Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Hoodoos and Canyons

Monday, February 20
We left the sleepy little town of Tropic, went about 8 miles toward Bryce Canyon National Park and TA-DA, we found the tourist town!!!! Bryce! It really doesn't show up on many maps, but had 4 or 5 big hotels, camping, restaurants, etc. We were probably better off in Tropic as it turns out because there was a big winter fest happening, cross country ski racing, etc. it was a very busy place at 8 am. The park had gotten several inches to more than a foot of snow on Sunday, so the main road was closed about 2 miles in. But talk about an awesome part of this county!! That red rock we had seen in Arches was here too, but the canyon is filled with hoodoos and spires and walls and windows. Hoodoos are the rock formations that really kind of look like garden gnomes, a gazillion of them in all sizes. We drove to and then walked the rim to several overlooks. It was absolutely fascinating. From some of the overlooks visibility can be as far as 145 miles!!!
Those of you who know me well, know that I have real problems with heights. I can't stand to look over the edge of big drop offs, high buildings, etc. So, getting out on these observation platforms took some serious self-talk. But I did it and have the pictures to prove it. Only one of the trails down into the canyon was open, we considered it, but it was hard packed (read: very slick!) snow and had several areas of ridge walking, I just couldn't do it. Hopefully we'll get back another time, when the trails are dry and then maybe I can do it.
We left Bryce about 3 and headed toward the east entrance of Zion National Park.
I so wish I knew more geology. Utah is a geologist's heaven I think. Everywhere we visit I read about prehistoric seas, layers of different rock, earthquakes, volcanos, erosion. Whatever, God and Nature have carved some amazing landscapes in this state.
 Bryce Canyon National Park

Zion is less than 100 miles from Bryce, so it was a pretty quick drive. The east entrance to Zion is on the high plateau, then you go thru a 1.2 mile tunnel thru the mountain and take a series of switchbacks to the bottom of the canyon. This park is viewed mostly from the bottom of the canyon. We figured that since we still had some daylight we'd drive the park road and decide what we wanted to see and do today, and then we'd be in the park for some nice evening light. In one area we saw a group of about 6 or 8 photographers getting set up on the river bottom. Figuring they know what they were doing we stopped too! Must be a good spot right? Oh it was!! As we descended the stairs to get down by the river, a herd, yes a herd, of mule deer crossed the path in front of us. There must have been a dozen or so. Lowell followed them as I made a second trip back to the car. First for my tripod, second for a clean memory card....
We spent about half an hour there, the other group was a group of Asian tourists. I'm not sure they knew any more than we did, but we all took lots of pictures. They left before we did, we wandered back to see the deer again and as we headed out, a gray fox decided to check out the brush in front of us! I got my first images of a fox!! My camera was all set up for landscape shots though, so there are some interesting "transition" shots as I was scrambling. After all that excitement we headed to the town of Silverdale, right outside the park. Plenty of places to stay and a cool little town that probably really is hopping during the summer.
Tuesday, Feb 21
Today was our day to explore Zion's canyons. We took a couple of 2 mile hikes, and one short half mile round trip. These didn't have the elevation changes like Arches, Capitol Reef and Bryce, but we did have some snow packed trails.  One went back to a waterfall and pools, one went along the river deep into the canyon, and the short one went up to what they call the Weeping Wall. I just can't tell you how beautiful this park is, I found myself just standing there in the middle on the trail looking up and thinking, or telling Lowell, "This is so awesome".
We also found the deer herd again, and they were quite cooperative, we stood by the road and took lots of pictures, way more than we needed! We'll see tonight what they look like. We left Zion about 3, drove through Las Vegas by 5 and our intended stop tonight was Barstow, but we just called Mickey and are going to drive right to their house tonight. We should be there before 10, YEA!!
 Zion National Park

Seeing 4 National Parks in 4 days might sound crazy. In some ways it is, you could easily spend 2 or 3 days in each. But seeing them in quick succession really highlights the personality of each. Arches was wide open, with those huge amazing windows and arches. Capitol Reef was a pleasant surprise, rough and rugged. Bryce, looking down at the canyon fairyland was different from anything I've every seen. And Zion is so majestic. Again, I wish I knew more about geology!

I'm typing this as we drive, I'll try to get the pictures up loaded early tomorrow (Wednesday) and get this posted then.
The updates will probably be a little farther apart now, as we spend time visiting Dan and Mickey and exploring the San Diego area. I imagine there will be a thing or two to take pictures of there as well.....

Arrived at Dan and Mickey's at 9:30 last night - too busy today to get this finished :-)

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