We arrived at Zion National Park around noon, just in time to secure a campsite before exploring the park. Although Zion is also a canyon park, there was more vegetation and wildlife than anywhere else we had been in the desert. Unlike the Grand Canyon, in Zion you experience the park from within the Canyon. There is a propane powered bus service that takes you to 8 stops each of which offers different trails, vistas and activities. This cuts down on traffic, noise and pollution making the park more enjoyable for visitors and less intrusive for the animals.
The Colorado River is to the Grand Canyon as the Virgin River is to Zion. We hiked up the Riverside Walk trail which as the name suggests paralleled the river all the way. This is the last stop on the bus line because after this point the canyon becomes to narrow to continue. At the end of the Riverside Walk trail it is possible to continue on, in the river, to a point where the canyon is narrow enough to touch both sides simultaneously. Sean got wet up to his chest and then decided to turn back. We saw butterflies, caterpillars, a bat, squirrels, and all kinds of lizards along this trail.
We also ventured up to Weeping Rock. This was a short hike up to a point where the sandstone cliffs were seeping water over the edge and down to the valley below. The view coupled with the falling water made this a particularly beautiful look out point. We also visited the Emerald Pools. This trail looped around to the lower, middle and upper pool before eventually returning you back down to the starting point. The lower and middle pools were nice, but not particularly fascinating. The upper pool was worth the extra mile. The water actually accumulated into a small pool before weaving its way through rock and cliff and down to the middle and lower pools. The backdrop of the upper pool was an intense cliff rising high above at a drastic 90 degree angle.
Camping in Zion that night was delightfully uneventful aside from the tent be set up on uneven ground. We had grilled cheese, tomato soup and hot dogs cooked over an open fire. It got a little chilly during the night, but nothing a blanket couldn't neutralize. We did the Emerald Pools hike that morning and then ate lunch at a small restaurant just outside the park before making our way to Salt Lake City. I will briefly and shamefully mention that I managed to get us pulled over on the way doing 85 in a 75. Fortunately, the Utah State Trooper took pity on us saving us all a headache and me $150.
We decided to stay at a motel in Salt Lake City which enabled us to visit two restaurants featured on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. We also got a little bit of a feel for the Salt Lake area, enough to know that Mormons are not the only inhabitants. Next stop - Jackson Hole, Wyoming.