Monday – June 29
Out West, if you don’t like the scenery, keep driving. It will probably change within the hour. Today is travel day and we have a modest drive to Virgin, UT. To get there, we must go to Flagstaff, and head North, around the Grand Canyon, and up through the bottom of Utah. First, I was pretty surprised by the terrain in Arizona. Northern Arizona is cooler (higher altitude), and quite a bit of greenery to be seen. As we drove around the Eastern portion of the Grand Canyon, we could tell it was getting lower, hotter, and more arid. I was really excited that we got to see the Vermilion Cliffs. They were beautiful red cliffs that showed layer upon layer of ancient history. But as we climbed out of them, the scenery changed. We started seeing scrub pine and small bushes – then larger pine. The pine was thin enough that it looked as if someone had sprinkled them out on the hillside with a pepper shaker. And suddenly, I felt as if I were back in the black hills. At the bottom of the climb we were at 100. At the top, where the Kaibab Forest is and the Northern entrance to Grand Canyon, we were in the 80s. Then as suddenly as the pine appeared, they thinned to nothing and we were back in an arid dry landscape. One of my favorite things about this trip is seeing how the climate changes from mile to mile. It is an impressive site.
There are more National Monuments and Parks than I realized. When you go into your first National Park, you have to visit the Visitor’s Center and pick up a Passbook. From then on, every time you visit a monument or park, you can purchase a sticker to put in the book and stamp it like a passport. Driving 89A we came around a curve, descended a bit, and found this beautiful bridge spanning Marble Canyon what I think is the beginning of the Colorado River. They had a visitors center and a place to stamp your book! Plus we saw California Condor #54.
“It’s just a dry heat,” is a load of crap! HOT IS HOT! Imagine walking outside and having a hair dryer blown in your face, and on your head, and on your body. I’ve never felt heat like this before.
Rivers cool the heat! Thank goodness we are camping on a river!
Route: Williams, AZ to Virgin, UT via Hwy 89A
Campground: Zion River Resort
Time: Left 9:00 Standard MT. Arrived 4:00 MT DST 6 HRS
Tuesday – June 30
Zion is like the desert version of Yosemite. It has its own huge named peaks and rock faces. Zion is beautiful. It is a beauty you can’t find anywhere else.
For some reason, Zion NP doesn’t believe in air conditioning. Its the hottest park so far and none of the buses have AC. The Visitors Center is actually cooled through natural cooling towers. Have no idea how its works, but it does. If only the buses had cooling towers.
Water is life. We hiked to the Lower Emerald Pool and made sure to drench ourselves in the falls. Then we ate lunch and soaked ourselves in the Virgin River. It is an oasis in the desert.
Itinerary: Lower Emerald Pool