Friday, June 3, 2011

Soggy Soggy Zion

Brenna spent the morning hiking around Emerald Pools in Zion National Park, a hike that I regret to have missed, but riding bikes took precedent and when on these trips to big places, you quickly realize that one cannot do it all without staying a month or more.  I will make a point of getting Brenna to elaborate on her solo hike around the pools. Which, by the way, has the distinction of being the most dangerous hike in all of Zion (based on number of deaths).  
Perhaps because it's less treacherous and thusly has more people...apparently drunk people...that drown trying to swim in the pools.  As opposed to the insane heights of Observation point or Angel's landing, I find this "most dangerous" label hard to believe, but in a way...more people, means more morons, means more deaths.  
Ah...the plight of humanity.
Nathan and I had been riding in dry sunny conditions to the west with Monte in the last post, but the nature of the mountains just to the north of us, ensconced with heavy ominous looking clouds, was calling.  We all still decided that getting into Zion for some kind of a hike would be worth getting wet as long as there wasn’t lighting striking around us, so off we went in the Corolla.

Ok, so it wasn't THAT Toyota Corolla.  It was the normal crappy underpowered rental version, but as I know cars and teenagers, the fancy one pictured here is probably just 50 pounds heavier than the stock version after all the aftermarket faring was installed and not any more powerful. 
(Note to people who do this: You spent good money making your car heavier and slower.  I hope the time spent dreaming of the Fast and Furious movies at the fry vat at McDonalds was worth it...)  It's all image and not all much in the way of substance in the street car market most of the time.  Like putting a fat spoiler on the back of a front wheel drive car.  
*slaps forehead*
Ok, enough ranting, I drove my Pontiac Grand AM like a moron, so I have very little room to talk about boorish behavior in my teenage years.  Back to the trip, which was vastly better than my delving into the memories of my high-school driving habits.
You can thank me later...
The clouds were trapped by the canyons and stuck there the whole day.  You could see them gathering in my sunrise time lapse segment of the first mountain biking video here.  The camera is pointed at the peaks of Zion Canyon and the thick clouds were just caught there and didn't make it out to the mesas where we rode the bikes.

You will have to imagine these two images stitched together since I lost my Photoshop abilities when I moved over to the Mac.  I spent that money on riding bicycles and race entries, so it went for a good cause this year.

One thing I really noted in trying to photograph this area of the world.  A wide angle lens is required most of the time.  What I thought was wide angle wasn't even close to being able to capture the grand scale of places like this.  It's honestly amazing.
We drove into the park and really couldn’t see the tops of the canyon walls around us as the clouds rolled and tumbled over the peaks a thousand feet above us.  In the effort to delay getting out of the car and stumbling into the wet and cold, we opted to drive through an historic tunnel that was carved into the mountain side to get out of the canyon and head to higher altitudes.  The Mount Carmel Tunnel was mined out of the rock starting in 1927 and allowed us to get to higher ground where there was a short hike to an overlook.  
The tunnel had some holdups at either end because RV’s coming through have to drive right down the middle to avoid hitting the walls and ceiling of the tunnel.  I guess that’s what you get when you design roads and tunnel projects before the invention of the monstrous vehicles that roam the western states during the vacation months.  I may make fun of them, but I expect to enjoy being a bleary eyed parent hauling the kids around in one to some of these fantastic places in the not too distant future.  

The other side of the tunnel provided an entirely different looking set of cliffs and geology than the interior of Zion.  The ribbed sandstone domes of petrified sand dunes were everywhere dotted with twisted Juniper and Pines.  This is a preserved part of the largest sand dune desert that the planet has probably ever seen, and some of the dunes were hundreds if not a thousand feet high to give you an idea of the scale.  

We tired quickly of the car ride because looking out windows doesn’t give the connection to the natural scenery and open views that walking does, so we braved the rain and headed out to an overlook.  There are normally a few waterfalls in the park, but today the entire place was teaming with them.  We had to find ways off trail to get around several.  The weather was in the low 50’s and we had to keep moving to stay warm since rain gear was something we had not counted on when coming to the desert.  

The rainclouds were remarkable and the solitude of the place, since the less committed tourists were all cowering in their hotels watching TV or something, was an unusual experience.  All you could hear was water falling and the wind.  The scene when we reached the end of the trail was something that I would expect from a trip to Washington State or Oregon.  Very unusual weather according to the locals I talked with.  Especially for late May.  It had even snowed the day before we got into Utah and the high ridge of Pine mountain (which is a massive Laccolith by the way) was completely covered.  Yes, geology is cool...pfft if you don't like it.  It's my blog.

Nathan looking up at the falls that would last only a brief time.  One of the cool shots of the day.

 Here we are trying to look warm and not get our feet soaked!

We were wet and getting cold at the overlook into the canyon, and to end the first and a quite successful day, we headed into Springdale to grab some food and plot out the next day’s activities.
Next: The Corolla goes rock crawling, we ride Gooseberry Mesa, and Brenna finds out that “mellow trails” in Utah are flippin’ hard on the shins.  Yeeeooowwwch!!!

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