It just keeps getting better!

Trip Start Sep 06, 2009
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of United States  , Utah
Friday, September 25, 2009

After a wonderful couple of days at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon we made our way about two hours North to the Zion National Park. It was an easy journey and we arrived at our motel (located outside the park) just after lunch.  The children were thrilled to see that there was a pool there so were anxious to dive in for a refreshing swim. Afterwards we decided to drive up to the park to pick up a map and work out the lay of the land and arrived late afternoon just as the sun was beginning to mellow.  As we drove deeper into the park we marvelled at this almost other-worldly landscape of rocks that were shaped like walnut whirls or meringues, petrified in terracotta coloured stone and preserved over centuries.  Neither Steve nor I had ever seen anything like these rock formations before and it was the most amazing drive down to the canyon floor. 

Zion is a much smaller (and younger) canyon than the Grand Canyon and somehow manages to combine elements of it's older, bigger brother with elements of Yosemite – it is softened with plenty of greenery and trees – and the river that runs through it runs quite gustily.  It is on a smaller scale to either the Grand Canyon or Yosemite and feels more intimate because of it.

The following day we came back to the park early and, after a hearty breakfast at the Lodge, embarked on the first of three walks around the canyon floor, none too strenuous (the children almost enjoyed themselves!) and all very easy going on tarmac paths.  I have felt a bit ambivalent about these tarmac paths which proliferate in American parks – it feels a bit 'theme park-y’ and overly tamed and tidy, but it was wonderful to see that it allowed some more elderly and frail people access to areas of the park that they might otherwise not have been able to get to.  And there are many, many more paths in all these parks for serious walkers too – it’s probably not too difficult to get off the beaten (or in this case, tarmac) path.

One of the things the children had been desperate to try since Yosemite was a mule trek and, because Zion in particular seemed to lend itself to it so well, we arranged to do one to cap off the day.  We joined the last trek of the day and it turned out to be the perfect time to do one.  The sun was losing it’s intensity and once again the light was beginning to soften and as we saddled up and trotted along the path following the river it seemed the perfect way to experience this beautiful corner of the American West.

The following day we decided to explore Bryce Canyon, about another hour or so North of Zion.  Bryce is yet another extraordinary canyon with the most bizarre rock formations.  Looking down into Bryce Canyon is like looking out over the tops of hundreds of Hindu temples (if anyone has ever been to Palitana in Gujurat, India, they’ll know what I mean).

Like the Grand Canyon, you approach the canyon from ‘the top’ and walk down to the canyon floor.  Unlike the Grand Canyon, this is merely an hour’s walk (as opposed to a full day) and quite manageable.  We walked along the Queen’s Garden trail and then joined the Navajo loop which snakes it’s way along the canyon floor and through this amazing landscape.  There were numerous trees – which seemed surprising as from above it looks pretty red and arid – and at times it felt like walking through a series of secret gardens with plenty of shade and something unique and wonderful to see at every turn. 

It really was a fantastic place to visit and Steve and I agreed that this had been our favourite walk of the trip so far.  The children, on the other hand, found the hour-long fairly steep ascent just plain arduous, on top of all the other strenuous walks they had been forced to endure over the preceding weeks, and they were delighted to hear that that walk had been our last in the Western parks.  The next day we left for the bright lights and bling of Vegas.   Katie knew she was coming home….
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mfjulien on

Zion & Bryce
Your photos are amazing (as always) but we marvel most at your energy and enthusiasm in organising such a trip and in writing such an excellent blog. We also marvel at the resilience of the children in doing so much in such a short time. Am afraid that all those walks will be a 'no go' area for Dad/Papa but Mum/Mormor will love them. Pleased to see that Steve now has his tooth back in the one photo of him...!!

Lots of love from Mum and Dad xxx

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