Posts Tagged With: Utah

More Mukuntuweap (Zion)

Because a rock slide blocked the east entrance, we entered Zion National Park (Mukuntuweap) from the south entrance adjacent to the town of Springdale, population 548. Parking, as I told you in my last post, is a huge issue. We first arrived in the afternoon and all lots inside the park were full and closed. We searched Springdale for street parking to no avail. We finally found a lot off the beaten path requiring a bit of a hike to even reach the shuttle into the park. That accomplished, we boarded the shuttle and rode the short distance to the park.

Once inside the park, the only way to see the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive is on the free park shuttle. This service, initiated in 2000, reduces the traffic, parking issues, and pollution, and provides a measure of protection to the park.  We decided to ride to the last of the 8 stops, the Temple of Sinawava, so that we would see the entire scenic route from the bus before we got off at each stop on our way back to explore further.


Jim riding the Zion Canyon Shuttle

The Riverside Walk, an easy 2.2 mile, partially paved trail, begins near the Temple of Sinawava bus stop. We enthusiastically joined the throng.


View of the Virgin River from the Riverside Walk


Respite along the Riverside Walk

The hanging gardens along Riverside Walk in the picture above and the video below are fed by trickling waterfalls. Watch the upper right corner of the brief video to see the trickling water.

At the end of the Riverside Walk, hardier hikers continued on to the Narrows, a strenuous trail over 9 miles long that is only accessible if the water is not too high. Signs everywhere in this park warn visitors to be aware of conditions, take care, and bring water.


Swimming in the Virgin River at the end of Riverside Walk



View of the Virgin River from the trail



Jim at the beginning of the Narrows

On the return trip, I had an experience that is worth sharing. There are squirrels everywhere and they appear to be tame…probably from too many tourists feeding them. I had just seen a photo of a hand with a squirrel bite in the Zion National Park Map and Guide with the caption, “The squirrel bit me in less than a second” along with the  admonishment, “Wild animals can hurt you. Do not feed them.” Then I saw a child around middle school age trying to pet a seemingly tame squirrel while her mother watched! I couldn’t contain myself. I said, “Please don’t try to pet a wild animal that will probably bite you! Read the park guide and see what damage they can do.” They both just gave me that “mind your own business” look. I moved on, not wanting to see what happened next.  Please help keep wildlife wild.


One of the many “tame” squirrels that frequent the area

The next stop was at Big Bend where I took this shot of the Organ and the Great White Throne.


The Organ and the Great White Throne

Weeping Rock boasted more hanging gardens fed by trickling spring water.


Weeping Rock

Friends who have met the challenge strongly recommended we hike to Angel’s Landing but as a recovering acrophobe, I thought that was pushing it. This 5.4-mile hike is billed by the national park as strenuous with “long drop offs. Not for young children or anyone fearful of heights. Last section is a route along a steep, narrow ridge to the summit” (Zion National Park Map and Guide). I have no regrets about our decision.

Here are more spectacular views along Zion Canyon Scenic Drive.





View along Zion Canyon Scenic Drive


Another view of the Great White Throne


As we rode the shuttle bus back to the visitor center, the driver told us that the Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway was cleared of the rock slide and reopened that day at 5 pm. (This road is normally open to vehicular traffic unlike the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive.) We decided to get our car and drive this road through the long tunnel. That morning we had driven from the east entrance to the tunnel where the road was closed which I covered in my last post.


Views along Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway



Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway



Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway


We readily identified the location of the rock slide by the debris remaining in the area and the orange cones still on the road.


Where the rock slide was located on Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway

We drove through the 1.1-mile tunnel and then turned around and drove back. I especially wanted to see the gallery windows. I’ve been through many tunnels but I’ve never seen a window in one. Unfortunately, I was unable to get any photos out the windows because you can’t stop or slow down in the tunnel.


Entrance to the 1.1-mile tunnel on Zion-Mt.Carmel Highway



Light shining in through one of the gallery windows

When we decided against the hike to Angel’s Landing, we determined instead to hike the  Emerald Pools Trails early the following morning. The Lower and Upper Emerald Pools Trails combine an easy and a moderate trail totalling a little over 2 miles. We climbed  enough to the Upper Emerald Pools that I felt like I had hiked further than just 2 miles, however.

We arrived before the crowds and had no trouble finding a parking place. Zion is a very different place without the crowds. If you’re a morning person, as I am, get there early to experience the peaceful nature of Zion without the crush of people.


Early morning at Zion NP

We saw few people along the trail as we started out.


Trail to Emerald Pools along the Virgin River in the early morning


Enjoying having the trail to the Emerald Pools to ourselves


Jim on the trail


Check out the cacti


Beautiful trail view


The climb gets steeper

When we arrived, I realized why they are named Emerald Pools. The reflection in the pools of the greenery surrounding them is indeed emerald.


Emerald Pool


Emerald Pool


Emerald Pool

The waterfalls along the trail were especially impressive. I took several videos to better showcase them.


The end of the trail crossing the Virgin River


Back to the parking lot that was now full with cars circling like vultures waiting for our spot

After our hike to the Emerald Pools, we were ready to have a picnic lunch then hit the road for our next adventure even though there are lots more things to see and do in Zion National Park. We barely scratched the surface but we believe we got a pretty good overview and enjoyed a memorable experience.


Based on events from September 2015.


Categories: Travel, Uncategorized, USA | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Needles, Butler Wash, and Natural Bridges

We planned to miss the Needles section of Canyonlands National Park because the road to the entrance was an additional 50 miles off the highway. Then a ranger told us about an alternative called Needles Overlook that was only 22 miles off the main road. That fit our schedule better so we decided to have a look. I think there was one other vehicle the entire time we were there. This gem is definitely a well kept secret. We hiked to Needles Overlook and Indian Creek Viewpoint which were both easy walks with stunning rewards.


Jim on the trail to Needles Overlook


View from Needles Overlook


View from Indian Creek Viewpoint


Colorado River Overlook


Me on the trail where the soil surface and hard surface meet

Just west of Blanding on Utah SR 95 we stopped for a one mile roundtrip hike to Butler Wash Ruins, cliff dwellings of the Anasazi dating from 1200 AD. The trail begins on gravel but quickly becomes slickrock so be careful and mind the cairns to stay on the trail. Much of the trail is uphill going to the ruins which makes the return more pleasant.


Jim on the trail to Butler Wash Ruins


Jim climbing the trail to to Butler Wash Ruins


Butler Wash Ruins where Anasazi lived in cliff dwellings

Our final stop for the day before dinner and a hotel, was at Natural Bridges National Monument. Fortunately, we still had enough energy to tackle the bridges because it was intense. Or so we thought until we encountered an 80 something year old woman who went to the bottom of all three bridges…making us look like hiker pikers.


Natural Bridges National Monument

If you read my earlier post about Arches, your first thought may be, “What’s the difference between an arch and a bridge?”  A bridge crosses some kind of water at one time or another whereas an arch does not . Both are formed by erosion, however.

Your second question may be, “What’s the difference between a national monument and a national park?” A monument preserves a significant natural resource and a park protects a variety of resources within a significant area. Bridges National Monument, the first national monument in Utah, was established by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1908 to preserve the three natural bridges found here.

The trail to Sipapu is billed as a strenuous hike. Elevations ranging from 5500 to 6500 feet provided an additional element.  The trail began with stairs and as I climbed down, I told myself, “I have to climb back up at the end of the hike so keep a little in the tank for later.”


Stairs at Sipapu Bridge trailhead


Jim and more stairs on Sipapu Trail

We encountered a class that was listening to a lecture as we hiked to Sipapu Bridge. I wondered if they were resting on the way back.


Sipapu Trail

When we saw the views after some fairly rigorous hiking, we decided not to go all the way to the bottom.


Sipapu Bridge

The second bridge was Kachina and we decided right away not to go to the bottom since the view from the overlook was superb. If you can’t tell where the bridge is on the photo below, the green trees in the center of the photo are below the bridge.


Kachina Bridge

Finally, we hiked to Owachomo Bridge. We did go all the way to the bottom of this one.


Hiking to Owachomo Bridge 



 Owachomo Bridge




Selfie with Owachomo Bridge behind us




Beneath Owachomo Bridge


Owachomo Bridge above us

Whether you’re a hiker or not, this is a great place to spend some time. There’s a driving loop with stops and views of each bridge along the way and you can hike all or a portion of the trails with overlooks, too.

We planned to tour Capitol Reef National Park the following morning and wanted to spend the night near the eastern entrance. The drive on SR 95 was impressive.


Driving north on SR 95, Utah

Reception on my smart phone was very spotty in this area but I did find a room at the Rodeway Inn in Caineville. I also read there were no restaurants in Caineville so to prevent a restaurant search while hangry, it would be prudent to eat before our arrival. I think there were two or three eateries in Hanksville and we chose Blondie’s, a family owned burger joint. The extended family all seemed to be in attendance and our food was cooked while we waited–nothing fancy but tasty, nonetheless.


Blondie’s in Hanksville, Utah


Burger at Blondie’s

We easily found the Rodeway in Caineville, Utah, population 20, because it was the only building in this unincorporated town. The hotel was basic and overpriced including a gluten loaded breakfast of cereal and donuts. But it was the only option this side of Capitol Reef and our evening view was priceless.


View from the Rodeway Inn in Cainville, Utah

Check back next week for our tour of Capitol Reef National Park and prepare to be amazed. We were.


Based on events from September 2015.

Categories: natural history, Travel, Uncategorized, USA | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Arches, Arches, and More Arches

We didn’t see nearly all of the more than 2000 arches in Arches National Park, but we saw many. Arches National Park has the largest concentration of arches anywhere in the world so this is the place to visit if you want to see these spectacular red rock formations carved by erosion. We also saw pinnacles, balanced rocks, and spires as well as fins and monoliths.


Entrance to Arches National Park

With over one million visitors each year, I was hopeful the crowds would thin somewhat in time for our visit in late September. To allow maximum flexibility to spend as much or as little time as we wanted in each place, we didn’t reserve lodging in advance. When we had difficulty finding lodging for the night in and around Moab, I asked a local about tourist traffic in September. She told me that they have two busy seasons, summer and tour bus season, that is, September. So if you want to be sure of a place to stay, make reservations in advance. We had to drive 48 miles to Green River for a room.

I understand why this area is so popular. Arches National Park is a treasure to be sure. But nearby there’s also Canyonlands National Park, Dead Horse Point, and Indian pictographs which I’ll cover in future posts.  There are plenty of opportunities for adventure, too, including biking, four wheeling, kayaking, paddle boarding, river rafting, and more. In fact, Moab, Utah calls itself the adventure capital of the U.S.

Arches NP is very accessible. If you have physical limitations, you can see a lot from your auto in as little as 2 hours. But pull over only in the designated parking areas; no stopping is allowed on the roadway. There are also many short and easy walking trails. And for hardier hikers, there are longer, more rugged trails. The visitor guide contains a map showing the trails with a description and the length of each. We stopped at a majority of the viewpoints along the roadway and hiked a number of the shorter trails.


Panorama view of the Three Gossips and Park Avenue rock formations near the entrance to the park

The Three Gossips looked like the three wise men to me and I still want to call them that but you decide for yourself.


Three Gossips

Park Avenue is so named because early visitors believed these monoliths resembled the buildings in a big city. What do you think?


Park Avenue, Arches NP


Balanced Rock, Arches NP


North Window and South Window at Arches NP


Jim sitting in North Window checking his shoe


Turret Arch


North Window, Arches NP


South Window, Arches NP

Along this same trail, you can see the Parade of Elephants. It does look like a rear view of the herd, doesn’t it? By the way, did you know a herd of elephants is truly called a parade?


Parade of Elephants, Arches NP

Then there are the petrified sand dunes which are composed of sand that has been cemented into rock and later uncovered by erosion.


Petrified sand dunes

The most iconic arch is undoubtedly Delicate Arch. It is so revered it’s even featured on Utah license plates. My photo was from a distance and not as impressive as the 65-foot tall arch deserves.


Delicate Arch, Arches NP


North Window and Turret Arch in the distance

I think my favorite area was Sand Dune Arch at the north end of the park. We especially enjoyed the trail through a slot canyon to get to the arch.


Trail to Sand Dune Canyon through a slot canyon


Trail to Sand Dune Arch


Trail to Sand Dune Arch through a slot canyon


Trail to Sand Dune Arch

We waited with a small group of other tourists while a couple who were just married at Sand Dune Arch took their wedding photos before we could take pictures. They mentioned that somehow between the parking lot and this arch, the wedding ring had been lost. All of us looked for it but with all that sand, it was hopeless. If you ever visit, keep your eyes peeled.


Sand Dune Arch, Arches NP

This glorious nature reserve amazed and inspired us. I definitely understand why it’s one of the most popular national parks in the United States. Arches National Park set a high bar for the other four national parks in Utah.


Based on events in September 2015.






Categories: natural history, Travel, Uncategorized, USA | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

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