Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Southwestern Utah Vacation - Day 6: Heading Home

Today, we are headed home.  It will take us about three hours to get to Las Vegas, and our flight is at 4:00 p.m., so we can leave Springdale after a leisurely breakfast.  Plus, we will be picking up an hour when we cross back into Nevada.

David, Billy, and I decided to get up and get some pictures of the sunrise on the Towers of the Virgin.  We drove to the parking area at the Zion Human History Museum and went to the patio around back.  It is a popular spot first thing in the morning and there were a number of "real" photographers there.  The sun came up behind us and, little by little, lit up the towers in front of us.  Beautiful.

We went back to the hotel, took showers, got Tom up, and went to our last buffet breakfast.  After checking out of our room, we made a couple of stops at some rock shops on our way out of town.  Then we were bound for Las Vegas.  Bill still didn't get his wish of a trip down the "Strip".

We made it to the airport with plenty of time, and once again, ran into two of the Vermonters on their way back home.  Tom also ran into a classmate that was on our flight.  Even though Dave had logged in to the Southwest Airlines website right at 5:00 p.m. (4:00 p.m. Nevada time) last night, we were still B40.  I think more and more people are paying the extra $10/flight for early bird check-in.  Some of the A seats were not sold out and for an extra $40, they were offering those seats.  See you later guys!  No, I didn't do that.  The flight was pretty full though, so we did warn the boys that they might have to sit by themselves.  They needed to think ahead and figure out what kind of seat they wanted.  No indecision or the seat would be lost and they'd be stuck in the middle of a row.  I was going to grab the first aisle seat I could and I got one next to a couple that was already seated in the inner two seats.  Dave and the boys got aisle seats one behind the other across from me.  We got home around midnight on Saturday.

Overall, I think this was a fantastic trip and would highly recommend it.  Very do-able during April vacation.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Southwestern Utah Vacation - Day 5: Echo/Hidden Canyons and Emerald Pools

Friday, May 19, 2013
Zion National Park

Today is our last full day in the park.  We planned to hike Hidden Canyon, another of those trails that they do not recommend for the faint of heart.

On one of our previous trips to the Visitor Center, a ranger had advised that instead of going directly to Hidden Canyon, we continue on the trail toward Observation Point for another mile until we get to Echo Canyon.  The hike all the way to Observation Point and back is an eight-hour hike, but we figured we could go the extra mile up the trail to Echo Canyon.

The trail to Hidden Canyon/Echo Canyon starts at the Weeping Rock shuttle stop.  The trail zigzags its way up the face of the canyon wall.   I think this trail might be more strenuous than the one for Scout Lookout that we did earlier in the week.  If I had to guess, I would say we climbed similar vertical distance, but on a shorter trail.

Starting out on Hidden Canyon Trail.

There were wonderful views across the canyon from the trail.  We went past the turn-off for Hidden Canyon and kept on climbing.  The trail eventually turned away from the face of the canyon wall and we were following a dry river bed east through a canyon.  This was the beginning of Echo Canyon and it was not long before we realized why the ranger had suggested coming up here.  The sandstone walls were carved in a beautiful undulating pattern.

View across canyon with the Virgin River below.

Echo Canyon.

After spending a little time enjoying the sculpted rocks of Echo Canyon, we turned around and headed back toward Hidden Canyon.  Once we got to the junction with the Hidden Canyon Trail, we had to climb uphill again.  We reached an area with a cliff and a chain on one side of us and a thousand foot drop on the other.  This was the area they warned about, but none of us found it difficult.  If you are afraid of heights, just don't look down!

View as we started hiking back toward Hidden Canyon.

Trail down.  You can see the junction where the
Hidden Canyon Trail starts switch-backing up.
Trail with drop-off on one side.

I have to say that Hidden Canyon was a bit of a disappointment after the pretty Echo Canyon.  The trail ends, but most people continue up the canyon a little way to where there is a natural bridge.  We went a little way and never saw it.  It had already been a fairly long hike, so we called it quits and headed back down.

Inside Hidden Canyon.

Making our way back along the chains.
Billy wanted to see Weeping Rock which is another short trail from the parking lot, so we let him go on ahead and do that while we waited.

It was a beautiful sunny day, so we decided to have our lunch on the upstairs patio of the Zion Park Lodge.  After resting a bit, we hiked up the trail across from the lodge that would take us to the Emerald Pools.  This is a very popular trail and with it being a nice sunny day and a Friday, there were a lot more people about than we had experienced on other hikes.  Dave and I had hiked the pools last time we were here.  I don't know if I am missing something, but I guess I don't consider them that spectacular.  Perhaps the significance of them is that they provide water even if there hasn't been rain for awhile.  When you get to the lower pool, you walk behind a waterfall.  But, don't get your hopes up.  Both times that have seen it, the waterfall is not much more than a trickle.

Waterfall at Lower Emerald Pool.

Looking up from near Lower Emerald Pool.

From there, we climbed to the upper pool.  This pool, because of the sheer cliff that rise above it is much prettier than the rest.  Dave and Tommy left Billy and I here so that they could head back to the lodge and take care of our boarding passes for tomorrow.  Billy and I took our time and stopped at the middle pool on our way down.  There used to be a loop trail through here, but that trail is now closed.  The middle pool is where you can see the water go over the edge into the lower pool.

Upper Emerald Pool.

Water from the middle pool going over the edge.

Water falling from middle to lower pool.

After Billy and I got back to the shuttle, we decided to head farther into the canyon and just hop off and take pictures where we wanted.  We went up to the Big Bend stop and got some pictures of the other side of Angels Landing.  Heading back out of the canyon, we stopped at the Court of the Patriarchs.  Here we climbed a short trail to a viewpoint.  The sun was in our eyes, but we waited about ten minutes for it to sink below the peaks and we were able to get some nice views.  When we got back to the bottom of the trail, there was a deer grazing just over the wall.

From Big Bend (I think).  See moon up at top.

Court of the Patriarchs.  From left: Abraham, Isaac,
and Jacob (the white peak behind Mount Moroni).

We took the shuttle back to the Visitor Center and then walked over to the free town shuttle which dropped us off right across from our hotel.  Tom and Dave had successfully gotten our boarding passes and were relaxing. 

We headed next door to Jack's Sports Grill where we had a very satisfying dinner of burgers, cheese steaks and Caesar salad.  Being a sports bar, they had televisions all about.  Most of the coverage was of the killing of one and the capture of the other Boston Marathon bombing suspects.  Although news coverage each night kept us aware of what was going on, I felt strangely disconnected from the events in Boston.  I don't know if it was because we were so far from home, or that we were occupied with other things and didn't spend a great deal of time glued to the TV. 

One more short post to come on our final morning in Zion and flying home.