Saturday, July 24, 2021

Southwest Parks 2021 - Day 4 (7/12/21) - To Zion

Fran got up to see the sunrise over the canyon, but I stayed in bed. When I did get up I was definitely feeling a bit dehydrated. After checking out we headed to the general store to buy some Gatorade for me and a couple of yogurts for breakfast. We ate at a picnic table on the campgrounds next to the store, then departed around 9am for the drive to Springdale and Zion National Park.

The drive had another interesting transition between landscapes and elevation, from the comparative lushness of the North Rim back down to the desert. One of the few towns that we drove through was Kanab, UT, and it as there that we had a fortuitous occurrence. As Fran and I were discussing looking up whether there were any electronics stores around where we could find a replacement battery for her camera, she noticed a camera store - Terry's Camera Trading Company - on the side of the road. I quickly pulled into the parking lot and we went in to find out whether they had the specific battery model that she needed. As additional background, Fran had spotted a few Canon camera owners over the last 2 days and asked whether they had a compatible battery that she could borrow for a few minutes; in each case the battery was the wrong model - either too big or too small. It turned out that Terry's did have one unit remaining of the needed battery type, so we bought that along with a charger. Needless to say, Fran was over the moon.

We carried on northwest, eventually entering Zion via the east entrance. We were immediately struck by the beautiful cliffs and rock formations. After a couple of stops at scenic points, we continued on through the narrow, long, and somewhat scary Zion Tunnel to get to the central portion of the park. From there we turned south into Springdale and found our lodging for the next 2 nights - the Red Rock Inn. I have to say that I am a fan of this little bed and breakfast - the location was good, the room was quite nice, and the "innkeeper" Sharon was super friendly and helpful.

By the time we checked in and got our act together it was approaching 3pm. After a bit of confusion and deliberation, we drove to the park entrance and parked the car in the paid side parking. The main entrance to the park is surrounded by Zion Canyon Village, an outdoor mall of sorts with a pub, supermarket, and a couple of outfitters. As suggested by Sharon we asked at one of the outfitters about renting waterproof boots and walking sticks for the water trail to the Narrows for the next day; they told us that the forecast was not looking good, as there was a chance of thunderstorms - this can cause dangerous flash floods on the river.

We took the pedestrian entrance into the park, and then hopped on the shuttle. I was still feeling low on energy, so we weren't planning to do anything too strenuous. A friendly couple that we had seen at the outfitter and also on the shuttle told us that they had enjoyed the Emerald Pools trails, and gave us some tips about them. Following their advice, we got off and first took the Middle Pool trail. The pool itself turned out to be underwhelming. Instead of connecting down to the Lower Pool trail as they had suggested, we detoured to the Upper Pool trail, which was slightly more strenuous but had a better payoff. Unfortunately, we went up at the same time as a very large group of teenagers, which (as Fran had previously claimed would happen) made me appreciate the solitude that we had on most of the Grand Canyon North Rim trails. We descended back down via the Lower Pool trail.

Fran going off-trail and taking pictures using the new battery for her camera

After that, we took the shuttle to the last stop to check out the Riverside Walk trail. This is a easy 20 minute walk along the Virgin River, and is the precursor to getting into the river to hike to the Narrows. We stopped at the end right when it transitions into the river, as we did not have the proper gear to continue. That being said, there were plenty of people who continued on in their sneakers, so it's certainly doable up to a point.

We then took the shuttle back to the visitor center and exited the park. We drove home, cleaned up, and then walked down the street to a Tex-Mex place (called Bit & Spur) for dinner.

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Full pictures for the trip here: https://photos.app.goo.gl/FQpbDfmdGRksjimi9

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