Thursday, November 19, 2015

Hikes 2015.080 and 2015.081: Zion National Park

These are all from my "Nevada Day" weekend trip to Zion National Park. Because I went with my wife, I didn't take any longer hikes. We did, however, manage a large number of short hikes, so I still got some exercise in, and, cumulatively, managed two hikes for the weekend.
For you non-Nevadans, Nevada Day recognizes the October 31, 1864 admission of Nevada into the Union. It is now observed on the last Friday in October. Because my wife works for the state of Nevada, I figured we'd be able to build a weekend trip to Zion into the schedule. So I splurged on two nights at the Lodge in Zion: About $250/night, which is kind of crazy for me, but I thought it would be nice to stay in an historic building, and with hiking options available literally right outside the door.
Arrived rather late and hungry on Saturday night, so, after dinner, we had very little time to hike. We ran into a deer before we even made it out of the parking lot, then ran into another pair of deer as we tried to head south on the trail across the river. We then turned around. I continued north to Lower Emerald Pool, then returned to the lodge. About 1.5 miles that night, plus probably 3 more miles just walking around the parking area and sidewalks as I strove to achieve my 15,000 steps for the day (tough, considering I spent nearly the whole day just driving). But I did reach the goal, then called it a night.
The next morning, after breakfast, I stepped outside to literally shoot the moon, "setting" in the cliffs high above. Then we hopped the shuttle bus down towards the Visitor Center.

Zion's visitor center is a little odd. Yes, there are rangers you can talk to. And, yes, there's a really nice bookstore / gift shop there to buy maps and books and what not. But what interpretive exhibits there are are simply signs in the courtyard outside the building. Also, there's no introductory video, which seems to be a mainstay of the NPS experience. Turns out that's at the Museum of Human History, a stop up canyon.
But first, we walked around the VC, where the cotton-wood were beginning to change colors. And we looked for the Archeology Trail. Took some effort to find. It's a short one, just 4/10ths of a mile roundtrip, according to the newsletter. Probably did more walking than that just looking for the trailhead. It's towards the South Campground, in case you wish to find it.

It leads to the foundation of an ancient grain storage structure. No, it wasn't pyramid shaped (Years from now, people will have no idea that this was a joke. Heck, I'm pretty sure that right now, most people won't get the reference!).
Wasn't much there, but it did give us a nice view, both up and down the canyon.

We then returned to the shuttle, and rode that up to the Zion Human History Museum. Not a lot there, either, but they did have the introductory video showing there, so we watched it. It mentioned petroglyphs, so we asked the ranger there if there were any we could visit, and she directed us back near the visitor center. So we hopped back on the shuttle bus and returned to where we had just been. Found the short trail to the petroglypths (probably another 1/2 of mile roundtrip, mostly just getting to the trail and back from the shuttle bus stop), then hopped back on the shuttle bus, to head back up canyon.
After that little hike, road the shuttle bus up to Weeping Rock trail. This is another one that park guide gives as 4/10ths of a mile roundtrip. Additionally, after I returned, I walked maybe another 1/10th of a mile down near the bridge.

Although short, it is pretty, particularly on a fall afternoon. The cascading water drips over a wide cave mouth, and scatters the sunlight that shines into the cave. Also, there was a bit of fall foliage along the way.
All of my walking in Zion up to this point may or may not have totaled 3 miles, or "one hike," by my usual three-mile, off-pavement standard. Definitely, if you toss in the sidewalk walking, I exceeded that.

We then rode the shuttle to the top of the canyon, then rode it back to the Lodge.
After a light lunch or "snack," we headed out, again. This time we both hiked to Lower Emerald Pool. Here (as at Weeping Rock), there were some Big Leaf Maple, Box Elder, and various oaks, as well as Cottonwoods that were turning color.
I had just been up this way the night before. But it was dark. Obviously more interesting when you can see the waterfall.

We returned to the Lodge. I used the restroom, then returned to the trail, heading across the bridge, then downstream, to Courtyard of the Patriarchs. This trail goes along the west side of the canyon wall, and passes under the three patriarchs (rock structures, obviously, overlooking the canyon). Shortly after passing them, it crosses a small creek. After another 1/4 mile or so, it reaches a split, with a short loop that would be walked, were one to continue. However, it was getting close enough to dark (this was the day after the switch back to standard time), so I turned around at the start of that loop, and returned to the Lodge. Probably four miles total on this segment of hiking (From the Lodge to Lower Emerald Pool, then to the Courtyard of the Patriarchs, then back to the Lodge).
Along the segment from the Lodge to the Courtyard of the Patriarchs, I passed a plethora of deer, and a large flock of wild turkey. The deer, you practically ran into on every clearing. The wild turkey were concentrated near what seemed to be a tie-up area for livestock.

Unlike the wild turkey I saw in Land Between the Lakes, these showed no fear. They did not run quickly and silently into the denser forest when they saw me. Instead, they just kept grazing. So I got plenty of shots of them. By contrast, I never got a decent shot of a turkey during my Land Between the Lakes hikes.
On this night and the previous night, we ate in the lodge. I mean, why not? Already splurging on the rooms. Might as well experience the whole Lodge thing.

Food prices are, of course, a little pricey. Figure on $18-25 for most entrees, though usually with a $10 or $12 option hidden away, somewhere. In fact, on the first night, I went with the salad bar buffet, because it included chili as the "soup of the day." Between the chili and bread and all the veggies, I ate very heartily that day.
I also ate heartily the next day, though that was uninten-tional. Because our orders were extremely slow being completed, they gave us the option of starting on the salad bar. Actually, that may have been more my wife, who specifically noted when she ordered that she was hungry and wanted something that would be ready quickly.
She passed on the salad bar, but I loved the salad bar so much the previous day, I was more than happy to go at it again. In fact, I was tempted to just order that again, despite the absence of chili the second night. Just beef vegetable soup. Instead, I went with the Navajo taco. So when the offer came to head back to the salad bar, while awaiting our entrees, I was happy to oblige. It did not disappoint.
By contrast, the Navajo Taco did disappoint. A Navajo taco is basically an opened-faced taco or tostada, but made on Navajo fry bread instead of a tortilla. At least, that's the way it's supposed to be made. Fry bread is, as the name would imply, fried. It's dough, deep fried, and so usually puffy and soft. My Navajo taco, however, tasted like it was built on top of pizza crust. It wasn't bad as far as food was concerned, but it did not taste like a Navajo taco is supposed to taste. it wasn't fry bread. It definitely wasn't as good as the little diner in Chambers, AZ, which we had visited during last fall's trip to Canyon de Chelly.
Three hikes from that trip, by the way: first, second, and third.
The Canyon de Chelly trip was a lot of fun. If I had to rank it, I'd say I had more fun on that trip than this one. But it also required 3 1/2 days of really serious driving, albeit broken up with some nice little surprises (the little mining town in western AZ, Winslow, and Meteor Crater) along the way.
The idea for this trip was to be more relaxing: Two long days of driving, but two nights in the same room, with entertainment (in the form of hikes and what not) starting right outside the door. Very different kind of trip.
So I guess there's something to be said for just making random stops on a long drive, though with the trade-off of being more tired at the end of the trip than at the start.

Can't say I wouldn't want to do this, again. Yeah, maybe in the summer, I'd be willing to camp. But, by the end of October, man did it get cold at night!

And, in fact, the next week, the highs were down in the 40s, as opposed to the mid-60s when we were there. Also, the scenery is beautiful, including at night, and, especially, at twilight. So maybe again next year, or in the spring. We shall see.
On the way out of the park, I stopped at Canyon Junction. If one were driving through the park, towards Mt. Carmel, they'd go straight, instead of turning north, into Zion Canyon.
Here, the canyon opens up, and there's gorgeous views in all four directions. Stained on to one of the walls is a figure that looks a little bit like Darth Vader. I mainly stopped for that, but enjoyed the views down and across the Virgin River.
This required no more hiking than crossing a bridge, but it still yielded some nice photos, and another national park moment.

So, a lot of short hikes on this trip, totalling 6-7 miles for the weekend. I made well over 30,000 steps on that full day in the park. My wife broke 10K, which is good, for her.

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