Monday, April 18, 2016

Zion: Day 3

Zion is beautiful! Especially in the morning.
Today we finally got started on Zion. The plan was to get up early, of course, and hit the shuttle by 8:15. After breakfast here at the hotel (Natalie's not sure she can eat another waffle tomorrow), which starts at 7am, we hit the road.

After a brief stop at the Visitor's Center we took the shuttle all the way out to the last stop to hike the Riverside Walk Trail. It's a 2 miler, one out and one back, and it was the biggest thing on our schedule today. The boys really liked throwing rocks in the water, especially Seth and Dax. Mark was much more of a grown-up today, as he was carrying one of the backpacks. Dad had lunch and water, Mom had hats, jackets, maps, and directions, and Mark had the empty baby carrier just in case Seth couldn't make it.
The end of the Riverside Walk near the entrance to the Narrows.
The thing about doing Riverside hike in the early morning is that it is extremely cold! This is the first part of The Narrows hike, and the steep canyon walls block out all the sun. In addition, the wind blows down the canyon at a steady, cool clip, and it is only April, so it's not exactly toasty in the mornings. Luckily, the boys and Mom had jackets, but everyone was still pretty cold.

Dad did not have a coat--crazy!?!
But he still managed to hold this rock up so we could pass by.
We were so cold, but we loved this beautiful hike.
Nothing stops these three from throwing rocks into a body of water.
We enjoyed the hike, though, and we saw several cool animals. There were mergansers in the river, a wild turkey gobbling in the grass, and little fish in the pools. We also saw an American Dipper in the shallow water, and best of all, there were even two young deer right on the trail. We were really excited because when we looked closely they were both bucks with their horns just coming in.
This squirrel ran right past us...wasn't scared for one second.
The deer walked right toward us and then onto the trail.
You can see how close they were to us.
We saw these beautiful Mergansers in the river.
And this awesome turkey. We even saw Turkeys walking down the road when we rode the shuttle out to Stop 9.
After that walk, we rode the shuttle back and hit almost every stop. At Stop 8 we got out briefly and the boys picked up garbage to complete their Junior Ranger stuff while Mom and Dad marvelled at the hikers at the top of Angel's Landing. I'm not sure why anyone would want to go up there. We stopped at Stop 7, Weeping Rock and did the short trail there. Seth said that "crying rock" was his favorite part of the day. By Stop 6 at The Grotto we were ready for lunch-- well the boys were, even though it was only 11am, so we ate at a small picnic table, significantly lightening Dad's load. Then we took a short hike called Grotto Trail down to Stop 5 at Zion Lodge. At Stop 4 we saw The Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Then at Stop 2 we visited the Museum. Dad slept through the movie, and Mom and the boys spotted a new bird called Grace's Warbler. Finally, at Stop 1 we turned in our Junior Ranger booklets and drove through the parking lot looking for state license plates. We've collected 41 out of 50 so far.
Our boys thought these signs were hilarious since there was no ice and no snow.
Seth and his thumbs up poses!
A rare family photo--we had two nice people take our picture this day.
These boys demanded lunch at 11:00 AM. We had worked them hard.
Off to the Grotto we go...
Dad hates when I take his picture!
I am trying to be good sport about being in more pictures.
Mark is growing up. He hauled that backpack around all day!
This is the Court of the Patriarchs! Dax hid in his hat, hoodie, and glasses the entire day.
Behind the museum were some other famous rocks to see, but I already forgot what they are. 
A new bird for our list--Grace's Warbler.
This is called the Watchman and you can see it right at the Visitor's Center.
We decided that the next move would be to drive out toward the tunnel and hopefully the boys would sleep for a few minutes on the way to two more short hikes we wanted to do. No one was asleep or even looking sleepy by the time we got to Pine Creek Waterfall, the so-called "Secret Hike," so we made the short 0.5 mile trek there. The waterfall only dropped about 5 feet, but the boys loved scrambling over, and especially throwing rocks in the river. Mark managed to splash Dad pretty well while his back was turned taking a picture of Mom! Later when we got back to the hotel, Mom realized we hadn't made it to the actual waterfall. Oops! Now we have a reason to go back to Zion.
The boys enjoyed this hike because it was near water--great for throwing rocks.
This was right before Mark and Dax dropped a huge rock and soaked their parents--we were not happy, but I'm laughing at the memory now.
Dad and Seth were great hiking buddies on this trip.
The waterfall that we found--not the big one we were meant to find.
Dax found a tree to live in!
There was one more hike we wanted to get in today, but we knew we'd pushed the boys pretty hard. This last one was a one-miler along a precipitous ridge called Canyon Overlook Trail. We were sure the boys would be asleep, but they stayed awake because we saw the bighorn sheep again, and then we were at the tunnel, and no boy is sleeping through that! So, everyone was awake when we hit the trail.

Because Dad gets a little grumpy on hikes where his kids have a fair-to-middlin' chance of plunging to their death, he made Seth ride in the backpack all the way out to the end of this trail. He was a little upset, especially since we crossed a short bridge and saw about 40 lizards. At the end of the trail was a beautiful overlook of the entire canyon, and in fact, you are standing right above Zion Arch which can be seen on the road up to the tunnel. Of course, you can't actually see the arch from the trail as you are standing on top of it and technically, it's not a completed arch. On the way back to the car, Seth walked the entire way holding Dad's hand. I'm not sure how many miles the boys put in today, but as nearly as I could figure, it was between 4 and 5 miles.
The Bighorn Sheep that we saw on the 2nd day.
We saw some beautiful Pinyon Jays.
We saw this adorable baby goat. Watch the video below to see how darling he is.
You can also watch the video to see this lizard eating this bug. We were slightly disgusted. 
Dad was nervous about the boys on this trail, but they did amazing.
It was our favorite hike!
We loved the bridge.
Seth did not want to be in the backpack. 
We love to relax and eat snacks after we hike!
Dad did let them climb up on these rocks!
And here's the close-up...
Oh yay!
Best hiking boys EVER!
We liked the cool shade of this overhanging rock near the bridge.
This was the end destination! A beautiful overlook!
We left Zion around 4 o'clock and headed back to the hotel. We still had a few things to accomplish, the first being dinner in the hotel. Mom cooked up bacon in the microwave and pancakes on the griddle. We are really starting to like cooking in our hotel room! The griddle is so easy to pack, and there are so many things you can do with it.

Our last stop of the day was a long shot. Here in Hurricane, and in fact, across much of the country north of here stretching all the way to St George is a preserve called Red Cliffs Desert Preserve, which was specifically set aside to protect desert tortoises. I've seen a lot of things here in Utah: bears, cougars, great egrets, 4 different kinds of owls, bobcats, moose, elk, pronghorn mountain goats, big horn sheep-- I even saw the last wild herd of bison in the world on an epic trip to the Henry Mountains. But there are a couple of things I haven't seen, nor do I really expect I ever will see them here in Utah. These include the lynx, the ringtailed cat, and the desert tortoise. So I insisted that we drive over to the preserve, which is basically right on the edge of town, and poke around for a little while.

We got out of the car and crossed through the gate. As we were stepping over the threshhold, which I assume is designed to keep turtles in, I said to Natalie, "You know, the chance of actually seeing a tortoise is exactly zero." She replied, "I know. Let me know when you've resigned yourself to that fact so we can go." We took two more steps and Mark yelled out, "There's one!!" and sure enough, we saw a desert tortoise not 25 steps from the van. We ended up walking around for about 45 more minutes with our hopes sky-high, but we didn't see another one. We did talk to a lot of locals who were walking the trail, and none of them had ever seen a tortoise there. It was a once in a lifetime sighting.
Here we are just a few minutes and steps away from seeing a desert tortoise.
We seriously saw the tortoise on the other side of that trail.
Dad was in heaven!
He was so close! I got some great pictures!
Our final stop of the day was at the DQ in Hurricane, where we celebrated our sighting with ice cream before settling into the pool.
We definitely earned ice cream after a long day of hiking!


  1. I just love this post!! I did Angel's Landing in college. I'm petrified of heights. I will never do it again, although there are some parts that are really cool that I wouldn't mind seeing again. Just not going all the way out to the landing part... We love Zion's! Proud of your boys!

  2. Oh! And cool about the tortoise! We've never had any luck, although I think my parents have once or twice. Good job, guys!!

  3. One more... Sorry for so many comments! Did you guys do the Emerald Pools hike? That's our favorite!

    1. Thanks for the comments! We DID do the Emerald Pool hike, and you will be able to read about it soon!

    2. Ooh! Can't wait!! It's our favorite family friendly hike in Zion's!


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