April 19, 2008

Zion National Park - Utah

We arrived at Zion with great expectations....everything we'd heard about it was so..ooo good. It is a different NP than most. The Virgin River flows through an 8 mile long narrow, tall-sided canyon and eventually ends up in the Colorado. But since the space within the park is very limited, and there is only one 2-lane road through it, travel up & down it is by either park provided bus or bicycle. The Park is immensely popular, and I guess it was Spring break week out this way, because it was very crowded everywhere. This took a bit of adjusting for us, as we prefer less crowded enviroments.

We were fortunate to get a campsite, in the nice cottonwood rich South Camp. The campground had quite a few birds & other critters, but no new list list birds. Beyond the River was an awesome backdrop of peak after peak.

Second day there, we did the "Emerald Pools" hike, a short easy jaunt up the mountain across from the Park Lodge, that came highly recommended. The pools are fed by a series of "thin" waterfalls, in a tight canyon. This composite shot was about the only angle that I could capture it from.

Compared to what we'd been seeing lately, our expectations just weren't met. It was a nice hike though, and we enjoyed the easy pace of the day. The highlight was the hike down (along a different trail) were the stunningly brilliant flowers!

Next day we decided on a bit more of a challenge....a five mile trek up from the canyon floor about 1500' to a final elevation of 5800' and the spectacular view from "Angel's Landing".

The first section is fairly level as it follows the river and then crosses the canyon bottom.

Switchbacks allow the trail to climb the canyon wall, on our way up to Refrigerator Canyon. We find the going gets a little tougher and warmer as we gain altitude approaching the Refrigerator.

Once we finally arrive, we find the canyon is pleasantly cool, scenic, and walking is easy, hence living up to it's name.

The trail then climbs another series of switchbacks, called Walter's Wiggles. These 21 switchbacks are very tight and you gain elevation rapidly, but this section is short and fun!

The Wiggles put you on top of the ridge, at Scout Lookout, where views are amazing. A few hundred feet around a small chain-run ridge is another rest stop, appropriately called "Contemplation Point". From this point, gazing at the ridge to the south is a bit alarming because you get a good idea of the difficulty and "scare factor" of the rest of the hike.

Kim decided to wait and "contemplate" as I went on up the narrow ridge. (Hey, somebody had to stay back to collect the life insurance, right?)

The final 1/2 mile, the trail follows the ridge across a saddle and up the hogs back. This is where things got interesting, steep, where I was grateful for the chains. I was amazed at the kids on the trail, completely oblivious to the 1,000 ft sheer drops on either side.

But a bit more struggling and wah-lah we are at the top, as wittnessed by the large carin-like formation at the crest! ....and, as one might suspect, the view over the edge just behind me to the canyon floor 1500ft below was impressive, well worth the additional effort!

Of course, what goes up, must come down. As I casually skipped back across the top of the crest, I'm suddenly greeted with the view (and shock!) of having to now go down this steep, narrow ridge!


While I was busy going up & down the hogs back, Kim had spotted some much more daring folks on the cliff face below where I had just been....a group of four climbers, who we learned the next day had been up there making the ascent (oh, and yes sleeping in a hanging bag) for the past three days!

After a nice lunch while watching the climbers work the cliff, we took our time returning. We particularly enjoyed the more relaxing trip going down through the Wiggles and Refrigerator.

Our final day was spent doing a 15 mile roundtrip bike ride up the canyon (alongside the Virgin River) to the Narrows, the end point of the road up, where we took a short hike. The climb up was gradual, and the glide down fun & easy!

So, in summary, we had a good time, we're glad we went, but due to the large crowds, probably will not go back. For those interested in making a trip to Zion, the Angel's hike was the highlight, and we did hear that the western section of the Park (Kolob) was far less crowded.

1 comment:

LiveWorkDream said...

Zion is nice, but we prefer Capitol Reef NP. Even in summer, it's not nearly as crowded, and just as scenic if not moreso.

Your hike looked amazing though. How fun!