Finally, I am getting around to posting properly on my visit to Zion National Park (wiki) last summer. Previously there was a teaser post, which to my utter surprise sees a lot of visitors, and I just posted a bunch of photos taken during my drive to Zion from St. George. Here’s now the first instalment of photos taken in the park itself.
I only managed to fit a short visit to Zion into my one week in Utah, because I had so many things planned. A visit to the new Utah Museum of Natural History with Brian Switek (yes, the excellent science writer of Laelaps fame (which recently moved to Phenomena by NatGeo), a visit to the absolutely awesome St. George tracksite museum, including a guided tour by Jeff Harris and Andrew Milner, a visit to Arches National Park, some sightseeing in Salt Lake City, a visit to the newly renovated Quarry Visitor Center at Dinosaur National Monument with Brooks Britt for a guided tour by Dan Chure, and so on. A palaeo dream trip, overall
Just behind the South Entrance
Because of the distances involved – it is a 4 hour drive from SLC to St. George – and because I had only that one day to visit both the tracksite and Zion, I started my trip very early in the morning, and left St. George again in the early afternoon. I arrived at Zion at the South Entrance in time to get up on the mountains and catch a great sundown. Then, I drove back to SLC, where I had roughly 2 hours of sleep before leaving again for DNM.
As I mentioned before the weather was not really ideal for a visit to such a spectacular landscape: it was rather hazy because of smoke from wildfires, and there were a lot of clouds, mainly in the west. Ideally located to block the setting sun. BLEH! Furthermore, there had been much more cloud cover during the day, and when I got to the park it looked a lot like it would rain. It had rained a bit just before, too. Still, in the end I lucked out for once.
At the entrance I asked the ranger where I should go, considering the advanced time and the haze. She didn’t hesitate a second to recommend the Canyon Overlook Trail, so off I went. The associated parking lot is right behind a one-lane tunnel, and I misses it on my first try. You can’t enter it from the opposite direction, and the next parking (also close to the trail head) was full, so I had to go through the tunnel again, turn around again, wait for a good 10 minutes until the tunnel was opened for my direction, and then almost didn’t get a space in the parking lot.
A view of one of the windows in the tunnel. You’re not allowed to stop, so this was a hasty shot out the window at 35 mph.
At the parking lot I saw the first animal, a Bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis), drinking from a small pool of water and then climbing across the level or wonderfully crossbedded sandstone layers.
Bighorn sheep can climb like you wouldn’t believe, and this ram certainly looked like he was going for a stroll in the mall, instead of jumping up and down steep inclines.
find the sheep…..
For all the fellow sedimentology freaks out there, here’s a closer view of that awesome crossbedding:
for scale, here’s a view of the parking lot, with the huge (as if) car I was able to afford. The sandstone layers of this unit are between a few centimeters and a foot thick.
I then walked up the trail – next post will feature the views from there, and a few choice HDR photos of the senset.