Day 13: Zion National Park
We explored Zion National Park, hiking up the Virgin River for several miles, and driving around its beautiful valley. Later, we headed down the road a little to northern Arizona.
Zion National Park, Utah—Jacob Lake, Arizona
I woke up relatively late today. The sun did not hit the tent until about 9 A.M. because of The Watchman and other mountains to the east. We went to the Zion Canyon Visitor Center to get information on trails and a peek at the museum, the forecast calls for 105 degrees today! We wanted a good breakfast so we drove out the southern entrance on UT 9 looking for a place to eat. Springdale, the first town, was established by Mormons. Some nice places but they were all packed with people. We kept going, passing through Rockville, Virgin, and La Verkin. This was getting ridiculous! In Hurricane we finally found this place that was, well, different - a local-type place. The food and prices were great, the atmosphere was strange.
After our long journey in quest of breakfast, we returned back through all those sleepy towns eventually making our way to the park. We decided to go up the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. This park was very congested, it is one of the most visited parks in the National Park System. This road parallels the Virgin River and is situated between mountains like The East Temple, The Beehive, The Sentinel, Court of the Patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob), Mount Moroni, and The Great White Throne, all named by Mormons (as if you couldn't tell).
The Temple of Sinawava marks the end of the road and the trailhead of the Riverside Walk Trail to the Narrows. We took the Riverside walk which was a nice one mile trail that also parallels the Virgin River and eventually ends at its banks. There were a lot of people standing around in the water, we started walking up the river. It was not possible to walk in the river without shoes on. I tried - it wasn't going to happen. The Narrows is a trail in the Virgin River and is so named because the canyon walls on either side of the river are over 1,000 feet high. This goes on for the next 16 miles and by the end, the canyon walls are about 20 feet apart. Down river, where we were, there were sandy banks to walk on at times and the canyon was much wider. The water was green in the deep parts and it felt nice to take a swim now and then. We spent the time we were going to use to see the rest of the park here. We just kept walking up the river for about two or three hours and we usually did a little over two to three miles in an hour. Eventually, we decided it was time to come back, which seemed a lot quicker of course. This was a nice trail; although it was hot out, we were in water and it was very refreshing.
We were going to see the hanging gardens and waterfalls in the park but we had seen waterfalls and hanging gardens on the river walk so we skipped them and headed out. We paid a bit more attention to the curious rock mountains on the east side of the tunnel. Many of these were petrified sand dunes, like ones seen in Arches National Park. These are characterized by the thin, horizontal layers of rock called cross bedding. The Checkerboard Mesa is an example of this. This has the horizontal cross-bedding lines but also has vertical lines caused by fractures and runoff.
Drove out to Mt. Carmel Jct. on UT 9 and then south on US 89 to Kanab and into Arizona. At Fredonia we took US 89 ALT into the Kaibab National Forest and to Jacob Lake. At this point the road going south to the north rim of the Grand Canyon had a sign telling us that all the campgrounds there were full which was nice since it was a long drive away. So we stayed at the Jacob Lake campground which was run by the US Forest Service. We were on the Kaibab Plateau in the company of large pines and a lot of shade. Tonight we had our first real meal in a while - with meat even. We were told by the ranger that there was a show on backcountry camping tonight at 8 P.M. Arizona time! "What's Arizona time," I asked. Arizona does not do Daylight Savings, she explained, so we gained an hour and didn't even know it. The show was amateur theatrics but it was funny at times. Went back to do the dishes and went to bed.