Las Vegas to Zion National Park, UT
Saturday, September 28, 2013
Sunny, high 70, gorgeous
Leaving Vegas, we were bound north on I-15, headed for Zion National Park. A few miles north of town is the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. That we expected. But the familiar name of Manheim Auto Auction on the other was not. Based in Lancaster County, we knew they had many other locations. We just didn’t expect to see one in Las Vegas.
I-15 passes through the beautiful and spectacular Virgin River Gorge. We tried taking pictures through the windshield but they simply don’t do the drive justice. We stopped by the Virgin River Campground and were impressed with the wonderful views and flush toilets, even!
The city of St. George is also along the way. Founded as a Mormon cotton mission in 1861, it is a beautiful town. It is known, partly, for the fact that it was the summer home of “Mormon Moses” Brigham Young. He used the place to escape the summer heat of Salt Lake City. We toured the restored where he lived and worked and drove by other landmarks including the Tabernacle, Temple and a splash park next to the Tabernacle.
Arriving, finally, at Zion National Park we found that the park campgrounds were all filled. So we backed out to find a place in Springdale, just outside the park. The tiny town has grown a lot since last visit, adding tons of shops, restaurants and inns, motels and, fortunately, campgrounds. We got a spot in Zion Canyon Campground, about half a mile from the park gate.
After setting up we hopped on one of the free shuttle busses from town to the Visitor Center and onto another to ride up and back canyon road. By the end of the hour plus ride the valley was in deep shadow and had cooled off quite a bit.
Returning to the campground we heated up a couple of servings of gluten free ravioli and ate it with a salad ala Sandy!
Zion National Park, UT
Sunday, September 29, 2013
Sunny & gorgeous, breezy, cool morning but up to 80 deg in afternoon
We started the day with a hike up Watchman Trail. It was a moderate, four-mile round trip climb from our campsite that we had not done on our previous trip to the park. With beautiful vistas along the way, it climbed up the sides of a small side canyon near the Visitor Center, skirting along cliff sides and switchbacks. Ending in a nice overview of the town and park campgrounds, it also afforded a nice view up the Virgin River Canyon that is the heart of the park.
Lunch was nachos at the Zion Canyon Brew Pub, just outside the park entrance.
We then drove through the park on Rt-9 to, up the switchbacks and through the one-mile tunnel to the northern entrance of the park. There we hiked the narrow and rocky Canyon Overlook Trail above Pine Creek Canyon. Looking down into the canyon section just downstream from the tunnel, it was amazingly narrow, twisted and deep. The final overlook afforded an entirely different view of the canyon, featuring Streaked Wall, Beehives, Alter of Sacrifice and Mt Spry in the distance.
We then continued out the road to Checkerboard Mesa. This rock formation, with both vertical and horizontal fissures is still as cool looking as ever.
We’d heard that the Spotted Dog Café, across the road from our campground, was good. We checked it out and they indicated they’d be happy to prepare one of their pasta specialties using Sandy’s own, gluten free pasta. So, Sandy cooked the pasta and we had an excellent dinner with lots of attention from the friendly staff. Not only was the food excellent, but they made us feel quite special. Recommended!
Zion NP to Fremont Indian State Park, UT
Monday, September 30, 2013
Sunny & gorgeous, a bit cooler, high 70s
Leaving the campground about 10:30, we headed to the Rock River Roasting Co in LaVerkin, a place recommended by last nights server at dinner. It is a nice coffee place with a few gluten free offerings and a deck that hangs over a small canyon. Good coffee, nice place.
Kolob Canyon, a section of Zion National Park that we’d not visited before was on our way east. It offers a six-mile loop drive. We dropped the camper in the parking lot and took a look. The canyon is nearly all red-red rock. And there were hanging gardens fed by occasional, short-lived waterfalls. Worth the drive.
Continuing on our way, the landscape gave way to more cattle grazing lands and irrigated fields used to grow hay and corn. Farmers were busy taking in hay and corn as we drove by. In other areas it was more arid with juniper and pinion pine and lots of yellow flowers coloring the hillsides.
We camped at Castle Rocks Campground. Administered by Fremont Indian State Park, it is actually on BLM lands. The campsites are large and well spaced. We got a site just under the neat cliffs that did, indeed, remind us of the parapets of a medieval castle.
We next headed to the park, itself. The park came to be when a large Fremont Indian village was discovered on nearby Five Finger Ridge during the construction of I-70 in the 1980s. Archeologists excavated the site and the state subsequently created the park to protect the artifacts. There was a nice Visitor Center where we watched an introductory film before the center closed for the day. Known for its pictographs and petroglyphs, we hiked a couple of park trails to see what we could.
Dinner was leftovers from our dinner the previous evening. Then, in a move very unusual for us, Bill built a campfire and we sat out and enjoyed a clear, beautiful, chilly evening.