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Tuesday, August 17, 2010 : Zion National Park

 

After a forgettable breakfast at the Travelodge, we take Interstate 15 to leave Vegas to the north-east. Hurricane, Utah, and Zion National Park are our next destinations. With hardly 180 miles to drive, we have plenty of time.


Interstate 15, Virgin River gorge

Virgin River Gorge, Insterstate 15, Arizona

 

Seeing the beautiful Virgin River gorge, we make a short stop. The rest area, if it deserves such a name, is merely an absolutely unsecured wider part of the Interstate emergency lane.

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UT-9, between Hurricane and Zion

UT-9, between Hurricane and Zion

 

It is still early when we make it to Hurricane. We check in at our hotel and we immediately leave to Zion National Park, only a few miles away. On the way, we snap a few pictures, including this one. Look at the summits in the background. Isn't that a real western landscape ?

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Zion National Park, East Temple

Zion National Park, East Temple

 

Zion National Park is mostly the very narrow valley of the Virgin River North Fork. Both branches of the river meet a few miles downstream of the park. Very close to the park entrance, the visitor center has a large parking lot and offers a shuttle line that serves all the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive, the road that crosses Zion south to north, from the visitor center to the Temple of Sinawawa. By the way, in high season, shuttle usage becomes mandatory.

 

The shuttle line has 8 stops. We will get down at every stop with a trailhead. In spite of the shuttles, Zion is a park where you have to walk a lot, if you want to enjoy the absolutely stunning scenery. Be sure to take your hiking shoes with you !

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Zion National Park, Virgin River North Fork

Zion, Virgin River North Fork valley, from the bridge next to the Zion Lodge

 

We momentarily leave the shuttle at Zion Lodge to walk up to the Emerald Pools, a set of 3 little ponds on one of the torrents. The trail is steep, the walk is quite tough, a decent physical condition is required.

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Zion National Park, Great White Throne

From the opposite side of the river, the Great White Throne

 

On the opposite side of the river, the Great White Throne seems to keeps watch on the valley. As opposed to Grand Canyon, where visits are essentially done from top to bottom, here, all trailheads begin at the bottom of the valley, where the main road is.

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Zion National Park, The Watchman

Zion National Park, The Watchman

 

On our way up to the Emerald Pools, we take this picture of the Watchman, one of many summits along the canyon. The weather is still nice, but a few clouds are already gathering.

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Zion National Park, Lower Emerald Pool

Lower Emerald Pool

 

The Lower Emerald Pool is a wide arena carved in the relatively soft rock by water erosion.

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Zion National Park, Upper Emerald Pool

Upper Emerald Pool

 

Then, in order to see more, we split. Thomas and I take another way, while Marie and Alicia proceed to the top. They made the best choice. They will see the beautiful Upper Emerald Pool.

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Zion National Park, Upper Emerald Pool

Upper Emerald Pool, clear water

 

Here, the water is absolutely pure, transparent.

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Zion National Park, canyon in the shadow

Zion Canyon, already partly in the shadow

 

We find each other at the shuttle stop and proceed into our visit.

 

Zion is a very narrow valley and, even in summer, the sun quickly disappears on the west side. This picture shows the shadow already extending to the middle of the valley.

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Zion National Park, two deer

Two beautiful deer on the grass

 

Zion is also about wildlife. We will see these two beautiful deer.

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Zion National Park, Riverside Walk, Virgin River North Fork

Walk along the Virgin River North Fork gorge

 

The last stop at the end of the Scenic Drive, Temple of Sinawawa, gives access to the trail along the Virgin River North Fork gorge, quite close to the river. This trail is not recommended during stormy weather, due to the danger of flashfloods, but today the risk is absolutely nil. We walk a few pleasant miles, on all the easily acessible part of the hike. Then the trail crosses the river, and there begins the domain of real hikers. We will not wander there as tourists.

 

Besides, it is time to think about going back.

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Zion National Park, little gray squirrel

Mischievous little squirrel

 

We take a picture of this little squirrel, who seems to have a lot of fun frolicking from branch to branch.

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Zion National Park, Temple of Sinawawa, shuttle

Temple of Sinawawa, waiting for our shuttle

 

Then we take the shuttle back at its last stop, straight to the visitor center, no more stops along the way.

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Zion National Park, the Watchmen

The Watchmen, still bathed by late afternoon light

 

The sun has already come down but it still gives us a nice show, including this sight of the Watchmen, the summits close to the entrance of the park, still lit by late afternoon sunlight.

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Between Zion and Hurricane, mesa

UT-9 to Hurricane, sunset on the Mesa

 

On our way back, we take this beautiful picture of the Mesa, still brilliantly lit at sunset.

 

Then it is Hurricane, where we do some shopping for dinner and next day's picnic.

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