We had big plans to be at the Zion National Park’s Visitor Center when it opened at 8:00. That didn’t happen, but we did roll in about 8:30, so we’ll take it. We walked into the Visitor’s Center without having a clue of what we were going to do today. That is not our normal mode of operation, but it is good to be spontaneous sometimes.
There is a $25 entrance fee to enter the Zion National Park. That seemed kind of expensive at first, but it provided us a full day of entertainment, and this is one of the nicest parks, if not the nicest, that we have ever visited. The $25 was well worth it.
We picked out two hikes we wanted to do then hopped on the Shuttle Bus. To move around through almost all of the Park, you must ride on propane-fueled buses. This was a very efficient way to get around. It sure beats having to find a parking place, and Zion had 2.7 million visitors last year. We never had to wait more than 5 minutes, and there were almost always open seats available. We rode “up canyon” to the Zion Lodge station. As we pulled in, we saw an unexpected site – the rest of our traveling party. We spent a few minutes hearing about their morning, which started early. They left the hotel at 5:30am and were some of the first people in the Park.
We took advantage of the opportunity and took a group photo, then let them go finish up the rest of their sightseeing. They had to wrap up their touristing by Noon, then KK and PK drove them to Las Vegas for them to fly back to Oklahoma.
Zion National Park was originally established as a National Monument in 1909, and then was renamed as a National Park in 1919. It is the oldest National Park in Utah. Even though the Mormons settled the area, and provided the name “Zion” for the Park, it was a Methodist minister who named many of the rock formations, such as the Great White Throne, Angels Landing, and the Court of the Patriarchs.
Zion boasts the highest sandstone cliffs in the world. This area was once part of a vast desert, perhaps the largest desert the world has ever known. Scientists have concluded that it had sand dunes up to 3,000 feet deep. In comparison, the Sahara Desert has dunes 200 to 300 feet deep. Those sandstone cliffs are definitely some of its most beautiful features.
Our first walk was on the Emerald Pools Trails. Zion boasts many natural springs, which feed these pools, the Upper, Middle, and Lower. Speaking of natural springs, nowhere within Zion can you buy a bottle of water. They simply have water stations at nearly every shuttle stop where you can fill up your own water bottle or camelback with natural spring water. It was delicious!
The walk to the Lower Pool was paved the entire way. It had a great waterfall. Everybody was in great spirits at this point. We continued on to the Middle Pool. This trail was a bit more challenging. It was not paved, and it had quite a bit of climbing. During this walk, Marissa was losing her enthusiasm fast. “Are we almost done?” “I am tired. Can we go back now?” For a group that had planned to do a full day of hiking, this was not what we wanted to hear.
We made it to the Middle Pool and decided to make the trek to the Upper Pool. This is considered a strenuous hike, and it was tough, especially for a 6-year-old who was alerting us that she was tired and ready to go back. But then Stephanie’s Mommy Skills kicked in and suggested that we get an ice cream after our hike. Marissa had a much better attitude the rest of the day!
During this part of the hike, I got pooped on by a bird. A solid shot right on my left shoulder. Now I was really feeling like I was becoming one with nature. In hindsight, I should have smeared it across my forehead. I will be sure and do that next time.
We arrived at the Upper Pool and it was worth the hike. It was very picturesque, and there were lots of people there. Some people took their socks & shoes off and waded in the pool to cool off, or for pictures. I visited with another hiker and she told me that this was the first time she had been to the Upper Pool and nobody was swimming. (The fact that there are “No Swimming” signs posted prominently must not bother most hikers.)
We let the kids chill out at the Upper Pool for a while, then we began the climb back down. When we made it to the Middle Pool, we took another trail, the Kayente Trail, to a different shuttle stop. The Kayente Trail was also paved, and it provided some great views of the canyon. Toward the end of the trail, it ran along the Virgin River, and it was very relaxing to hear the sounds of water rushing by.
By this time, Marissa was really buying in to the reward system we discussed earlier. She was a whole new person. I was hearing things like, “I love you, Mommy!” and “I love hiking!”. She had changed from being the anchor of the group, to being our most enthusiastic.
The Kayente Trail ends by crossing the Virgin River. Stephanie, Mallory and Marissa decided to take off their socks & shoes and splash around a little bit. It was a great way to cool off from the heat.
It was around 2:00 by now and we were all ready to eat. Our first stop was the Zion Lodge, where we all got some ice cream. Dessert first – I love vacation! Then we rode the shuttle back to the parking lot at the Visitor’s Center, where we had a picnic, alongside quite a few other tourists. We had the foresight to park under a tree, so we had a crowd gathered around our van. We just joined the party.
After lunch, we rode the shuttle “Up Canyon” to the Weeping Rock. This is a neat formation, and was only a ½ mile paved walk. It was therefore very popular with many of the park visitors who were unable to tackle the more strenuous trails.
The Weeping Rock is named such because water runs right out the side of the face of the mountain. The reason is that the bottom half of the mountain is made out of shale, while the top half is made out of limestone. When rainwater seeps through the soil, it goes through the porous limestone, but when it reaches the shale, it looks for the path of least resistance, which is out the side of the mountain. It takes 1,200 years for water to make its way through the mountain and exit at Weeping Rock.
At the last minute, we decided to add another hike to our day, the Riverside Walk. This is a trail that Scott, Erin, KK & PK had taken early in the morning, and they said it was great. This trail is completely paved and follows the Virgin River for about a mile. The Riverside Walk ends where a more strenuous trail called The Narrows begins. The kids were lukewarm about this one, but they thoroughly enjoyed it when we got to the end, as they got to splash around in the river.
There were some interesting things to see along this trail, but Steph was losing her enthusiasm for taking pictures. After a day with 6 miles of hiking, she said she just couldn’t take pictures of any more rocks. Sounds like she is on Rock Overload.
While we were taking our afternoon hikes, KK & PK drove Scott and Erin to Las Vegas. Miles was worried that we would get a phone call from KK & PK telling us that they had caught Vegas Fever and wouldn’t be back to join us for the rest of the trip. That turned out to be a false concern.
Scott & Erin did get to drive them through downtown Vegas and down the Strip, but Mom & Dad had no problems in getting themselves out of town and back to Springdale, Utah for the evening. They made it back before 9:00 and went straight to bed.
On our way back to the motel after our hike down the Riverside Trail, I started to develop a headache, which is very uncommon for me. By the time we reached our car, I felt pretty worthless. We found a restaurant across the street from our motel for dinner, but I went back to the room before the rest of the group even finished their meal, and went to bed. Even though I had been very intentional about drinking water all day, I suspect I got dehydrated. The high was supposed to be 101 today at Zion.
The kids got to spend some quality time in the motel pool after dinner, until Mallory got kicked in the face by Marissa when she was coming down the slide. Getting bombed by a bird, dehydration, and a kick in the head is not the recipe for a perfect day. Next time, I am definitely smearing the bird poop on my forehead.