Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Zion National Park 2013

I left Heber City at 6:45 AM and arrived at the Yuba State Park-Painted Rocks Campground at 9:30 AM. The park is located ten miles north of Gunnison, Utah. Since I moved only 100 miles I expect the same weather here.
Today it rained periodically. We are again seven rigs and seven people. Five of us came from Heber City and Chuck and Karen were here already. We joined them because our next stop, the Great Basin National Park is closed.
After I set up the motorhome I attached the portable BBQ propane bottle to the system. The bottle is standing on the asphalt. Chuck told me that they get antenna television here. I raised the antenna and scanned for TV channels. I could not find any. I decided to move to a different spot. When I moved the motorhome I heard a strange noise in the back. I stopped and went outside. I did another stupid thing, but was lucky that I did not tear the hose from the propane tank. I had forgotten that the BBQ tank was back there. After disconnecting the tank I completed the move of the motorhome and then connected the tank again. After all that work the TV still does not work.
I have a good view of the lake from the motorhome.

This was another rainy day. Today was Columbus Day, a holiday. Instead of watching the rain I drove to Gunnison, Utah. There is no McDonalds hamburger restaurant to go on the Internet. I figured that the library would be closed because of the holiday. When I got there I went into the building and noticed that the Senior Center was open. People were cooking and preparing meals for home delivery. I asked whether the library would be open also. I was told to ask the lady at the mayor’s office; this office is in the same building as the library and Senior Center. The sign said that this office would be closed today, but one lady was there. She told me she would open the library at 11:00 AM. I went back to the Senior Center and waited 45 minutes. The administrator of the Senior Center came out of her office and talked to me. She wanted to know where I came from and when I told her that I was traveling with a singles group she had more questions.
After I did my computer stuff at the library I came back to the Senior Center for lunch. On my table was a couple from Quartzsite, who work in the summer at a RV Resort near the Grant Tetons. They were visiting friends in Gunnison. We had a good conversation.
It did not rain in Gunnison.  As soon as I came back to the State Park it was raining again.
At 5:30 PM we had a spaghetti pot luck dinner with delicious dessert. Since the weather was lousy we had it inside. It works fine with seven people. After dinner we played a word game. I could not get out of it. Fortunately for me, some people wanted to watch Dancing with the Stars. We played only a short time.

The temperature is 20 degrees F. below normal in Utah. We drove about 150 miles south, to Cedar City. I am staying at Walmart and my four fellow WINs are at Home Depot parking lot, which is next to the the Walmart parking lot. They were told they can only stay one night. They either have to move over here or keep on going south. Chuck and Karen are continuing on their kayak circuit.
I arrived in Cedar City at 11:30 AM and after eating lunch I drove to Cedar Breaks National Monument. It was a beautiful drive through the canyon. I knew the National Parks in Utah are open, but did not expect that the Monument would be. It was though. The young ranger was very happy to be working. There is only a small Visitor Center. 

At 10,350 feet altitude is snow. It was actually snowing lightly. I have snow chains in the trunk but prefer not to lie in the snow and put them on the tires.

On one side of the canyon is no snow.

When I came back to town I did some shopping, checked the television and I get 21 channels, and took the heavy sleeping bag out of the storage compartment, unzipped it, and put it on the bed. We have clear skies which means it will be really cold tonight. I could run the catalytic heater all night, prefer though to use an additional cover to keep warm.
While working on the computer I checked for a hot spot and Home Depot has free WIFI. I was surprised. It works rather well. I tried to make reservations for Zion National Park and the park is open but not the office for making the reservation. The other WINs have their camping sites. I will manage somehow.  

I am glad I used the sleeping back on top of the regular cover. In the morning it was 30 degrees F. in the motorhome. I ran the catalytic heater and the furnace to warm up the place. I cooked oats for breakfast and made hot cocoa.
During the day it warmed up. I bought a zipper repair kit and fixed the zipper on my Boeing leather jacket. The rest of the day I did not do much. I walked around Home Depot for a while. It is strange, when you do not want to buy anything the employees in the store want to help. When I am really looking for something a lot of time there is nobody around.
Margaret charmed Home Depot to let them stay one more day. In the afternoon the four of them went to see the movie with Tom Hanks. He plays the captain of a ship which got hijacked.

I left Cedar City at 11:00 AM since I had to drive only about 50 miles. The plan was to stay at a gravel area next to the road, ten miles outside Zion National Park. Most of the group have reservations from the 19th to the 26th. I did not make reservations and had planned to go by car to the park and find a camp site.
When I came to the gravel area nobody was there. I drove with the motorhome and car to the park and went to South campground, the campground which does not accept reservations. It was full. The ranger called Watchman campground and ask them whether they had some sites available. They had two sites, but a long line of motorhomes and trailers were in line. They did not know whether all of them had reservations.
I drove over to Watchman and they had one site left. It is only for one day. Tomorrow morning I have to go to the entrance station and stand in line and hope for a cancellation. I would like to keep the site I have. It has electricity and a fantastic view.

After setting up the motorhome and having lunch I went for a long walk. We have blue skies and it was warm. 

When I came back to the motorhome I vacuumed the furniture and floor of the motorhome and had a shower. I finished my Garrison Keilor book and went for another walk. I get two PBS stations on the television in this canyon, that is more than I expected.

At 7:30 AM I was at the campground entrance station and ask whether there were any cancellations. I was lucky and got three more days at the site I am in. I do not have to move.
On the way back I saw a grown up female deer with what seems to be a one year old and a very young baby. The baby has still the spots on his fur. The three of them ignored me when I came close to them.

I boarded the shuttle bus at 8:30 AM and went all the way to the end of Zion Canyon. Cars are not allowed in the canyon until November 3. Between stations the bus driver played a tape telling about the history of the canyon, who named the high, colorful cliffs and what trails to take to see the beauty of this park. I was going to walk on the River Walk. After a few hundred feet I knew I was not dressed right. It was cold and windy. I did not wear a heavy jacket because by 10:00 AM it will be warm. I jumped back on the bus and got off at the Zion Lodge. There I took the Lower Emerald Pool Trail. The wind was not so strong here. The trail went along the Virgin River and gradually went higher and higher. From that elevation I had an amazing view. 

The waterfall at the Lower Emerald Pool was very thin but still beautiful. 

From a distance one can see the people above the waterfall. The people below the waterfall are not visible. 

I kept on walking to the middle pool and ended up at the Upper Emerald Pool. Unfortunately I was so close to the walls of the cliffs that a picture would not show much. People were resting near the pool. The last 1/3 mile was not easy. One had to find the right boulders to step on to climb up what are supposed to be stairs. Flowers are still blooming at that altitude and frost at night.

On the way back the trail got crowded. People were coming up. It was also warm and I had to remove my sweat shirt. 

The cottonwood trees along the Virgin River are changing color. The sandstone cliffs in Zion Canyon are the tallest in the world. 

When I came back to the motorhome I took a long nap. Then I boarded the bus again and went to Zion Human History Museum and saw the film about the park and checked out the displays they have at the museum.
This was a very good day. My knee and back are not hurting and it was an exhilarating three mile moderate hike to the Emerald Pools.

This was another glorious day. I was properly dressed for the River Walk. The sun had not entered the canyon. It was cool and still a bit dark.

Young people were getting ready to walk through the Narrows. They had rented special pants with legs which fit tight around their legs. Over that they wore special socks. They also rented special shoes and a long wooden walking stick. At spots they have to walk through water knee deep, and the water is cold now. Many years ago there was hardly any water and I was able to walk through this narrow part of the canyon. 

On the side of the trail grow yellow flowers.

In the morning the river and the cliffs look different than when the sun shines into the canyon.

Some of the canyon walls are wet and plants grow on it.

My next stop was Weeping Rock. A short, steep trail leads to the rock. Sandstone is porous and water comes down the overhang and the walls. It is a constant rain. Plants grow on the wall too.

Weeping Rock is hidden behind the trees. There are people on the cliff hiking up a steep trail. I was thinking about going up, but changed my mind. It would have been a rough three hour hike.

I went back on the bus and stopped at The Grotto and took the Grotto Trail to the Zion Lodge. There I found a bench and ate my lunch. From the lodge one has a splendid view of the colorful cliffs.

I went back on the bus and got off at the Court of the Patriarchs. Most of the cliffs have biblical names since the canyon was first settled by Mormons.

Today starts officially our Zion National Park Outing. At our 4:00 PM circle meeting were 15 WINs in attendance. Mark, our host, had the white board filled with things to do. Tomorrow is the last day I have my beautiful campsite. I asked again this morning whether there are any cancelations. So far there are none.

When I walked to the campground entrance station and checked for a cancellation the moon was above the cliffs and the sun was just illuminating the top. The three deer walked across the street, but it was too dark to take a picture.

After Hugs and Mugs I hiked the Watchman Trail. It is a 2.7 mile roundtrip, and has an elevation change of 368 feet. Estimated time was two hours, which is correct. I have a problem though with the 368 feet elevation. It felt and looked like a lot more. I was early again and alone on the trail. The sun was shining on the mountains on the other side of the valley.

The trail had many switchbacks. I worked myself slowly up to the peak. When I reached the top the effort was worth the view I had.

I liked those red flowers.

Back at the campground the three muskedeers were there again. They like to be around people.

The group did the Riverside Walk, which I did already. In the afternoon I drove to Springdale to check out the library. It was closed today. I also checked out the South campground. There are a lot of sites available.
The Utah children have to go back to school. They had a whole week school vacation.
Rich invited some of us to his motorhome for an evening get together. It turned out to be a full dinner. I had eaten already. Since I had time today I made a meat sauce and cooked spaghetti. After eating two dinners I have to work harder tomorrow.

At 8:00 AM I moved the motorhome to South Campground. I do not know why they call it South, it is actually north of the Visitor Center. Watchman campground is south from there. A couple was getting ready to move from their big site. I asked the lady whether they were moving. She did not speak English. I spoke German to her and then she told me they would be leaving in fifteen minutes. I was parked on Cathy’s site.  When she saw the headlights of my motorhome she was ready to call the ranger. She did not have to call, a volunteer ranger came by and told me I could not park there. I told her that I was standing on a friend’s site and that the people in the site I was going to were leaving in a few minutes. I had already attached a part from the pay envelope on the post of my new, big, sunny site. I made sure nobody would sneak in and get it. At this campground are no hook-ups. I need the sun to charge the batteries. The view through the windshield is awesome. 

After I set up the motorhome I walked back to Watchman campground and attended the 9:00 AM Hugs and Mugs meeting. The group went today to Weeping Rock and hiked the Hidden Canyon Trail. I picked up my car from the old camp site and drove to the library in Springdale. The town is only two miles from the park. After lunch and a nap I walked to the Visitor Center. I could have taken the shuttle bus but I walked over the pedestrian bridge to Springdale. The last few days we had summer weather. At night it is still cold, but a lot better than we experienced not too long ago. This morning it was 50 degrees F. in the motorhome. I can live with that. During the day it was about 80 degrees F. 

After the 5:00 PM circle meeting we walked outside the park to the giant screen theatre and watched: Zion Canyon Treasure of the Gods. It was an IMAX film shown on a six story high screen. There were some remarkable views filmed from a helicopter, and exiting footage following climbers on the walls of a cliff.

This was another super day. Two groups hiked the Canyon Overlook Trail today. I was with the first, early group.
The trailhead is on highway 9, at the east end of the tunnel. The shuttle bus does go this way and we had to drive there. Since there is limited parking at the trailhead we decided to leave the campground at 7:30 AM. 
The four of us went on the trail before the sun was shining in the canyon.

We hiked above a slot canyon.

We encountered a female bighorn sheep. Later we saw its companion. 

The view at the overlook was fantastic. Unfortunately the camera was adjusting either to the sunny part or the part in the shade. We did not wait until the sun covered the whole canyon. 

Cathy got adventurous and climbed on a big bolder. 

Then my three companions climbed up the side of the hill. They are tiny spots in the picture. 

On the way back we saw some more bighorn sheep. There were five females. 

Water came down the canyon wall and plants enjoyed that very much. 

We saw some more bighorn sheep.

We stopped at the Checkerboard Mesa. The whole white cliff is partitioned in squares, hence the name checkerboard. 

While driving on the road more sheep grazed on the side of the road. We stopped and took some pictures. 

The weather could not have been better for hiking. Last night it was windy and many of the colorful leaves fell on the ground. Some fell on the roof of the motorhome. I could hear it. It sounded like rain.  

I do not know whether I should be proud of myself or admit that I did a stupid thing. A couple of days ago I told my camping friends that I would not attempt to climb up to Angels Landing. Angels Landing is a small flat spot at the top of a high cliff. When one person saw this he said: ”Only Angels can land on this spot”. This was not good enough for the first superintendent of Zion. He had a trail built with 22 zigzags, called Walter’s Wiggles. To get there it takes four hours to hike 2.75 miles one way with an elevation change of 1488 feet. The switch backs at the lower elevation are not so steep, but the Walter’s Wiggles are short and steep.
The hike was scheduled for today and I was one of the six WINs to attempt this crazy adventure.
We boarded the shuttle at 9:10 AM. The shuttle is a bus and a trailer which is almost as large. The shuttle goes every seven minutes. 

It was still cool since the sun had not entered the canyon. 

We slowly made progress getting to higher elevation.

I was colder in the Refrigerator Canyon.

We were pretty high now and still on the regular trail. 

The Angels Landing sign gives a fair warning. Another sign tells about the six people who perished while trying to reach the top. I did not feel like being the seventh.

The last half mile is the worst. The trail goes straight up and chains facilitate the climb. It takes strength to pull oneself up.

When I saw this narrow part of the cliff I refused to go any further. Cathy who was behind me told me: “You can do it, just keep moving”. I moved on without looking sideways. I was scared. The valley was below to the left and right. I was worried about getting down again.

I checked who was behind me. We were smart to leave early and did not experience much traffic.

I finally made it. Five of us came up at the same time. One came later. I walked back a hundred feet to a sturdy tree and ate my lunch there. The four others stayed at the end of the trail. The area was too small for me and there were too many people. It was too crowded. 

After lunch I prepared myself mentally for the climb down. When we started I paid attention where I put my feet and very seldom looked down to the valley. When it was convenient I stepped down backwards.
It was actually easies than I had envisioned. It took less physical strength. At the chain and narrow area it was rather slow because people were coming up now and we had to wait sometimes. I was clad when we arrived at the regular trail. It was not easy to walk down because the trail was so steep and my toes started to hurt. 

It was a long way down. 

We were on top of this giant cliff. 

When I got back to the motorhome I took a shower and a 30 minute nap. At the 5:00 PM circle meeting Mark, the host, gave me and Sally a Snicker Bar for overcoming our fears. I will never, never, do that again. That is for young people.
Angels Landing was on my not to do lists and I did it. People from all over the world come here to do this hike. I found out that I am in good physical shape. 
The campground changes every day. The nightly winds knock off the colorful leaves from the trees.

In a few days the trees will be bare.   

I actually wanted to leave Zion National Park today. But with all the fun and excitement we have I decided to stay.
This morning I woke up at 8:45 AM. I could not believe it. I thought there was something wrong with the clock. I called Mark and told him that I would not attend Hugs and Mugs, but I would pick him and Cathy up to go to the Kolob Canyon Visitor Center.
The three of us left at 10:00 AM. Kolob Canyon is part of Zion National Park and is located south of Cedar City. We went to the Visitor Center and got some information.

Then we hiked the short Timber Creek Overlook Trail. I did not feel like walking, because my legs are hurting from yesterday’s monster hike. I wanted to see Kolob Canyon though. 

We are spoiled from seeing the beautiful places in Zion Canyon and were slightly disappointed. 

We ate our lunch at the end of the trail.

On the way back Mark bought ice cream for Margaret’s birthday party. When we came back to Springdale I stopped at a pedestrian crossing to let people cross the street. Suddenly I heard a loud noise and my car shook and so did we. A lady ran her car into the back of mine. When I heard the noise I thought the back end of my car was destroyed. The bumpers of both cars were the same height and there were only a few scratches. We were lucky and did not have any neck injuries.   
In the afternoon I went to the Springdale library. Outside the library the trees with their fall colors were so spectacular. 

The town is surrounded by those colorful cliffs. 

After the 5:00 PM circle meeting we had cake and ice cream. Margaret is one more year older. She celebrated it with a long bicycle ride in Zion Canyon. Several of the WINs loaded their bicycles on the shuttle bus and went to the end of the canyon and then rode their bicycles back.

It started to rain at 9:30 PM. The weather forecast does not look very good. We came at the right time to Zion.     

This is our last day at Zion National Park. The rain is gone. When I woke up there was blue sky. The group went to the Emerald Pools. I took it easy today and rested my legs. In the morning I went to the library and then defrosted the refrigerator. I put the heavy sleeping bag and warm jackets away. It will be warmer beginning tomorrow.
I also removed the auxiliary propane tank and secured the awning. I am ready to roll.
At 3:00 PM I walked over to Springdale where they had a Rocktoberfest. The band had four female and one male musician. One lady came from Bavaria. She played the trumpet and did most of the screaming.

I treaded myself to a schnitzel dinner. The schnitzel was fine but the red cabbage was cooked leaves and the potato pancakes were made from thick potato shavings. I like the red cabbage made like sauerkraut and the potato pancakes made from finely grated potatoes.

 I could have stayed a few more days. This time I got to know Zion National Park better. There was only one more thing to do for me and I did not want to do it. The hike to Observation Point is eight miles and a elevation change of 2,148 feet. Two members of the group did it and they were beat. I had a good time. Now I have to decide whether I go with the group to Las Vegas or go to Death Valley National Park for the 49er Encampment.

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