May 2014 – From Bryce Canyon we pass through Panguitch and its large, mountain Lake. The notorious outlaw Butch Cassidy grew up in this area. Wintry scenes greet us as we near Mount Brian Head.
The road south is closed so we head north to Parowan, a sheltered town amongst vast, open plains. The dirt road from Kanarraville also has a closed sign, but we take a chance as a truck driver tells us, that unless trees have fallen across the track, there should not be a problem. We pass through forests of Aspens with stark, white trunks, known for tolerating poor soils and cold climates. Also called Quaking Aspens, as their leaves tremble in the slightest breeze. But at this elevation these trees are bare, although they must look spectacular in the fall.
We are in luck, there are no fallen trees and we notice that the water level in the remote Kolob Reservoir is very low, although storm clouds are gathering. Towering cliffs begin to appear on the western edge of Zion National Park as we descend to Virgin where it joins Highway 9.
From Virgin it’s tarmac east to Springdale where we camp at the RV Park there and also meet up with travellers Nancy and Darryl who are heading south. We spend a great evening with them sharing a meal in town and swapping stories. Thanks guys for your company, safe travels and enjoy the South!
It’s going to be our first, wet day visiting one of the National Parks but the locals are very happy because rain is badly needed.
It’s only a short drive from the campground to the southern entrance of the park and an excellent visitor centre, with a fantastic selection of books and maps to easily tempt you! The Zion Mount Carmel Highway is definitely worth a side trip if you are entering from the south as we did and not from the east. There are views of weathered sandstone beds, including the Checkerboard Mesa, crosshatched with vertical joints and the 400 ft. high Great Arch, which geologists call a ‘blind arch’ because of the way it is recessed into the cliff.
From here we join the North Fork Virgin River and enter Zion Canyon itself. approx. half a mile wide at this point with walls 2000 – 3000 ft. high. Unlike the Grand Canyon where we stood on the rim and looked out, here we view the canyon from the bottom looking up!
Zion gives us the feeling of immense scale and strength….like a wild calm, until the storms erupt and bring the possibility of flash floods roaring through the canyon, parts of which are barely 18 feet apart, such as The Narrows, whose 2000 ft. walls hardly ever let the sun reach its depths.
Everything in Zion takes life from the Virgin River, a ribbon of green marking its course as it carves its way through the canyon, in what would otherwise be a desert landscape. It’s not difficult to understand therefore, that the name ‘ Zion’ has the meaning of a ‘ promised land.’
We take the 2 mile Riverside Walk which begins where the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive ends at the Temple of Sinawava. It’s a green oasis with shady trees and delicate flowers that have found a crack in the rock and a pocket of soil in which to flourish.
After heavy rain or during the spring snow melt, the cliffs across the canyon can be streaming with water full of minerals. Zion’s waterfalls can be spectacular and although some may only last for a short while, their tracks remain clearly visible, leaving black streaks after the water has evaporated.
Not far from here, The Great White Throne soars some 2500 ft. above the river……….
…………whilst a short trail takes us to the Three Patriarchs, sheer, sandstone faces carved by wind and water and given religious names from the Old Testament by a Methodist Minister in 1916……Abraham Peak, Isaac Peak and Jacob Peak, with Mount Moroni also in the foreground.
The rain fortunately didn’t spoil our visit to Zion, which has certainly been different with its majestic cliffs towering above us. Amazing to think that over millions of years, flowing water has slowly created most of what we have seen. Even early Mormon pioneers, saw these sculptured rocks as ‘ the natural temples of God.’