Wednesday, July 18, 2007

July 12, 2007

Thursday July 12th St. George - Zion - Bryce

Luckily we were able to leave whatever we wanted in our rooms at the College Inn because we would be coming back to them in two days. So we had breakfast and boarded the nice bus for Zion National Park. Traveling on Rt 9 along the Virgin River we passed through quaint places like Hurricane, La Verkin, Virgin and Rockville. One of these places was very small but wanted to be incorporated as a town, so they had to have a street light system. The result was single electrical cords strung across the highway with one light bulb every quarter mile or so. At Christmas they change the bulbs to green and red. The town of Virgin has 394 inhabitants and is at 3500 ft elevation. In May 2000 a law was passed in the town of Virgin which required every homeowner (146 households) to keep and maintain a gun. This mandatory gun ownership law was highlighted in the 2002 film "Bowling for Columbine." Go figure.

There is controversy over how the name "La Verkin" came to be, but after leader Marcia's intense investigation the jury is still out.

Sixty-seven miles from St. George, the drive into Zion Canyon at Zion National Park is spectacular. We were so impressed with the towering white and grey towers of mountains on either side of us. 240 million years ago this rocks were at the bottom of a shallow sea. The thickest layer of deposits is called the Navajo Sandstone from the Jurassic period. There was sand 2,000 feet deep left by dunes about 150 million years ago. This is part of the "Colorado Plateau" an area in Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona that was uplifted starting 10 million years ago to heights of over 10,000 ft.

We stopped at the Zion Lodge and went on a wonderful, although hot, hike to the lower and middle Emerald Pools. We could see Cottonwood, Cactus, Sagebrush, Datura (poisonous Jimpson Weed), Juniper, Pine Boxelder, and Willows. The walk was amazing as we went up the rock face to pools a spring had made into gentle waterfalls. It took about an hour or so, and was a chance for me to finally get a good walk taken. Our naturalist, Darrel, pointed out all the fascinating flora and fauna that we encountered. At one point a squirrel jumped onto the trail in front of Emily and I thought a landslide was starting.

We drove back out of the Park for a delicious lunch of various prepared sandwiches at the "Sol Food" restaurant. Everythingwas well arranged for our arrival. Then we went back into Zion Park to board the shuttle bus for a drive to the far end of the canyon at "Temple of Sinawav" where we got off for a short walk along Riverside Walk. We spotted mule deer, ravens and wild turkey on our way, we also saw or heard plenty of birds in the Park. This afternoon was really super fun for the kids, and myself as well. We walked to the shallow Virgin River where there was a big flat rock in the center with a small water fall. The kids went into the cold water and had an absolute blast playing and exploring the shallow stream and banks. Emily got totally immersed and swam against the current of the waterfalls. She found a little waterfall on the far bank and named it "Emily's Waterfall." Braden braved the cold water as well and explored it playing with the other boys his age. I think he won the challenge for rock skipping distance.

It was difficult to pry ourselves away from the beautiful stream playland, but we boarded the shuttle to the Zion Lodge and returned to our nice bus for the trip to the east side of Zion park and through the historic Zion-Mt. Carmel 1.1 mile long tunnel, cut in 2000 ft thick Navajo sandstone, with 800 ft dropoffs. An engineering marvel when completed in 1930.. Today traffic is stopped while tall RVs and buses over 11ft 4 in go through the tunnel in the middle of the road where it is tallest in one direction at a time.

We continue on traveling 60 miles on US 89 to
Bryce Canyon National Park. This takes us through Mt. Carmel, Orderville, Glendale, Long Valley and Hatch, Utah. All with interesting histories. Hatch is just south of Panguitch, where the family of deceased niece, Shawn Taylor, reside. I've been trying to connect with Jeff & Leslie Taylor by cell phone, but in these canyons there is little or no cell phone service. We checked in to historic "Ruby's Inn" just outside Bryce Canyon and had a buffet dinner. This got us ready for a fun evening across the road at the Bryce Canyon Rodeo. I walked over there and the kids decided to go on the bus, although it was only a stone's throw away. The Rodeo was fun and included barrel racing, bull riding, and team roping. Also some of the young cowpokes got into the action riding sheep and calves. On the walk back to Ruby's we walked through Ruby's Frontier Town shops and looked at zillions of rocks. Rocks are a very big attraction in this territory. No evening would be complete without the required dip in a swimming pool, so that's what the kids did.

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