Monday, March 30, 2009

Utah ROCKS !!!

Hey there! Hope your week is off to a great start.

When I last left you, we were driving from Provo down to Zion National Park here in southern Utah. And I fully intended to blog from there but … the WiFi connection was so s.....l.....o.....w!

The drive south on I-15 was enjoyable & so scenic, with mountain views the whole time. As we approached Zion NP in Springdale, we could see that the geology was changing, getting more dramatic, and that we were entering a really special place. How to describe it? I can’t in just one word, but I’ll narrow it down to a few … breathtaking, jaw-dropping, awe-inspiring, majestic. Spectacular views at every turn, each one more fantastic than the last, it’s almost unbelievable!

I’ve heard southern Utah described as a “geologic fairyland”. I can already see why! And we’re only on park # 2 of 5.

Let me preface my Utah parks blogging with what has perhaps already become obvious … that I LOVE geology, so this is a dream trip for me! I’ve collected rocks and studied earth science on my own since I was a young kid (and I was thrilled to finally study it “for real” when I minored in geology in college). My Mom would take me to rock shops, where I’d spend advances on my allowance that I’m sure I never paid back (and yes, I still have all those rocks!). Seeing the roadside rock shops here brings back really fond memories! And when I was 10 years old or so, I wrote a poem (Sal calls it "The Poem") combining my love of geology and the beach:

I thank all rocks.
Rocks break down into sand, and the sand forms beaches.
If it were not for rocks, Florida would not have any beaches!

(Of course, now I know better ... that Florida would indeed have beaches without rocks because some of its sand is coral-derived, but hey, I was just a kid!) So this little blog detour was just to provide some background about why I’m SO nuts about the geology here in southern Utah.

Now, back to our trip. Rather than a traditional hotel, we opted to stay in a cabin at Zion Lodge, which is located deep inside the park. It’s smack in the middle of all the geologic grandeur, and was perfect. No TV. No cell phone signals. Why be tethered to electronics when there’s all this nature waiting to be discovered? Anyway, here’s our cute little cabin, which even had a fireplace (a novelty for us Floridians):

and the view of our “temporary backyard” from the porch:

We started hiking almost immediately after arriving, we couldn’t wait! We began with the Emerald Pools Trail, which leads to a series of 3 waterfalls (lower, middle & upper) cascading from the sandstone walls and into pools tinted green by algae. Some of the scenes along the way …
...this is a portion of the trail (a little rocky!) ...
... but the reward at the Upper Pool is a beautiful waterfall within the canyon walls:We continued Sunday in Zion doing more hikes, sprinkled in with some other favorite things I love to do at national parks, namely, stopping at the Visitor Center to chat with a Park Ranger (what a great job they have, right?) and watching the park’s orientation film. And, lucky for me, they just happened to be having a Ranger lecture on Sunday afternoon about Zion geology! WOO HOO It was held in an outdoor “classroom”, surrounded by what else? the gorgeous Zion canyon walls.
Another great hike was on Weeping Rock Trail. It was steep, but short, and led to a giant rock formation that was indeed “weeping”, that is, spring water was seeping through areas of the rock that had been eroded away.
The most spectacular hike in Zion is the Angel’s Landing Trail, which is a strenuous hike that includes a lot of switchbacks up a steep cliff. But, even with my moderate fear of heights and being out-of-shape, I DID IT! Sal has dubbed me “Switchback Susie”. {sweet} The trail took us into a narrow canyon, the notch of the “V” of this formation that's way up behind us:

looking down on some of the switchbacks:
I'm happy, but hanging on tight to that rock! (perhaps one of my favorite things about Zion was that you could walk up and "touch" the geology, it's not just for viewing at a distance):By late Sunday afternoon, the weather was beginning to turn a little stormy, so instead of another hike, we toured the eastern portion of Zion by car, driving the Zion-Mt Carmel Highway. It’s a winding road into an entirely different geology, filled with thinly-layered rock formations that “swirl” (reminds me of an orange-creamsicle) and “tilt” in every direction. This was in stark contrast to the chunky, blocky cliffs elsewhere in the park. Here are a few of my favorite scenes from the drive:
One of the most unique geologic features in this area of Zion is Checkerboard Mesa, an eroded sandstone cliff with a face that has jointing and cross-bedding in, you guessed it, a checkerboard pattern:
a close-up of the cliff face:
More of my fave scenes from our time in Zion …
wildlife too! ... mule deer ...
and there are wild turkeys in Zion (one turkey came right up to our car ... it's mating season, yikes!):
So I’ll catch you back here soon with details and pics of our continued journey through geologic heaven. Tonight we arrived at Bryce Canyon National Park, and will begin exploring it on Tuesday. Plus, I’ll include the story and photos of a VERY special place that we visited in-between Zion and Bryce Canyon (hints: it’s in Kanab, Utah and it’s not park-related).

By the way, Utah’s state slogan (brand) is “Life Elevated”. Well said.

{{{{HUGS}}}} to Buddy & Aruba!

Bye for now,
Switchback Susie

1 comment:

Momofboys said...

wow utah is a beautiful place!! thanks for sharing the pics so i can "experience" it with you! enjoy!!