Zion National Park

View of Zion Valley from the Pa’rus Trail

March 26-30

This post is a little delayed because we have been out camping with very limited wifi and cell phone reception. But the second leg of the journey begins with a lot of gratitude.  This post follows a difficult week emotionally after having heard about the mass shooting in Boulder.  Both Ross and I were devastated to hear about it, and it certainly affected my mood.  As we entered Zion National Park I felt so grateful to be alive and well.  We are so fortunate to be able to travel they way we are, and to see the sites that we are seeing.  My heart broke thinking that some of those who lost their lives will not be able to live this life or see these sights.

We drove into Springdale (the small touristy town) on the edge of Zion in a small rainstorm.  The rock formations were partially covered in clouds.  It provided a sense of drama. 

After setting up the camper and having some lunch, the clouds lifted and the sun came out.  Our campsite location is in a fantastic spot 1 mile for the park entry and surrounded by the magical rock formations.  The downside is that it is packed with RV’s. 

We walked over to the park and hiked the one trail in which they allow dogs, so Buddy got to join us.  The walk follows the Virgin River for 1.5 miles up the canyon.  The views were spectacular and the color of the river extremely unusual.  However we were both a bit discouraged because it is packed here.  I looked online and Zion National Park is the 3rd most visited National Park, and you can tell.

The following day we decided to bike up the canyon (they do not allow cars and have shuttle buses that you need to make a reservation).  It is the perfect way to see the main valley and we loved the views we had.  Part way up the canyon I noticed the my left bike pedal crank had a crack in it and my bike was wobbling as I pedaled. We pulled over at the next pull out which was the Court of the Patriarchs and locked up our bikes and went for a hike.  It was one of those blessing in disguise.  After being in the crowds, we ended up on a gorgeous trail with almost no one on it.  The trail ended up taking us to Zion Lodge where we had a coffee while staring at the view.  Fortunately we returned  to the bikes and it was almost all downhill so I could pedal with just my right leg and get back to town where I found a bike shop to repair my bike.

During the afternoon we decided to take a drive off the beaten path up the Kolob Terrace Road.  We wound our way up to some beautiful views and no crowds.  The sun was setting on the rock formations which provided some great lighting and strong shadows.  I was hoping to paint, but there wasn’t enough time.

Our words of wisdom for anyone coming to Zion is to bike up the canyon for the scenic views. You can rent bikes and e-bikes in town.  The crowds of people here are unreal, and because of that, we weren’t able to get tickets for the shuttles and the lines to get on the shuttles were immense. Now that I had a functioning bike, we rode the 8 mile ride up the canyon.  It was a great bicycle ride, not too difficult, and the views were breathtaking.  We were able to stop and take advantage of all the viewing spots and really enjoy the scenery. We were very fortunate to have fantastic weather. 

This photo gives you a good sense of the scale of these rocks. The arrow is pointing to a shuttle bus.

The canyon narrows as you get farther into it until the road ends and all that is left is “the narrows” where the river has carved out space between the shear cliffs. 

After hiking into the narrows and then biking home we watched the sunset on the mountains outside our door and I painted the scene.  It was nice to have a cool beer while painting and show a few of the kids from the next door RV a bit of live painting. 

The rock formations in view from the Airstream glowed as the sunset and I tried to achieve that feel in this painting.  I wasn’t 100% satisfied with the outcome and lay in bed that night thinking of ways that I could have made it better.  So I painted it again the following evening with a few changes.  First, I decided that a more horizontal canvas might work better for this scene.  I also painted a warm color (burnt sienna) over the canvas and let it dry so that the warmth would come through instead of starting with a white background.  Additionally, I mixed the colors in the palette for most of the larger masses prior to starting the painting so that I could evaluate their relationships before going to far in the painting process.  Which painting do you prefer?

Sunset in Zion 1
Sunset in Zion 2

For the last day our original intention was to hike to Angel’s Landing which is a strenuous hike I had done years ago and is one of the pinnacle hikes for Zion.  Unfortunately we were not able to get a ticket for the shuttle so that ended that plan.  For plan B we decided to drive over to the Kolob area of the National Park which is about 45 minutes from the main park.  This section is known for it’s red canyons but both of us felt that this side trip is probably not worth it unless you happen to passing by this entrance.  The overlook at the end of the 5 mile road was beautiful, but after having been in the main park it did not add a lot to the experience. 

A short video of Kolob Canyon

In the afternoon I decided to ride my bike back up the canyon to the Lodge so that I could hike to the Upper Emerald Pools.  It was a glorious warm afternoon for the ride.  This hike is a fairly popular hike so that trail was fairly packed but it was interesting to see the pools of water that shed out of the sheer rock formations and then form waterfalls to various levels.

We left Zion early in the morning and drove through the east exit up through the Carmel Valley Tunnel. The tunnel is 1 mile long and was built in 1930 and is one of the darkest tunnels I have driven through with small light openings periodically with fantastic views (but you can’t stop to really enjoy them).  The drive up to the tunnel was great as well as exiting out the east side of the park with extremely different topography.  The rock formations on this side were smoother, more like the side of seashell. 

Next stop is Bryce!

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