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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Day 11: Zion NP (Leg: 0, Trip: 1,129.8)

We woke up this morning to overcast skies and very cool temps (52 degrees at 10am). We had a leisurely breakfast and decided to do our bike ride of the canyon today. That meant that I needed to fix my flat tire. So while Carol was getting ready, I took off the front tire and could not find anyplace it was leaking. However the tire was totally out of air, so somehow it lost all of it. I went ahead and put in a new tube (don't want to take chances) and loaded the bikes on the back of the car and off we went to the Zion Park Visitors Center.

At the center you catch a free shuttle that takes you into the canyon, making 8 stops along the way. You can get on and off as many times as you like. As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, the shuttles totally relieved their traffic problem in the park. The shuttles have a fold down bike rack on the front. So at the visitors center, we loaded up our bikes, and away we went up the canyon.

One of the many park shuttles -they run every 6-8 minutes

These trams are propane powered and they tow a shuttle trailer so they can carry about 70 people total. We rode up to the Temple of Sinawava and unloaded the bikes to get ready to ride. The weather was still cold and very cloudy. The forecast predicted thunderstorms so we were really hoping to miss them. Once we started riding, the cold really affected our hands.

You ride your bike on the canyon road (there is only one road that goes up canyon). If a shuttle comes along, they will not pass you unless you pull over and stop. We usually tried to time our departure from each shuttle stop for right after the shuttle left so we would not have one until the next stop. For the most part, that worked well and we only stopped for one shuttle on the road and just barely beat another into the next stop.

We got off our bikes at each shuttle stop and took pictures and video. At the Weeping Rock stop, we locked up the bikes and trekked up the trail to the weeping rock. This is a short trail, only about 1/2 a mile, but it is a steep uphill with several short level parts. The climb is worth it for sure.

Steep trail to Weeping Rocks. 100 yards mostly steep uphill.

The cliffs of Zion are made of Navajo sandstone which is pourous. So water can percolate through the rock. This movement takes years and years (one scientific study uses 800 to 1200 years). Eventually, it hits a layer of shale which it cannot penetrate, so it flows sideways and eventually "weeps" from the rock on the underside of the cliffs. If you enlarge the picture below, you will see some water flowing over and some through the rock.

Weeping rocks - enlarge to see water drops

We remounted our bikes and pressed on to the Grotto, so named because of all the trees. This is now a picnic area. The Grotto has the original visitor's center in a stone building. This facility was used while the daily attendance was about 11 people. Once the park became popular, a new visitor center was built down by the entrance.

Original visitors center, built in 1909

We had a brief lunch stop at the Zion Lodge and grabbed a few hot dogs from their snack bar. Then we finished the ride by going on down to the end of the canyon road. At that point, we rode on the Pa'rus trail. This is the only trail you can ride bikes on in the park. It is paved for about 1.7 miles and leads from the Canyon Junction back to the Visitors Center. Once back to the center, we rode around the Watchman Campground which is co-located with the center. When all was done, we rode an exhilirating 10 miles! So now we can say we rode Zion Canyon.

And no, we never did get rained on during the ride. But it was sure cold enough!

After placing the bikes back on the car, we drove to their Museum of Man. It is the second shuttle stop just before you enter the canyon where cars are prohibited this time of year. The exhibits in the museum don't amount to very much, but they have a great 22 minute movie giving you a good overview of the park. It showed me that even with 5 days here, we really could use more time at Zion. I suspect that we will soon return!

As we left the museum to head back to the RV, Carol took this shot up the canyon. Wondering where the cliffs went? They are still there, but a thunderstorm cell was working its way down the canyon.

Thunderstorm coming down canyon - flash flood warning!

We arrived back at the RV and I quickly unloaded the bikes, and did just beat the rain. It has now been raining steadily for about an hour. My St. George friends Vickki and Sally are supposed to play in a Women's invitiational tournament starting today. Sure hope they played before the rains came.

Tomorrow will have some hikes, a special dinner, and a ranger program. That's all I'm saying for now - read tomorrow's entry for details. (Note: It will probably be posted quite late in the evening).

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