Monday, October 12, 2015

Visions of Utah - Zion

Zion Morning, Zion
New Morning on Old Tree, Zion National Park

Zion National Park
We'd been through a whirlwind of travel already in our Utah road trip, roaming through Arches National Park, down to Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, and over to Antelope Canyon and Page, Arizona. We were young and ambitious then, so we were just hitting our stride when we rolled out of Page and across the desert plains to Zion National Park. I remember the scenery on the way being simultaenously striking and monotonous as we skirted through the bottom of Grand Staircase-Escalante. Sadly, the thing that stands out most to me is making a turn at the Thunderbird Restaurant with its faux art deco Thunderbird gleaming in the sun, and it's sign proudly proclaiming it's "Ho-made pies!" (Apparently the "Ho-made" spelling is just a remnant of the 50/60's product name war on the English language (and sign space restrictions) and not an indication that a lady of ill repute runs the kitchen.)

What the drive to the Mt. Carmel entrance lacked in notoriety, entering Zion itself made up for it by orders of magnitude. I remember coming into the canyon in glowing, golden afternoon. The sandstone was suffused with light, pulsing against the deep blue desert sky. As would become a theme with my wife and I, we were arriving later than planned, racing the light. We passed through the tunnels hewn into the rock on the way down to the valley floor, with open windows every so often providing glimpses to the luminous rocks, driving us on.  When we finally exited the tunnel, we were met with the presence of the incomparably majestic East Temple across the canyon, too large to even start to comprehend. When we first crossed the Virgin River, all thoughts of making it to the campground in time flew out of our heads. The river raged through its channel, dimming even as the last rays of light lit up the canyon walls around it. We took a picture...or forty. After being dragged from that vista, we drove the rest of the way to Watchman practically with tears in our eyes at not being able to stop and photograph the landscape around us, bathed in once-in-a-lifetime golden light. We got to the campground just in time to see the moon rise in the notch in Watchman.

The rest of the two-day stay was enjoyable (despite some rude first night neighbors...hey, we didn't WANT to pitch our tents in the gravel of a handicap spot next to was the only one available, and the ranger TOLD us to. We told you, but you were still needlessly grumpy with us, and apparently I'm still bitter about it. Jerks.), but didn't hold a candle to that first entrance. The Narrows were shut due to water levels, but we had a great time on Angel's Landing, Emerald Pools (so many frogs!), and meandering up and down among the sites of the Valley.

Our second night campsite in the grass on the floodplain of the Virgin River was a substantial improvement over the gravel. In the mornings, I watched the sun rise over the canyon walls, illuminating the far side first while we remained in shadow. The cottonwoods along the river were true to name while we were there, with a light snow falling in the breeze, floating down the verdant strip of river valley.   

Zion Moonrise 2, Zion
Moonrise over Bridge Mountain, Zion National Park

556767-R1-037-17Angel's Landing
Trail, Zion NP
Kayenta Trail vista; Sandstone and Yucca - Refrigerator Canyon

Natural Pictographs-
Zion NP
People of the Rock, Zion National Park
Zion Tree
Opportunity, Zion National Park
Cottonwood vista, Zion National Park
Court of the Patriarchs
Panoramic, Zion NP
Court of the Patriarchs panoramic, Zion National Park
CanyonMoonrise, Cable
Mountain, Zion NP
Zion Valley vista; Moonrise over the Watchman

Virgin River Sunset, Zion
Last light of day, Virgin River, Zion National Park

Checkerboard Mesa, Zion NP Emerald Pool, Zion NP
Checkerboard Mesa; Emerald Pool

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