Zion Canyon National Park

September 1st, 2nd and 3rd

Leaving Bryce, we cross the Sevier River again, which means we are briefly back in the Great Basin. The upper reaches of the Sevier Valley and are high and green. Soon, though, we descend via the Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway and Tunnel into the Virgin River Canyon and are thus in the Colorado River Basin again.

The word “zion”, we are told here, is a Hebrew word meaning a place of peace and refuge.  Thus, the Mormon pioneers named this canyon Zion. Then again, the Mormons called all of Utah “zion”.

After the pleasant tempertures of Capitol Reef and the high-altitude chill of Bryce, Zion is sweltering.

Zion Canyon!  Now this is a “canyon”:

1a_Zion, now this is a canyon

And like both Capitol Reef and Bryce, it has been carved out of the Colorado River red sandstone plateau by a usually peaceful river, The Virgin…

3_that looks rather peaceful here, but...

…whose flash floods have left behind remarkable rock formations:

1c_on and on

You can take a shuttle towards the top of the canyon and then follow a beatiful trail…

4_you can take a shuttle to the top...

5_and then walk...

…that is an easy and pleasant walk, in spite of the heat…

6_and walk... 6b_a pleasant place to rest along the way

…often shaded and with pleasant places to rest.  And when the trail ends you continue in the river bed:

7_and walk, when there's no more trail

I didn’t go very far.

Zion Park is made for hiking, both easy walking like this and much more strenuous hiking. For a succinct description of the park’s history and geology you can read the Wikipedia article about Zion Park here, or see the National Park Service’s Zion website here.

 

The plant life in the canyon’s upper areas is luxurious. This is called a hanging garden:

8c_this is called a hanging garden

I don’t believe I’ve seen one of these before; I’ve been told that it’s an orchid:

8b_and plant life to charm us

 

That evening, back at the campground, I take advantage of the evening light to take some pictures of the nearby rock formations:

13_and another

10_I take a few photos of the local sights

11_in the evening light

12_another sight...

There’s just no end:

13b_there's just no end

 

I take a few pictures of the plant life too:

14_the plant life makes a good subject too 14b_good subject

These appear wilted or closed up at this time of day, but the next morning they’re wide open…

17_these flowers are open now... 17b_open

…and occupied…

17c_open and occupied

I see these prickly pears too:

18c_prickly pears

18c_prickly pears bis

I didn’t see them before Zion, though I did see some red ones yesterday afternoon:

18cbis_sometimes they're red

 

I’m up this early so as to catch the morning light…

16_the next morning

…and to take an early shuttle up the canyon again to get some shots that wouldn’t have been good yesterday afternoon.

This group is called The Court of the Patriarchs:

21_the Court of the Patriarchs

Abraham…

22_patriarch no. 1

Isaac…

23_patriarch no. 2

…and Jacob:

24_patriarch no. 3, hidden by...

What we see of Jacob, though, is only that small sunlit portion on the top right. Jacob is mostly hidden by this still shadowed mass called Mt. Moroni (yes, him again).

Further up the canyon, though, we get a good view of Jacob:

25_further up the canyon, no. 3

This series is called Temples and Towers:

26_temples and towers

The formation on the left is called the West Temple and on the right is the Altar of Sacrifice. The formation just left of center is called the Sundial, while in full center we have the Tower of the Virgin.

Here, if you lean forward and look in the lower right-hand corner, you can see that I’m not the only one out early trying to get some good pictures:

27_I'm not the only one out...

 

In the afternoon I take a long bike ride up the Par’Us Trail…

28_that afternoon I take a long bike ride...

…following the river as far as Canyon Junction.

Wild asters abound:

29c_more asters

And so do these guys:

30_and these guys again 30b_these guys

 

On the way back down the canyon I look for a some places to swim.  You’ll understand that since California I haven’t found any swimming holes. The Virgin is not a very welcoming river. The rocks and sandbars don’t make swimming easy, and the water is sandy (though clean). But I find one place where the water was deep enough and calm enough.

31_on the way back...swimming

But in this heat it’s enough just to lie down in the refreshing water.

 

Back at the campsite I indulge some more Wasatch Breweries beer, Evolution Amber Ale this time:

32_another cold beer

32b_sense of humor, but

They do indeed have a sense of humor at Wasatch.

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