Walter and Sara Let the good times roll
In Part III, we left off at Grand Staircase on the way to Zion.

We drove into Zion via the East Entrance. The road takes you through the Checkerboard Mesa, an area where the rocks are criss-crossed with lines etched into the rocks.

Checkerboard Mesa Zion National Park UT

On this same drive you get to go through two amazing tunnels that were carved through the mountain sides to give easier access to the park. In the old days you could stop and look at the views at turnouts with huge windows overlooking the valley. Now you have to keep on driving. The tunnels are old and low ceilinged so big RV's have to pay a special fee to shut off oncoming traffic so they can drive down the middle of the tunnel. We met the regular height limit but the folks in front of us paid the fee to drive down the middle so we had a clear shot all the way through behind them. When you come out of the tunnels you then go down a long series of switchbacks. I wish I had photos but you can't stop on them either for obvious reasons!

We had reserved a campsite and it was waiting for us with an electrical hook-up no less--but no water! Here's the view from the campground that first afternoon as the sun lit up Watchtower, the formation on the right. Click on photo for a bigger version.

Watchtower from campground Zion National Park UT

That night we took an after dinner stroll around the campground and stopped to look at the Virgin River as it cascaded by the campground. Normally this is a pretty little stream with kids playing in the water. Not in late April! It was roaring. There were kayakers pulling their boats out who said that had driven all the way from Colorado to run the river because it was higher than it had been in years.

The next morning we took the short walk to the Visitor's Center and nosed around the displays. Then we took the wonderful propane powered shuttle up to the Museum to watch the introductory movie. They don't allow cars in the main portion of the valley unless you're staying at the Lodge. And once you get past the Lodge there are no cars allowed at all. This means that mostly the only things on the road are bikes and the buses. It's wonderfully quiet that way and the buses make getting around really easy.

We got to the museum just as the place opened and got to see the first showing of the day of the movie. It was gorgeous and a nice introduction to the park and it's history. Then we got on the shuttle again and road up to the Three Patriarchs stop. There's a little trail there that winds up the hill to give you a fabulous view of the formations called the Three Patriarchs.

Three Patriarchs Zion National Park UT

To the left of them is this wonderful formation that I didn't get the name of. Pretty much everything in the park was given a name by two men back in the early pioneer days. They walked around one day and named everything and mostly the names stuck.

Mounts near 3 Patriarchs Zion National Park

From the Three Patriarchs we took the shuttle up to Zion Lodge. Here's the view from the bus stop.

View from Zion Lodge bus stop

Do you get the sense that everything is UP? Well it is. The valley gets narrower and narrower and the view get steeper and steeper the further up the valley you go.

At the Lodge we took the Lower Emerald Pools trail. First it goes over the Virgin River. Here's the view looking up canyon from the bridge.

Virgin River from bridge at Zion Lodge

The trail is an easy one with lovely views. This is looking north from the trail.

View from Emerald Pool Trail Zion National Park

This is looking back towards the Lodge to the east.

Zion Canyon from Emerald Pool Trail

The pool itself wasn't emerald or particularly pretty. But the little waterfall that feeds it was very nice.

Emerald Pool falls Zion National Park

The trail goes along the rock face so you go under the falls.

Under Emerald Pool Falls Zion National Park

You can continue on from here and go up to the middle and upper pools but we decided to conserve energy so we could do a couple more short hikes at the other shuttle stops.

After a quick snack on the patio at the Lodge (a nice little sandwich bar) we took the shuttle up to Weeping Rock. There are a number of trails that start here and we took the one that goes up the hill to Weeping Rock itself. The water weeps steadily out of the cliff face here, forming hanging gardens on the cliff walls. Scientists have measured the age of the water and say that it takes thousands of years for the water to percolate from the top of the mesas down out of the rocks.

Weeping Rock Zion National Park

You can walk under the overhang and watch the water drip. With just the right light (which I didn't have) you can take great photos of the curtain of water. There were shooting stars and columbine blooming at the base of the walls. And here is the view of the valley from the trail.

Zion Canyon from Weeping Rock

While we were waiting for the shuttle we heard a rapid fire whack whack whack. It was a woodpecker way up in a tree. My zoom lens caught him!

Woodpecker at Weeping Rock Zion National Park

From Weeping Rock we went on to Big Bend. There aren't any trails at Big Bend but the views are fantastic. This is looking West from the shuttle stop.

Big Bend Zion National Park

And this is looking northeast.

Big Bend looking NE Zion National Park

And this is looking south. The white formation in the center is called The Great White Tower. It's the largest stone monolith in the world (unless you're measuring it around in which case it's second to Ayer's Rock in Australia.

Great White Tower from Big Bend Zion National Park

We went back in the late afternoon to get better light. Now you can really tell why it's called the Great White Throne.

Great White Throne late afternoon Zion National Park

The formation to the left of the Great White Throne is called the Organ. That's Walter standing looking at it!

The Organ Zion National Park

The last stop on the shuttle route is the Temple of Sinawava.

The valley forms a small bowl here and it really does feel like a temple.

Temple of Sinawava Zion National Park

There's a formation in the center of the temple that they call the pulpit.

The pulpit at Temple of Sinawava Zion National Park

We got off the shuttle took some photos and then rode the shuttle all the way back to the Visitor's Center and then hiked back to our campsite. It was hot and we were ready to have lunch and cool off.

Late in the afternoon we took the shuttle back out to Big Bend so I could shoot pictures in the afternoon light. The wind was blowing to beat the band. You could see rock climbers huddled along the cliff faces trying to keep themselves out of the wind. Most of the climbs take at least 2 days and so they spend the night in hammocks on the rock face hoping to not be blown away.

Along with the photo of the Great White Throne I showed you earlier I got this photo of a natural arch forming in the cliff face.

Arch at Big Bend Zion National Park

The wind was blowing so hard I had trouble keeping the camera still.

Our original plan for the next day was to hike the Narrows. This is a trail that requires that you wade in the Virgin River up through its slot canyon. But that was a no go. The river was flowing at 450 cfs (cubic feet per second) and they close the trail when it's above 140 cfs. Here's the sign we'd seen the day before at the Temple of Sinawava.

Sign at The Narrows Zion National Park

So instead we took the shuttle back out to the end of the line and took the Riverside walk out to where the Narrows usually starts.

The first time I visited Zion when I was 14 years old, there were a bunch of kids playing in the river. I went out to join them and stepped in a hole and fell in. It was a family joke that I'd been baptized in the Virgin river. I went looking for where I fell in and this is as close as I could find 44 years later.

Sara Schurr at Virgin River Zion National Park

Needless to say it was not a good day to go wading.

The Riverside Walk is a lovely level trail that starts at the Temple of Sinawava and follows the Virgin River as it curves through the canyon. Here are a series of shots from along the walk.

Riverside Walk Zion National Park Riverside Walk Zion National Park

Riverside Walk Zion National Park

Along about here we saw a wild turkey across the river.

Riverside Walk Zion National Park

Once again my friend the zoom lens helped capture her. On the way back we saw yet another one or then again maybe it was the same one who had covered a lot of ground and managed to get across the river.

Wild Turkey Zion National Park Wild Turkey Zion National Park

The trail ends here where the Narrows begins.

The Narrows Zion National Park

Normally you climb down a few stairs and start hopping rocks and wading in the river. But this is as far as you could go that day.

Sara Schurr at The Narrow Zion National Park

Here's a view from the Narrows looking back down canyon.

The Narrows looking south Zion National Park

You can get an idea of the flow rate from this photo.

Virgin River at The Narrows Zion National Park

There were a whole group of ground squirrels scurrying around on the beach here. They didn't seem to mind people at all.

Ground Squirrel Zion National Park

After a very pleasant walk, we hopped back on the shuttle and went back down canyon. It was cooler that day than the day before and we decided to walk the Par'us trail from Canyon Junction (where the road from the east entrance comes in) back down to the Visitor's Center and our campsite. This is a walking and biking trail and we mostly had it to ourselves.

There were flowers! Well, yes some of these were from other hikes but you get the picture.

Wildflowers of Zion National Park

And more views of wonderful formations.

Here's the West Temple.

West Temple Zion National Park

And a panorama of the area around the West Temple. Click on the Picture for a larger version.

West Temple Panorama Zion National Park

The formation in the center of this photo is the Altar of Sacrifice.

You can see it more clearly here.

Altar of Sacrifice Zion National Park

And these are the beehives which aren't too far from the Three Patriarchs.

Beehives Zion National Park

As always I managed to find a lizard sunning himself on a rock. Three lizards who stayed still to be photographed in one trip, not bad!

Lizard in the sun Zion National Park

There were a series of great bridges that you cross as the trail goes back and forth across the river. Here's Walter on one of them.

Walter Cooke Bridge on Par'us Trail Zion National Park

We got back to the campground and had some lunch out on the picnic table. The campground has really wonderful views.

This is what you could see looking northeast--not bad for a picnic table view, huh?

Campground view NE Zion National Park

And here are a series of photos I took of our trailer, Rosita the Casita. Here she is looking north.

Rosita Casita looking north from campground Zion National Park

And looking west. This was the view from our kitchen table.

Rosita Casita Looking west from campground Zion National Park

And looking east towards Watchman.

Rosita Casita looking east towards Watchman Zion National Park

Can you imagine opening the door to your trailer each morning and evening and seeing this view? I think Watchman is my favorite formation in the park.

Watchman from campground Zion National Park

After 3 absolutely gorgeous sunny days, the clouds came in on our last night. There were a few sun breaks as we drove out of Zion on our way north to Salt Lake City the next morning. But they disappeared pretty quickly. By lunch time, this was the view we had. Looks like winter again, huh?

Utah Mountain View

The only taste of spring was occasional swathes of little purple flowers that I decided to call purple haze.

Purple Wild Flowers along highway Utah

It poured and hailed for the 120 miles leading into Salt Lake. But it stopped and the sun peaked out by the time we found a place to camp for the night. It was nice not to have to set up camp in the rain.

The next two days were totally uneventful as we made our way through Idaho and Washington and home again.

I hope you enjoyed sharing our trip with us. If you get a chance, Zion is well worth the trip!