[Checkerboard Mesa] I reached Zion National Park around 3:30, stopping to photograph Checkerboard Mesa near the park entrance. The east entrance (via UT-9) involves two tunnels, a short one and a very long one. You typically have to wait at the long tunnel because traffic is one-way whenever an RV or trailer is going through (there are rangers posted at either end to stop traffic).

Zion is absolutely beautiful! The tall cliffs remind me of Capitol Reef, but the cliffs are softer, rounder, and taller here and there is more vegetation. (Softer and rounder = Navajo Sandstone at work.) Zion is also hot. I walked a couple of miles on the West Riverside/Sand Bench Trail after the sun had dipped below the cliffs.

The room here is nice. I'm on the second floor and have a cliffside deck in back (PHOTO).

Zion Lodge UT

Exploring Zion

Sunday, June 8, 2003: I poked around the park some early, then tried to join a ranger-led birdwalk on the Pa'rus Trail. But where was the ranger? I don't know. I made my own birdwalk and added Lucy's Warbler to the triplist and White-breasted Nuthatch and Cordilleran Flycatcher to the Utah list. I had also seen Turkeys on my early exploration. I think that brings my trip total to 117 (it's not a birding trip!).

After watering, I did the Emerald Pool Trails, visiting the south middle, upper, north middle, and lower pools. While going up the middle pool trail, I encountered three familiar hikers on the way down. I had seen them last two days ago when we were all going up the North Kaibab Trail from Supai Tunnel! In fact, we swapped positions several times there until they left the Coconino Overlook well before me.

On the way down from the Emerald Pools I heard something that sounded like an Indigo Bunting. But this is Utah, so it must be Lazuli. A little searching revealed that it was indeed Lazuli.

In the afternoon I explored the Kolob Reservoir Road. Should be promising for birds. I think I'll try it again in the morning, maybe on Tuesday. That's it for today.

Zion Lodge, UT

Not Landing on Angel's Landing

Monday, June 9, 2003: This morning I headed up the Angel's Landing Trail. It starts across from the Grotto picnic area. At first it ascends slowly, then through a series of switchbacks to Refrigerator Canyon, which is a hanging canyon. The trail only goes up a little in the canyon, but then heads up the wall in 21 paved switchbacks called Walter's Wiggles. That gets you to Scout's Lookout, which is about 1100 feet above the valley floor. By then you've covered two miles. (PHOTO1, PHOTO2) That's the easy part. I started up the "trail" to Angel's Landing, which is a half-mile long and climbs another 400 feet. There's no problem with route finding, just follow the chains. The chains are to hold onto while you cross the rock face. When I got to a traverse across a narrow ledge that sloped the wrong way (down), I decided this was more climbing than hiking and went back. I stayed at Scout's Lookout for a while with some others who were not proceeding. One was a woman who lives in Palm City, FL (Floridians are everywhere out here). A couple of people who came back down the "trail" had made the same decision I did, they just got a little farther before doing so. Others did go all the way to Angel's Landing.

Next, I took a shower, went into town, and did my laundry...about time! After bringing the clean clothes back, I got back in the car and went back through the tunnel (which I now know is 1.1 miles long, and which has several viewports built into it), and stopped at the Canyon Overlook Trail. This is a very nice interpretive trail that leads to an overlook of Zion Canyon. Along the way you also get to look down on a slot canyon.

Then it was back to the park and back on the shuttle. I wanted to see how the town shuttle worked, so I rode to the visitor's center, walked over to the town shuttle, and took it into Springdale. The plan was to get off at stop 3 and have lunch somewhere. Unfortunately, the driver drove right past the stop! He announced the next stop as the one I wanted, but after I got off I realized it wasn't the right stop. So I walked back to where I could find a place to have lunch.

[Great White Throne] Back to the park. I wanted to take some pictures of the Great White Throne from Photo Point. However, Photo Point is not a shuttle stop. It's halfway between Big Bend and Weeping Rock (both of which were visible from Scout's Lookout). So I got off at Big Bend, walked to Photo Point, got my pictures, then walked to Weeping Rock and did the Weeping Rock trail. Weeping Rock is a nice hanging garden at a natural seep (and waterfall).

I finished the day by doing the Riverwalk Trail (2 miles, but relatively flat). It's a pleasant stroll along the river. It was a busy day and I figure I walked over 10 miles.

Zion Lodge, UT

Ghosts and Narrows

Tuesday, June 10, 2003: I started out the morning by heading out of the park to the remnants of the ghost town of Grafton (they're down to two buildings). There were a bunch of Phainopeplas in the area and a couple of Black Phoebes. Summer Tanager and Northern Rough-winged Swallow were also trip birds.

Then I went up Kolob Reservoir Road, where I quickly spotted even more Phainopeplas. I stopped for a Lazuli Bunting and heard a Gambel's Quail calling, which provided my other new bird for the day. This time I took the turnoff for Lava Point. There is a campground, picnic area, and overlook there. The overlook provides a high-elevation view of the Zion canyons.

I then returned to the main part of the park, had lunch, and visited all the viewpoints I hadn't yet visited. Later in the afternoon I again did the Riverwalk Trail. However, this time I was in shorts with wading shoes and trekking pole. I continued up the river into the Narrows. It's cold! Sometimes you wade in the river, sometimes there are sand bars to walk on. I spent about 35 minutes in the river and got a bit past the Mystery Canyon Falls. I had originally planned to go up the Narrows to Orderville Canyon, but didn't really feel like walking that far in the cold water.

Walking the narrows was pretty interesting—spectacular cliffs, sometimes undercut, the disorientation from looking down at the rushing water, water seeping out of the canyon walls, etc.

On the way there one kid asked me if I was a ranger. When I returned to the paved trail another kid wanted to know how much my trekking pole cost. There were quite a few people using trekking poles in the river, but the majority were using wooden walking sticks. Since the rocks are slippery and the footing is extremely changeable, some sort of pole makes navigation a lot easier.

Right now, I'm sitting on the back deck typing this and watching the shadows slowly creep up the canyon wall. The moon has just risen over the wall. I will have to get a picture. (PHOTO) It is beautiful here!

Zion Lodge, UT

Kolob Fingers and Lehman Cave

Wednesday, June 11, 2003: I slept in this morning (relatively speaking) and it was around 8:30 when I left Zion. In fact, I wasn't really leaving the park yet. Rather, I first visited the NW corner—the Kolob Fingers. I walked the trail to the overlook (about 1 mile round trip), but decided to pass on Taylor Creek and the double arch. In the afternoon you can probably get great photos from the scenic drive, but in the morning there is no point as you are shooting into the sun.

Back on I-15, I drove to Cedar City where I had several errands to run. I stopped for gas and got directions to a UPS Store where I shipped off 36 rolls of film to Kodak and 10 lbs. worth of guidebooks home. A grocery was next to restock Diet Coke and other essentials. Then I had lunch.