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...

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