Saturday, July 16, 2005 - Zion National Park
We got a decently early start today, which didn't leave a lot of time for sleeping, but we can sleep later - today we're visiting Zion! Before leaving Nevada and entering Mormon territory, we stocked up on provisions for our raft trip. Riverside in the Grand Canyon is a great place for a nightcap.
I-15 passes briefly through the northwest corner of Arizona between Nevada and Utah. We were gaining altitude and passing through some interesting desert formations and striations. We stopped for lunch at a Subway in St. George, Utah. I added a home-grown jalapeno and cherry tomatoes I'd brought from our garden.
Extreme southwestern Utah
It was less than 80 miles from Mesquite to Springdale, Utah, the gateway city to Zion National Park, and we arrived there around noon. You can no longer drive The Zion Canyon Scenic Drive in a private vehicle in the summertime, and parking at the visitor center fills up in the early morning, so we parked in a public lot in Springdale next to the Bit and Spur Saloon and caught a free shuttle to the park. The shuttles run every five to ten minutes and drop you at the visitor center, where you pay the park entrance fee and then catch another shuttle that takes you along the Scenic Drive.
Riverside Walk, Zion National Park
The shuttle makes several stops. You can get out for as long as you want and then catch another shuttle when you're ready to move on. We rode all the way to the end, to the Temple of Sinawava stop, and took an easy two-mile hike following the Virgin River along the bottom of a narrow canyon. It was over 100 degrees but pleasant in the shade. There's no stupid humidity here like we have back home. We got in the river at the Gateway to the Narrows, the far point of our hike, and cooled off.
The Organ and The Great White Throne
The Big Bend stop provides the prime photo opportunity for shots of The Great White Throne, the symbol of Zion National Park. We'd heard there were climbers in the area, but we couldn't spot them. As soon as we got back on the shuttle and rounded the corner, the climbers were visible through the sunroof. We got out at Weeping Rock stop and walked back up to watch them. They were a long way up with a long way to go.
Because it's there.
At Court of the Patriarchs we took a 300-foot trail to a lookout point with a great view of some sandstone mountains called The Three Patriarchs. As we were exploring Zion, I was struck by the many languages we heard spoken by the visitors. There were as many foreigners as Americans.
The Three Patriarchs
After about five hours in the park, we shuttled back to our car and drove to the east side of Zion on the spectacularly scenic Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway, a ten-mile road with a narrow one-mile tunnel connecting the east and south entrances of the park.
The Great Arch of Zion
The east side of Zion is otherworldly, like something out of Star Trek! The freaky weird sandstone mountains look like God took a giant wire brush to them.
Moon over Zion
We had reservations tonight 40 miles from Zion at the Bob-Bon Inn in Kanab, Utah, town motto "Best Earth on Show," also know as "Utah's Little Hollywood" for all the western movies filmed in the area. After checking in with Bonnie at the Bob-Bon, we went out for Mexican food at Nedra's Too. They were very busy this Saturday night. We had some service problems, but they were very nice and apologetic and knocked a few bucks off our bill, so it was cool. The food was good and sufficiently spicy, and that's what really matters.
After dinner we drove across the border into Fredonia, Arizona, on advice from a grocery store bagboy on where to get decent beer. We were trying to further provision ourselves for the upcoming raft trip. We won't be passing through any more towns from here on out, so we need to stock up now. The bagboy warned us away from the Utah beer, as it's only 3.2%. But Fredonia was kind of spooky in the dark, so we turned around and decided to try again when we pass through tomorrow.