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”:
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…
…whose flash floods have left behind remarkable rock formations:
You can take a shuttle towards the top of the canyon and then follow a beatiful trail…
…that is an easy and pleasant walk, in spite of the heat…
…often shaded and with pleasant places to rest. And when the trail ends you continue in the river bed:
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:
I don’t believe I’ve seen one of these before; I’ve been told that it’s an orchid:
That evening, back at the campground, I take advantage of the evening light to take some pictures of the nearby rock formations:
There’s just no end:
I take a few pictures of the plant life too:
These appear wilted or closed up at this time of day, but the next morning they’re wide open…
I see these prickly pears too:
I didn’t see them before Zion, though I did see some red ones yesterday afternoon:
I’m up this early so as to catch the morning light…
…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:
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:
This series is called 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:
In the afternoon I take a long bike ride up the Par’Us Trail…
…following the river as far as Canyon Junction.
Wild asters abound:
And so do 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.
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:
They do indeed have a sense of humor at Wasatch.