Monday, July 21, 2008

The Land of Zion Canyon

Joe and Ned Hiking the Virgin River Through the Narrows

Waking early we drove to St. George, UT to get the car serviced at the Honda Dealer. Afterward we went to IHOP for breakfast, stopped at Target for some supplies and then went to the St. George Dinosaur Discovery Site at Johnson Farm.

The site houses some exceptionally well-preserved dinosaur tracks that were discovered by Dr. Sheldon Johnson when excavating a hillside on his farm. Recognizing the significance of the find he founded a museum and built a building over the site. The museum also contains fossil fish, fossil plants, rare dinosaur remains, invertebrates traces and important sedimentary structures. They have a great paleontologist on site to answer questions making the visit much more interesting and very informative.

Examining Where Dinosaurs Walked

Returning to Zion National Park we stopped at the Nature Center and attended a Junior Ranger program on bats. Afterwards the boys received their Junior Ranger Badges. Then we rode the park shuttle to the end of the canyon. Zion's shuttle system was started to reduce traffic congestion and pollution, noise and resource damage. The only downside of the shuttle is it is hard to see the canyon well from inside but fortunately there are lots of stops.

We took the shuttle to the last stop, Temple of Sinawava. From there we hiked the Riverside Walk along the river. It follows the Virgin River for a mile until it ends at the river. To go farther you have to get wet since the river pretty much fills the canyon. So we took off our shoes and went upstream upstream for a couple of bends before we returned to the shuttle. We dried out enough that when we got to the shuttle stop that we barely made the seats damp.

Next we stopped at Big Bend where a mule deer was nibbling on a tree. This is good stop to see the Great White Throne which rises more than 2400' above the canyon floor. The magnificent white topped monolith is the most famous of Zion's landmarks. The name was given by Frederick Fisher, a Methodist minister, who also named Angels Landing and the Three Patriarchs. Fisher felt that the monolith was magnificent enough to symbolize the throne of God.

The next stop was Weeping Rock a seep spring that has eroded a bowl-shape into the cliff face. Water on the canyon top seeps into the sandstone rock and passes through until it hits an impermeable layer of shale. This creates a year-round spring that nourishes hanging gardens of moss, ferns, grass and wildflowers. These are common all across the Southwest's canyonlands, but this one is notable for being so large. Enough water collects to form a small, tree-lined stream that trickles down the hillside for a short distance before joining the Virgin River. The trail was signed with interesting notes on the plants that we passed.

We stopped at the Zion Lodge and had a quick pizza dinner while watching mule deer grazing on the lawn. We then hiked the Emerald Pools Trails. We were just going to the lower pool but ended up going to go to all three. The Emerald Pools trails have breathtaking scenery along with the pools and waterfalls. A gallery of Zion's landmarks compete for attention from the lofty perch of the middle pools with Red Arch Mountain at center stage. Most people stop at the spur to the upper pool, where the trail becomes more rugged and steep but the upper pool at the end is worth every step. This secluded oasis is framed by colossal cliffs on three sides with a 400 foot waterfall.

After the hike we were pretty beat and it was getting late. We went to the ranger program on hiking safety at the campground and then to bed. We never did have a chance to set up the tent so we slept in the car.

Joe and Ned at the Zion National Park Nature Center

The Riverside Walk to the Narrows

The Next Bend in the Narrows

A Mule Deer Beside the Shuttle Stop

The Great White Throne

Angels Landing From Weeping Rock

Mule Deer Grazing at the Zion Lodge

Red Arch Mountain from the Middle Emerald Pool

No comments: