Week vacation in southern Utah, part 2

It has only being a couple week, but man do I miss being in vacation… Walking for hours on end in the desert may not seem exciting for some but compared to sitting in an office for hours on end, I know what I rather be doing. So I ended my last post at the end of the second day of hiking, so let us pick up where we left and start day three of our hiking expedition.

Day three, or Tuesday June the 6th was the last day we planned in Bryce canyon. The trail was the Riggs spring trail that started at the furthest point in the park, called Rainbow point. It’s not the most breath taking view point in the park but it does offer some nice view of Escalante, the Grand Staircase. The Riggs Spring trail area is quite different from the main part of the park. Where as the “amphitheater” is dry and dusty, the Riggs Spring is far more lush and foresty. It actually reminded me of Yellowstone national park.

We did the loop counter clockwise, starting with the steeper parts of the trail, and end with a shallow climb for the last 3 miles of the loop. That sounded like a good idea, but more on that later. The most impressive thing on this trail, in my opinion anyways, is the evidence of the destructive force of flash floods. A couple time through out the trail, you get to cross streams. The stream themselves are not all that impressive but the river bed they sit in is enormous. There was one dried river bed that was a good forty yards wide, trees were leaning sides ways, probably being uprooted by the force of the current. I would not want to be there during a storm but golly that would quite a sight to behold.

So remember I mentioned that the trek was suppose to end in a slow climb back to the start of the trail? Well the thing is that Rainbow point is bit higher than the other observation points of the park. While Sunrise Sunset points are at just over 8000 feet, Rainbow Point is actually another 1000 feet higher. One might even say it was OVER 9000!!! Dragon balls Z jokes aside, that extra 1000 feet made a quite a difference. Even my parents that are marathon runners had trouble with the altitude. That last mile just took for ever! I would look at my GPS watch and see that there was maybe only 0.8 of a mile left, walk for what felt like a good 30 minutes, look back at the watch and it was only 5 minute and 0.12 mile later! Every time we would round a corner, there was this collective hope that the parking lot would suddenly come into view and fill us up with hope and determination, but every time our hope were crushed… Maybe it was not so melodramatic but you get the gist of it.

This was the least crowded trail we did all week. The Navajo loop is full of ill equipped tourist and the fairyland loop had quite a few groups doing it as well. Riggs spring? We only ever saw three other people on the trail. We met up with one of them after the hike and confirmed that no one else were behind us either. So if you are looking for a lonely but tenuous hike this is it. Though Ironically, while no one was on the trail, Rainbow point was the most crowded scenic view point I had ever seen in the park. Cars were circling around like vultures, waiting for a spot to free up. I would recommend getting there early to avoid having trouble parking.

After stopping by the hotel room we decided to spend the rest of the afternoon by going to Canyonville and checking the visitor center for the Grand Staircase monument. We knew that there were some cool hike we could do on Saturday, including slot canyons. Unfortunately, when we got to the visitor center, we discovered that it was closed Mondays and Tuesdays! Also it closed around 4:30, which meant we would have missed it anyways. A bit disappointing, but now we knew, and we ended up just driving along the very scenic roads for a while.

As the fourth day of hiking dawned upon us, it was time for a change of pace and of scenery. This would our first day in the National park of Zion, which was an hour and a half drive away. We had a hasty breakfast that we had bought the day before and jumped in the car.

Zion is very different from Bryce canyon. Bryce is very open and the ground is mostly sandstone, where as Zion is actually deeper layers of stones. It is not as brittle as the sandstone of the Bryce canyon layer, creating sheer cliff and less hoodoos. If you come from the east entrance of the park,  there a really nice 10 or so minute drive to the visitor center and main parking lot. The sheer scale of of some of these cliff were truly breath taking. there several spots where you are allowed to park and take the sights in, a good idea if you are not in a hurry.

One thing that sets Zion apart from the other national parks I have visited is that you do not to drive around inside the park, instead there is a free shuttle system that will drive people up and down the valley. This can be a bit annoying since a lot of the people that visit the park when we were there are only interrested in the hike that starts at the very top of the valley meaning that if you stopped somewhere in the middle and tried to get back on the shuttle, there are probably going to be fairly packed.

Also one important thing to note: there no general store inside the park. The lodge has a counter service restaurant that sells sandwiches but the trick is that there is a good general store just outside the park in Springsdale. Just south of the visitor center, there is a foot bridge that will lead straight to a commercial area with a gear rental store, a restaurant/pub and the general store. Make sure to take the park entrance receipt with you to be allowed back into the park.

The First Hike of the day was Angel’s landing. This looked like a really cool trail on paper but we arrived a bit later than we anticipated, meaning a good chunk of the trail was in the sun. The other thing is that Zion is very crowded and there was a constant flow of people coming down and passing us. This is not a big issue but I feel that it takes away from the experience of hiking. The view are gorgeous, If you have what it took to get to the vantage point. Trail is partly carved directly into a cliff and is no more than five feet wide. I overheard a group of hikers saying that someone further down the trail had a panic from vertigo and refused to move.

We stopped at Scout’s point rather than going all the way to Angel’s Landing. The last part of the trail is a bit traitorous and was very crowded that day.

The second shorter hike was the Emerald pools, which again looked great on paper, But it too was just filled with people. The guides talked about how the park rangers had worked to restore the pools and all that but because it an easily accessible, short trail, it was full of tourist. The are chains that says “dangerous cliff, slipery when wet” and people just went willy nilly to the edge to take pictures, people would go a basically bath in the pool… disgraceful.

Finally, we took the shuttle all the way to the top of the valley and go for the most popular attraction of the park: the Narrows. What is more fun than walking up river? Well, a lot of things but just play along. It was really refreshing to be knee deep in water after a long day in the sun, plus as the name implies, it is narrow and there is plenty of shade. It was in fact in this river that I dropped my phone! How did I manage this? Simple: I figured that I would likely get waist deep in the river at some point and figured that my phone would be safe in my breast pocket. It wasn’t. I lost my balance, lean forward and the phone slipped and fell in the water. The panic was really, especially since there were dark rocks that had the same color and shape as my phone! Thankfully, I was able to fish it out, and somewhat surprisingly it still worked! The cool thing was that it was so dry that my phone pretty much dried completely before the end of the day. No rice needed! There was some humidity left in the camera lens but that went away after another day.

That about those it for this second part of this story telling thing and tune in next time where we’ll talk about more hiking! And ravines! And giant 2000 feet tall cliff! Yeah!

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