Monday, 13 April 2009

Zion Canyon National Park

I've been working through the photos from my USA trip and I've managed to whip the Zion set into shape. They are now up on Flickr for your perusal. There are a few more to come here at some point, as I shot a bunch (154 stacks...) of HDR that I've still to process. Still these are a few to be going on with :-)

Zion Canyon, originally uploaded by Ian Hutton.

As you'll see from the photos, Zion was awesome. Spring is a great time to visit: the crowds aren't there yet, it's not too hot and the flowers are out in force. The highlight was the hike up to Observation Point, a 2000 foot elevation gain (straight up a cliff) to get a breathtaking view right back down the canyon. The variety on that hike is amazing, initially switch-backing up the cliff before sneaking back into a twisty slot canyon through which you access a deserted bowl in the back-country before hitting the mesa-top and hiking the last mile along the cliff edge through the trees to the point itself. I was stoked, as the Americans would say; quite possibly the best hike I've done in my life.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Life in the Hollywood Hills

Back in the UK now, trip over. I had a quite interesting taxi ride back from Gatwick, as they go. Instead of the normal M25 loop we went cross country (ooh).

Highlights included:
• Ringo Starr's house
• Oliver Reed's former house
• Chris Evans' former house
• David Shephard's former house (the artist rather than the cricket umpire, disappointingly)
• The house of a man who also has his own 747
• The Parrot pub (famed for its food, apparently)
• The Sainsbury's where Penelope Keith shops
Not bad, eh? I gave him a bit of a tip for all that.

Sunday, 5 April 2009

Zion

A late start today allowed me to recharge my batteries after a tiring week. I got into the park late morning, grabbed a late breakfast/early lunch and then set about some exploring. I started easy with a pretty level trek up to Emerald Pools along a track that hugged the base of the cliffs, affording great views up and down the valley. The pools themselves were nice enough but somewhat mobbed - it's spring break so there are lots of college kids kicking about the place.

Zion Canyon is a fantastic mix of big red sandstone cliffs and fertile valley bottom, all carved by the Virgin River. It was originally a desert with sand dunes thousands of meters deep, which was then covered by a sea that laid down a bed of minerals which bonded the sand together into the sandstone we see today. Tectonic activity has since pushed the whole area up (and continues to do so) and the river has carved its way back down again to give us this fantastic playground. Spring is a god time to see the area - not too hot, and lots of flowers and animals about. On the animal front I met some very friendly squirrels, lots of little lizards and a few dozy deer. I also saw some elk, but they were at the elk ranch in town so I don't think that really counts.

I spent the afternoon exploring the top of the canyon, where it narrows down to the point that the river finally fills the whole thing and blocks further progress to anyone not willing to get their feet wet. The late afternoon sun was bouncing off the cliffs and lighting everything up fantastically; I think I got some pretty good photos. I ended the day getting a few shots of the moon rising over the canyon walls.

Tomorrow I'm aiming for an early start and some more strenuous hiking. My target is Observation Point, an 8 mile (12km) round trip climbing (and then descending) 2000 ft (650m). Apparently there's a good view at the top, we'll see...

Saturday, 4 April 2009

Leaving Las Vegas

After three tiring days on the stand at CTIA I escaped Vegas yesterday and drove North. Bizarrely clouds had rolled in during the day and it was raining (in Vegas!) as I left. The rain continued on and off through the desert, into Utah and up to my target for the weekend: Zion National park. I met a couple at dinner who'd driven down from slightly to the north through heavy snow, so I guess I was lucky! Turns out it was record precipitation for the time of year round here...

This morning it's clear and after a long sleep I'm refreshed and ready to explore. Time to go see me some canyon.

Postscript: For those who've been following my winning ways on Facebook/Twitter, the final result was $50 up. The secret was to stick to the slots (allegedly better odds) and to quit whenever I doubled my money. That and lots of luck!

Edit: Updated to remove all the line breaks injected by my iPod Touch. Hmmm...