Friday, December 2, 2011

Utah: Zion National Park

Being Jill's daughter, I have to start this post off with lots of apologies disguised as disclaimers. 

Disclaimer #1:  There are WAY too many pictures in this post, but I know I'm not going to remember half of them if I don't sort and caption them now.  And I'm too lazy to make a photo album.  So this is my photo album, just open to the general public.  Feel free to click away now if looking at 80 scenery pictures is not your thing.  Even if you intend to brave the whole thing, I suggest making a cup of tea so it isn't 15 wasted minutes.

Disclaimer #2:  I am absolutely no good at taking scenery pictures.  This trip taught me that I don't have the foggiest notion of how to use the camera's settings in the great outdoors.  Plus, my camera has something on the internal mirror (I think?) so there's occasional great black dots in the middle of my pictures.  National Geographic would not approve.  A lot of the decent pictures are the ones Lindsey took.  I don't know which is the more pressing need-- a camera course, or a new/cleaned camera?

The first national park we hit up was Zion.  Here's the sign at the entrance!  Except it wasn't.  It was the sign when we were leaving, and we turned around to get a picture.  But let's pretend it's the beginning here!

Of course, we didn't magically appear in Zion.  I flew into Las Vegas late Sunday night, and we spent a chilly night in a Vegas hotel, muttering imprecations against the fool who had decided one extremely thin blanket was sufficient.  Finally, at three in the morning, Lindsey called the front desk and asked for blankets, and after assuring them that yes, we really did want MORE blankets!!, we got our extra blankets a speedy 45 minutes later.  After calling again.  Anyway, then up for a buffet breakfast, past the jackhammer breaking up the concrete in the middle of the still functioning casino floor...  The upshot is, I was REALLY ready to head over to Utah.

One of the views as we drove over.  I was rhapsodizing how beautiful it was driving out of Las Vegas, just because it was so open and un-New York-ish.  But then the real scenery started.

Just the trees and grasses were beautiful, let alone THE ENORMOUS CLIFFS OF GORGEOUSNESS looming in the background.
We had to stop for pictures a lot.  For some reason, I felt compelled to wear sunglasses on the top of my head most of the trip.  Not sure why.

Sometimes (lots of times, actually), I took pictures without even stopping.  This is the view just driving down the highway.  It really makes the C. Square to Fort Drum stretch of I-81 seem little humdrum.

Beautiful rocks!

In the park now, driving on the scenic road in the park.  The road is usually closed to all but shuttle traffic, but since it's the off-season, we could drive all the way in.  November seems to be the time to be out there-- no crowds, and a beautiful temperature for hiking.

We got there not too long before sunset, so we did an easy creekwalk the first evening.  There was a surprising variation in the colors of the foliage.  It was a nice change from our November-denuded trees out here.

Lindsey, photographing it up.

One of the vistas from the walk.  There was a calendar-ready view about every 10 feet.  If you knew the restraint I am actually showing in posting pictures here...

Standing in the creek for a better picture.

Worth it!  Actually, this may have been Lindsey's picture, but I took SOME sort of picture standing in the creek.  And this is a lovely picture.

We were in a canyon, so the light had left the canyon floor, but the walls were beautifully lit by the setting sun.

Me, looking highly skeptical about something. Maybe that's when I was starting to notice the blister on my little toe.

The Looming Rock.

I love these arches, scattered all over the cliff faces.  This one was especially pretty, with a little pool at its base.

We weren't the only people with cameras.  This seemed to be a class.

The creekwalk was 1.2 miles in, and this was the view at the end of it.  In person, it was this amazingly white mountain, lit up by the sun, in between the looming canyon walls.  It really did not photograph well at all, despite me trying about 20 different settings.  It was utterly spectacular, though.

A "little" spider on the path on the way back.

There was some sort of shrubby maple all over there.  Even Lindsey, brilliant silviculturist that she is, didn't know exactly what they were.

Maple leaves, but not like the trees we have here.

The view walking out.  The light in this one reminds me of the pictures on the View-Master.  I spent hours at a time looking at pictures on there when I was a kid.

This might be the Great White Throne, but I totally forget now.  Lindsey took all the brochures and maps we collected to plan her amazing spend-a-year-hiking-in-Utah trip, so I'm relying on my memory here.  And it's faulty and sleep-addled.

The colors and formations here are indescribable.  Though I certainly seem to be typing enough to try, here.


And a deer!  This is a blurry picture, but we didn't see a lot of wildlife, so I'm hanging on to this picture.  Actually, the only wildlife we did see was turkeys, deer and a coyote.  Sort of like if we hung out in the field behind Mom and Dad's barn for half an hour.  But, hey, it was in Utah, so we took pictures!

Sunset is an awesome time to see the color of the rocks.

The view off a bridge.

I'm not the only one who found it worth photographing.

Our palatial accommodations.  Lindsey rented a minivan, and all the seats stowed away in the floor so we could sleep in the back.  It got down in the 30s at night, so we dressed in lots of layers, but it wasn't too bad.  My toes stayed toasty all night!

The differences in time zones between Lindsey and I manifested itself in the morning, when I was raring to go and she could have cheerfully slept another several hours.  I was dragging by evening, though.

The campground bathroom.  I had to get up in the night to use the facilities, and there was an almost full moon shining over the cliffs.  I've never been so glad for my inability to sleep through the night without using the restroom.  It was so quiet, especially after the horror that was Las Vegas.

The second day, we were just crazy adventurous.  This sign warns that "Falls from cliffs on this trail have resulted in DEATH!"  I felt like such a rebel.

Yup, rebels wear grey sweatshirts.

We hiked into the Emerald Pools.  There's a Lower Emerald Pool, Middle Emerald Pool, and Upper Emerald Pool (again, from memory, so don't quote me.)  Very imaginative people in charge of naming.  This is the lower pool.

A little waterfall.  I think the water was lower than normal, but it was pretty.

Enough water to make soupy, slide-y mud.  The stupid sneakers I had brought had given me a blister the night before, so I was wearing Crocs, which weren't super grippy on this surface.  Poor Lindsey lived in mortal terror that I was going to plunge to my death the whole vacation, because I wore my Crocs the rest of the time.  No problems, though.  Do you think Crocs is looking for a spokesperson upon whom they want to shower endorsement deals figuring in the millions?

Some really red trees on this hike.

The hike to the lower pool was an easy, paved road, but after that it got a little more serious.  Lots of climbing!

The middle falls!

A view out over the valley.

As the famous blurb in the ADK hike book says about Catamount Mountain, "some non-technical rock climbing."

Lindsey, leading the way.
There should have been water pouring down from here into the Upper Emerald Pool, but it was dry.

The pool itself was there, though, all still and reflective.

We were the only two people in there, and it was SO QUIET.  Until I yelled, "GUNNNNTHER!" at the echo.

Setting up my camera for a portrait of the two of us.

 Yup, we were there.  It got a bit chilly after the exertion of the hike, but we put our sweatshirts back on, and just sat there for a while.  Definitely worth the hike!

 Of course, if we were really adventurous, we could have tried scaling them, or something.  But I was quite content to pant up the official trail.

This view of the valley was awe-inspiring.  I wish I had a super wide angle lens to get it all in!

Alaska girl, enjoying Utah.

Our hike out is on the left.

This is a view of the Upper Pool from the trail out (we took a different trail for some different views).

This trail was more in the sun, so more desert plants than the trees on the other side of the canyon.  Lindsey thought I was highly immature, but I called this "The Funny Cactus" because it looks exactly like the kind of cactus a person would sit on in a comic strip.

Very cool landscape!

Interesting path for the trail!
Here we could see the Lower Pool and the Middle Pool.  It made me quite proud that I had hiked all the way up there--then, all the way to the Upper Pool.  Not bad for a sedentary housewife.

I realize that is pretty much the same view three times in a row, but they are all so lovely I can't choose.

That rock underneath the ledge looks like a fan, spread open.

Hmm, getting near the end of the trail, and we're still quite a bit above the river!  There was a paved switchback right at the end, though, so it was easy.

Then, we had somewhere between .5 and .8 of a mile walk back to the van.  (The official path, across the road from the creek, was .5, but we walked along the river and followed all its meanders.)  'Twas a pretty walk, and a good way to cool down.

Walking underneath the cottonwoods!  They make an interesting shushing sound.

Then, we drove up the Mt. Carmel highway on our way to Bryce.  There were lots of switchbacks with sheer drop-offs, and an old tunnel over a mile long, so I had a bloody tongue NOT telling Lindsey to slow down!  She was a fine driver, I just get nervous in those situations!

The last picture we took of Zion-- Checkerboard Mountain, maybe?  Evan and I had been to Zion briefly in 2001, and Lindsey asked if I remembered much of it.  It was the park we did the least in, so I told her I just remembered this specific mountain looming over the road.  The whole time we were there, she kept asking me if anything looked like that mountain I remembered.  Nope.  When I finally came home, I looked in our photo album from that trip, and it was Checkerboard Mountain.  I had remembered us going from Zion to Bryce, but we had done it the other way-- so my first sight of Zion had been from the back entrance.  So even after photographing the mountain, I still didn't recognize it, because I had an idea fixed in my head about it!

I hope I haven't lulled you all to sleep by this point-- at least I'm not running a slide projector!


Virginia said...

Oh my word! No apologies needed! This looks so, so awesome, I'm completely green w/ envy. Gorgeous! I'm so glad you guys had such a beautiful trip!

Anonymous said...

The pictures were wonderful and so glad you could get a break and spend some time with your sister! Thanks for sharing. Betty

laura said...

These are BEAUTIFUL!!

I took a "sisters trip" with Manda in '09, but we only drove through Zion to get to Bryce. We still maintain we'll go back... look what we missed!!

So glad you had a great trip! Thanks for sharing!!

Becky Gonce said...

WOW! Beautiful! And usually the picts just don't do justice to teh real thing.. .might be something I'll have to do someday!

Verity Earl said...


Anonymous said...

Awesome pictures, I had to look twice when you describe the spider as little! Philip has a spider phobia, jumps around like a scared chicken when he sees a spider. He had two mice that got in his car at Bryce National Park, I was wondering if he would still be there if that spider had got in his car instead..ha. Love your family Clover they are all so adorable and you are a wonderful another lady I could mention..miss you guys.

Lorelei said...

I told Evan last week that I never thought I had any desire to go to Utah (or anywhere, really- don't take it personal, I'm just a homebody)- but these picture are truly amazing. Such beauty and wonder. Apparently I need to plan a trip to Utah at some point in my life! Thanks for sharing!