Thursday, October 12, 2017

We're Marching to Zion (National Park)!

On our trip through Utah two years ago, we spent four days hiking inside Zion National Park. It was one of the highlights of 2015, as we enjoyed the epic Zion hikes--Angel's Landing, The Narrows, Hidden Canyon, and Emerald Pools. We stayed on the west side of the national park last trip, and this time we are camped just 20 minutes from the east side. So we looked for hikes closest to us that we didn't experience last time. One of our camping neighbors suggested the Many Pools trail. True to its name, it had many rock basins filled with water.

You can barely see Mark in the left side of the picture below, but he is standing beside a line of the many pools that hold water down the rock face of this trail.

Most of the basins were life-less, but this pool had a healthy crop of tadpoles turning into frogs.

This trail is also known as "The Root Canal." That's because it makes its way around the root of that huge white molar that is peeking at us at the start of the hike. One of the reasons our neighbors enjoyed this hike so much is that it is unknown to the crowds that are flooding into Zion National Park today. It's not on the official map, and it doesn't even have a trail head sign. We would see only two other hikers today.

Deeper into the hike, the big tooth is now in full view. Denisa is in the bottom of the picture below, showing just how big that molar is.

We were enjoying our unusual Zion hike away from the crowds, when we topped a ridge to see that we weren't alone after all.

Right in front of us were five big horn sheep!

It was a ram and his harem of four ewes. They didn't bolt and run like we expected. Living in a very popular national park, we're thinking that they are accustomed to hikers.

We sat down and watched as they went about their normal morning activities. We didn't see any lush grass, or tasty vegetation on this hike. But we soon found that they all enjoyed the tiny leaves on these thorny bushes.

We continued to sit and watch, as they moved out of the valley and toward the base of the molar. The females didn't seem to be aware of the human invaders, but the ram kept his eye on us.

It was fascinating to watch as they made their way up that big steep mountain so effortlessly.

It was close to a 90-degree angle, but they walked across it like it was flat.

We didn't want to bother this little herd of sheep, but we had our eyes on some bright red trees further down the narrow canyon.

We hoped they would mosey on down the canyon, so we could mosey behind them. But instead, they laid down on the side of the mountain for a rest.

We used our best stealthy moves to go past the herd in this narrow canyon so we could move toward those bright leaves we had seen from a distance.

Our stealthy moves were rewarded. We found a forest of maple trees, nearing their peak of color this fall.

It seems that among those thorny brambles and desert sage brush, there are also pockets of maples at Zion National Park.

They seem to only be found at the base of those tall rock ridges,  protected by the canyon walls and fed by the water flowing off the rock faces.

Sorry for so many leaf pictures, but this is the best fall foliage we have seen this year.

When those beautiful leaves are framed with blue skies and white mountain walls, it is spectacular.

We got to see our herd of big horn sheep one more time, as we tried to sneak by them on our way back to the car.

Again, the ladies seem to be clueless about our presence, but the ram is watching us. We guess that is why he has earned the right to hang out with the girls, instead of being stuck in a bachelor herd.

It's a great hike when we see more big horn sheep than humans! We liked this many pools and sheep hike! But we are headed deeper into Zion National Park as we also wanted to try the Canyon Overlook Trail. We hiked straight up the trail to the overlook with a full view into Zion Canyon. We have definitely wandered into more of His wonders!

As always, Mark scrambled to a higher point to take a picture of Denisa sitting on the ledge over the canyon.

From his perch, he could also see how big these canyon walls are. You can barely see Denisa standing on the wall in the upper right hand corner.

Our next adventure is a trip through the 1.1 mile tunnel that separates the east side from the main valley of Zion National Park. Completed in 1930 before over-sized RVs and buses were on the road, these tall vehicles have to go down the center of the tunnel. It costs them an extra $15 to go through the tunnel, and slows down traffic for the rest of us.

That's a long tunnel, but there are windows for sneak peeks of the peaks around us.

Since we have visited the park before and our legs were tired today, we decided to just take a tour on one of the national park's free buses. Cars are not allowed on the scenic drive, but tourists can ride to any of the 9 shuttle stops on a bus. We jumped on the next shuttle at the visitor center, and had the whole bus to ourselves.

We were lucky to hop on the brand new electric bus. The only one of its kind, this new style of transportation is being tested this year. We can report that it was very quiet and smooth, and we enjoyed the air-conditioning.

As we rode the bus down the scenic drive, we could take pictures of the beautiful signature cliffs of this national park.

We rode past the most famous hike at Zion--Angel's Landing--at the top of that big red wall. They are re-doing the chains that hikers use to cling to the trail at the top. So this very popular hike has been closed this week.

Our bus got increasingly crowded as we made our way through the park. By the time we got back to the visitor center, it was standing- room-only on our new bus. We were picking up tired hikers that were at the end of their perfect weather day in the park. As we drove the car back towards the east entrance, the sun was low in the sky. It was lighting up the  canyon overlook where we had taken pictures a few hours earlier.

We'll sneak in one more picture of the stunning maple trees along the trail. Zion National Park is an awesome place filled with many of God's wonders. We feel blessed to wander among those wonders again today.

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