Monday, 9 May 2016

Barstow to Zion National Park, Utah

Our first stop on the long journey East and North to Ontario was at Barstow. I had not had much time to visit in December, so this was the opportune time. It was a relatively easy drive straight up I-15,

Good divided highway

Brilliant flowers along the side of the highway

Past Rainbow Valley into the mountains

The back side of the mountain we can see from Barstow

with only traffic slow-downs in the towns.

Some traffic slowed us in San Bernadino.

Over the mountains, 

and into the Mohave Desert

Interesting though in the 4 hour drive, there were no pull-outs or rest stops. 

When we first got there we had great fun off-roading in the Polaris around the Mohave Desert.
We found the most beautiful flowering Beavertail Prickly Pear Cactus

up close,too bad all the blooms are not open...

and bushes with masses of tiny pink flowers...

Quite a different view from Sonoran Desert

A drop-off - dangerous if you don't know it is there

Nothing but sand...
with interesting tracks to follow...

Les had to go off to work each week day, but John and I drove around Barstow, and had lunch at the original Del Taco.

Barstow Main Street

Original Del Taco- now all over the California and Arizona 

One day we drove east through the desert, 

on a long straight road,

with sage and creosote bushes on either side.

through a beautiful plain,

to unusual rocks.

to the campground in Sawtooth Canyon. 

A sand and gravel road winds through the campground

This is a beautiful little campground in the middle of nowhere. However, the unique rock formations make it a rock-climbers’ delight, and it is usually packed on the weekends.  

Unique rock formations

right in the campground, 

make this park a rock-climbers haven.

A lot of our time was spent just hanging out, enjoying the company

Our trailer's home in the backyard

a favourite place to sit

and the warm sunshine. We went into Victorville to stock up the cupboards and “pantry”- read ‘shower’, our extra storage room! The last couple of days, it rained. They were delighted, living in the desert, but us- not so much! 

It was time to leave, but we have made plans to meet in Ontario In July, when they come north. We got hitched up on a cloudy, off-and-on rainy day, to head north
The Mohave Desert is not always flat

We would like someone to pronounce this for us...

A bit of blue sky, but very hazy

through the Joshua Trees at about 4000 feet

into Nevada

through Las Vegas

Heavy traffic in Las Vegas
to Hurricane to meet friends for a few days. Unfortunately, although it started off cloudy then cleared for a short while, it rained most of the way. The traffic was heavy as we traveled through Las Vegas.

and out of Las Vegas, what a contrast! 

The sky became darker,

and we could see rain in the distance.

We were driving right into it.

But the layers in the mountains looked amazing...

The rain continued including on a spectacular drive through a gorge into Hurricane, in the Virgin River Canyon.

Pictures aren't great, but the drive was beautiful,

We wished we had better weather to appreciate it.

Coming out of the Gorge toward Hurricane

The colours in the mountains become clearer- as the rain stopped.

We did not even bother unhitching the first night at Sand Hollow State Park. The campsite we had was a beautiful, back-in,

Large back-in site with a separate ramada
looking across the beautiful red-brown sandy desert at red cliffs,

View from bedroom window- curb side
with huge grey snow- tipped mountains rising behind them.

View from the other side of the trailer

We had full hook-ups and our own shade ramada. Paved, level sites are well separated. This 20,000-acre park, mostly on BLM land, surrounds a large reservoir for culinary water for cities and towns in SW Utah, and is a haven for off-road vehicles. 

The reservoir
We met our friends at their Jazz in the afternoon, to be greeted like long lost friends by their two dogs, Tucker and Charlie. We spent an enjoyable evening catching up and made plans to hike the Jem Trail the next day.

The Jem Trail goes along the base of this mountain
Cathy, Charlie and I hiked leisurely along a beautiful road through the desert,

Waiting with Charlie for the men to get to the trail crossing

Here they come with Tucker

while John and Dave with Tucker went along a more challenging trail. For the first while, Tucker could hear and see us, so he kept tearing through the desert to us, the Dave would call him, and he would charge back to them. We walked to a point where we could see the back side of Zion National Park,

The mountain further along the road

The Yucca flowers are just coming out. They are white, but this is the bud.

Looking across the valley toward Zion NP

Across the valley

Our 'big' hill

where John and I were headed. We stopped at a look-out on our way back to town.  

Looking South to the town of Hurricane

Looking North...

The next morning, we once again ‘hit the road’ for a short drive winding through canyons,

Driving toward Zion NP

A hint of the grandeur of the mountains to come...

winding roads

We could see the peaks rising ahead of us.

up to Watchman Campground in Zion National Park.

The entrance to the Park

This is amazing. We are at the foot of Watchman Mountain,

Watchman Mountain hovering over us
in the canyon between Watchman and the line of mountains on the other side of the river. The sites are a good size, level with electric hookups. This park is gorgeous.

Another view of our site... mountains beside Watchman

The Virgin River, over millions of years, has carved a spectacular canyon through the mountains. We decided to begin our stay with an overview of the canyon. We walked along the river trail

Trail beside the river to the Visitor Center

from the campground to the beautiful and very busy Visitors’ Center.

The Visitor Center with Watchman behind
They do not allow cars to go up the canyon road, except in the winter months. However, there are free shuttle buses

The Schedule

The reason...

The Shuttles- 2 buses linked together

which run at least every 15 minutes. We found they were much more often than that though. This is the only way to get to the trail-heads along the canyon, as well as getting a bit of history and background of the canyon and the various stops. 

We decided to take the shuttle to the top, and back to Zion Lodge to do a short hike, before picking up another shuttle back to the campground. What an amazing ride - high multi-coloured cliffs

Amazing colours

Desert Varnish on many of sheer walls of the cliffs

The end of the line
The Pulpit at the Temple of Sinawava
Different colours in the mountains

on either side of us! We soon learned that the white on the top and the various bands of reds are Navajo Sandstone, which in some places is over 2000 feet thick.

Our first hike took us up to the Emerald Pools.

Looking down the river just after we crossed it

View up the canyon of the Emerald Pools

A wide trail, easy to walk, but it climbs as it winds around the mountain

Magnificent coloured mountains down the valley

I walked to the Lower Emerald Pool,

The lower waterfall and pool

a closer view of the waterfall

We walked under the waterfall and up the other side

but there were a lot of steps with a drop-off going to the Middle and Upper Pools,

The beginning of the first set of stairs was easy...
so I took part of the Grotto Trail along the canyon,

A stunning tunnel along the Grotto Trail

and back out to the trail
to the Lower Emerald Pool

and then went back down

The trail back down

to the Lodge

Original Zion Lodge
to read, and wait for John to visit the other two pools.

Middle Emerald Pool

Upper Emerald Pool

Middle Emerald Pool

The view from The Upper Emerald Pool

Looking up at the Canyon walls

From the campsite we could walk along the river, then take a bridge across the river to the town of Springdale.

The entrance to the bridge to Springdale from the Park

Springdale main street

Springdale with the Watchman behind
We looked for a food market. But the only one we found was quite expensive, so we decided to walk to downtown. When we go to Soleil CafĂ©, a block or so away, and downtown wasn’t in sight, we stopped for a cappuccino and decided to try again another day in the truck!

Another beautiful day, we decided to do the River Walk Hike. This meant taking the Shuttle up to the top of the canyon. The walk winds along by the river,

Magnificent mountain view across the river

and down the canyon

The river path

view down the river valley

The path winds along the river

and under overhangs.

sometimes close, sometimes further away through the trees, by the canyon walls. The trail is paved and relatively flat, just climbing up and down as we rounded some of the rocks.

At the end, is the river trail to The Narrows, one of Zion’s famous features. However, due to the possibility of flash floods, this trail was closed. The trail goes through the river to a very narrow canyon.

The entrance to The Narrows

Lots of folks were building cute little critters
Besides, it is early spring still, and the river is icy cold, and deep in places. Special dry suits and special boots are needed for survival. We hung around for a bit watching families play, folks building cairns and kids skipping stones, before starting back. For most of the way back, we walked down beside the river,

a pleasant walk by the river
only returning to the paved path a couple of times where the canyon walls came right to the water. This was a very peaceful walk as most people took the paved path.

The forecast was cool with a chance of rain one day, so we decided to drive to Bryce rather than hiking. We drove up on switchbacks

Looking back down to Zion Canyon

There are several tight switchbacks
out of the canyon, over the cliff, and through the tunnel.

The entrance to the tunnel

Part way through, the tunnel...
Everyone had said it was different on the other side of the tunnel. But WOW, it was breathtaking,

the colours, the layers - very different


just like a completely different place, like it was sculpted on some rocks,

through high cliffs,

and through another tunnel,

totally different layered rocks...
and layered on others. There were mountains of slickrock, dark reddish brown to white, with bands going in opposite directions. It was incredible!

Check out the patterns on the sides

the explanation...

When we passed the cliffs, after we left the Park gates, we were on a high grassy plain,

High Plain
and the temperature started to drop. It got to 0C and began to snow, sleet and then rain.

Snow and sleet...

Since it was not really sticking and we were above 6000 ft., but descending, we kept going. We turned north on highway 89, and back into snow. It tried to clear, so we kept on to Hatch. However by that time, it was snowing and blowing.

Snow on the sides of the roads, and poor visibility
We stopped for lunch, but when it hadn’t cleared at all by the time we were finished, we reluctantly turned around. When we got back into the Park, the weather here had cleared, so we stopped and walked along one of the slickrock hills,

Easy walking

up over slickrock.

an interesting different prickly pear cactus- may be Brown-Spined or Plains

vowing to return here and spend more time. We saw some big horn sheep on a cliff, so we watched them for a while,

goats foraging on the hill

with young ones nearby...
before retracing our way, through the tunnel and back down the switchbacks. 

We stopped at the Zion Human History Museum before returning home.

Then we saw this outside the museum 

and I found the Natural Bridge across the road...

Mountains behind the Museum -

The next day was our last. I tried to persuade John to ride his bike up the Canyon or go on one of the more difficult hikes, with heights that I can’t do. But, he really wanted to go back through the tunnel to do more exploring on the slickrocks. So we did.

We stopped at one site to walk along a wash, beside a mountain. The sides were really interesting - horizontal and diagonal lines.

wonderful colours on the rocks

sand dunes,and sculpted rocks

horizontal and vertical lines in the rock...

With one section leading into another completely different one. We climbed to the top of another hill on sliprock.

amazingly easy to climb the slickrock...

We could have kept going...

but decided to explore around the bend instead, 

beside the patchwork mountain,

then back down to the truck.
You just feel like a mountain goat, with suction cups on your feet, because your hiking shoes don’t slip at all, they just stick.

Our third climb was a high slickrock hill, where we could walk up on a diagonal to some hoodoos.
I wasn't going to climb,but decided to follow...

I only looked back to take this picture of where we had been.

It looked too high for me, but I decided to try it! Surprisingly, it was not bad at all as long as I didn’t look back or down! I made it! 

I made it to the hoodoos

Luckily we found an easier path back down too. On the way back, we saw more sheep, so stopped to watch them.

We saw 12 in this group,some up on the ledge watching us, 

or wandering around,

some at the bushes at the bottom.
Before we left, we decided to park at the tunnel exit and do the Canyon Overlook Trail. That was the plan, until I got to a section with a drop and no railing. SO I turned back and wandered along the road back to the truck to read, while John completed the trail.

A bit dicey for me...

Looking across the canyon

a little narrow...

definitely a 'can't do' trail for me...

it got worse...

looking out over the canyons from the top

At the top - lots of folks made it, just not me!

Out time at Zion was at an end, but we decided that on our way to Santa Fe, we would stop at Antelope Canyon and Canyon de Chelly. So once again, the trailer was readied for travel, and we were off zigzagging around the switchbacks,

A last look at the magnificent Zion Canyon...

and the beginning of a great arch...

through the tunnel – but this time we used our $15 pass to stop traffic coming the other way, because we were towing and needed the whole width of the tunnel - and headed east. 

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