes and also the degree to which the weather can change in the desert. It was common to be cold in the morning, mid 70s in the afternoon and 20-30 degrees when the sun set.

7. Keep an eye out for animal scat on hiking trails. It gives you a clue to the type of animals in the area.

8. The price of gas and food is much higher near the National Parks, fill up your tank before you get there.
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