Thursday, April 17, 2014

Observation Point

We had a big hike planned for the very last day of our Spring Break trip to Zion National Park.
We were heading up to Observation Point which is located at the end of the main canyon of the park and has spectacular views.  The hike is eight miles round trip with over 2000 feet of elevation gain.  It's recommended to plan on five to six hours or more to complete it.  We got everything ready the night before and left early Friday morning to get a parking spot at the bottom and get started.
The temps were in the low thirties that morning and it was a sunny, beautiful day.

The hike started out with steep switchbacks up the side of the cliff.  Then, all of a sudden the trail took a turn into an amazing canyon.  This is a lower portion of Echo Canyon.  It's a popular canyoneering canyon.  People hike up to a section of it and rappel down steep sections and swim through others.  It's the swimming part that may keep me from doing this one.  Some of the water is mucky from sitting in holes for long periods of time.  Ewww!  Plus, I get cold easy and a nervous when I can't touch or see the bottom.  That's my husband standing on the edge and looking down.
For this hike, we were just passing by Echo on our way to the top.

A little further up and the trail went under an overhang and along the
edge above Echo Canyon.  The drop at the right goes into Echo...

This is looking back into that overhanging area.
Hubby's taking a photo of our daughter...

Here's that same section.  The crack on the left looks down into Echo...

You can see some water way down at the bottom...

This is that same section later in the day with a glow from the sun...

The colors in some of the rocks was incredible.
Some even had interesting patterns...

This one looks like someone painted it...

We saw sections of rock that day that were vibrant yellow/gold
(much more intense than how it looks in the picture).

This rock had red/orange, yellow, white and black.  So cool!

The trail was steep a lot of the way and parts of it required
courage and mental focus to keep from freaking out!
Check out the sheer cliff drop off!

Our daughter is very afraid of heights.  So this was a big accomplishment for her.  She kept focused and moving forward...sometimes with tears in her eyes.  But, she wanted to do it and did!  Yay!  
We stuck by her for reassurance and encouragement.

I did pretty well most of the time.  Although, there was a few minutes near the top when my mind wandered into the zone of, "oh my gosh, that drops straight to the bottom....keep going, keep going!"  I just had to sit down in place for a moment to pull my mind back so I could get up and keep going.

Luckily, the amazing scenery, colors, and pretty flowers were a nice distraction.
Many of them were growing out of the side of the rock cliffs.  The red on these is so pretty!

This little bush was growing out of a rock wall.
It had itsy bitsy, teenie, tiny berries or buds on it.

I wish I could have gotten a better photo of the color combo in this purple flower plant.
The leaves were a bluish green and I thought the combination was unique and interesting.
I kept thinking of a friend who dyes yarn and how she might find it interesting too.
I wonder how that color combination would look on yarn?  Hmmm?

There weren't a lot of flowers in the park yet or on this trail.
So, the few we saw were a treat.  Here are some cute little pink ones...

The start of the the trail is near Weeping Rock.  It's an area where water seeps from the rocks year around.  The water and shade in that area provide the perfect conditions for different varieties of
 moss, tiny plants, and lichen to grow.  They were delicate, pretty and interesting.

The top of the trail was a mesa and the soil was an intense and beautiful orange color.

The views were spectacular from the top!
That's Zion Canyon!


We probably would have sat there for quite a while but there was a little problem.
A bunch of these little guys were running around everyone, trying to find food, and 
even getting on people.  Kind of scary!  I wouldn't want to get bit!

The one next to me (in white) jumped on the guy near
me (in blue) and nibbled on his hand! Yikes!

Speaking of critters, look what we saw on the drive into the canyon that morning.
It was a huge Tom turkey.  He was not happy that the cars were driving by him and his "girls".
He was fluffed up, making weird noises and threatening the cars.  He was huge and a little scary.
We took this photo from the car window!  Check out the brilliant blue on his head.

Here's one of his "girls" crossing the road...

The hike to Observation Point was amazing!  It was mentally and physically challenging but worth every step and every bit of fear we overcame.  And, we're really glad we got to do it.  Soon after we got home, my husband read that they're planning to close it for maintenance. So, we did it just in time.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Rainy Day Exploration

There were a couple of days of our Spring Break week in Zion that were stormy.
One day started out windy and we wandered into town that morning to explore shops and galleries.
Rain started to pour soon after we got back to our trailer.  It dumped the rest of the day and all night.
There was still a chance of rain the next day.  That would make it dangerous to do the hike we had planned to do.  So, we decided to head out in our truck to do a little exploring.

We stopped in town for more of that awesome Cafe Soleil coffee and headed west to check out a part of Zion National Park that we'd never been to, Kolob Canyons.  It's off of the 15 freeway that runs between Las Vegas and Salt Lake City.  There's a small visitor center to get info and purchase a pass to enter (if you don't already have one from the other side of the park that we were staying in).  From there, it's a very short drive before we found ourselves gasping at the beauty that was surrounding us.

The area is immense and it seems impossible to truly capture the beauty in a photo.
But, we tried.  We took a LOT of photos as we stood in the cold wind with snowflakes blowing around us.  Here's a panoramic photo taken with one of our cell phones.  If you click on the photo, it should enlarge for a better view. We want to go back there to do some hikes and maybe backpacking.
The beauty was breathtaking!

After driving through the Kolob Canyon area, we headed back to the 15 freeway and north to Cedar City.  We had lunch at a place called Costa Vida.  They had delcious, healthy Mexican food.
It turned out to be a great choice as just about everything they had could be made gluten free.
Plus, the people were friendly and the food was very good.  

After that, we drove into the older part of town to visit an antique store we've always liked.  Unfortunately, it had gone out of business. However, as we drove through town, a store caught our eye and we had to check it out. It was a farm supply store called, IFA Country Stores.  It turns out they've been around since 1923. They had a lot of fun things to look at and the people were nice too.

We enjoyed looking at everything from western wear and boots to varieties of pasture seed to camping gear and even adorable baby chicks....they had at least half a dozen varieties.
Aren't they cute?!  I miss having chickens!

On our way back to camp, we crossed over a bridge in Rockville to visit a ghost town we'd heard about, Grafton.  Even though it had rained the night before, the dirt roads weren't any problem.

Here's Grafton as we came up the dirt road...

It's a very small ghost town with only about half a dozen buildings and some of those are barns and sheds.  I thought this was one of the most interesting buildings.  It's a tiny home.

I think it's interesting that the window is right up against the doorway.

They allow visitors to go inside.  I was hesitant but hubby coaxed me in.
The ceiling was very low and it was a little creepy to me.
I'm assuming this was the main living space as it was larger than the rest.

And, there's a fireplace on the other side...

It's interesting to look at the texture of the logs and see the marks from hand shaping them.

Across the road was the church and a larger house.

That house seems fancy compared to the tiny one across the road.
It has a large front porch with decorative corbels or brackets.
There were two chimneys.  And, it had lots of windows and rooms.

It even had a cellar!

This was the only other home.  I'm curious as to why there are two doors.
And, I'd really like to know what that little door on the side, way up high near the roof is for.
This home seemed kind of fancy too.  It had two chimneys and three covered porches.

These barns were in fenced areas next to the last house.
They looked very old and weathered.  I think they hadn't been preserved
like the three homes and the church had been.

I like fences like this that are made from natural branches.
It looked especially beautiful with the green fields from the spring rains.

There was an old tractor in another field.
I don't think it was from the time Grafton was a living town.  But, it made for a great photo.
The residents sure had great views when they lived there.

I just had to get a shot of this old farm equipment too...

I was creeped out by the cemetary and didn't want to go in.  My husband and daughter were fascinated by what they saw on headstones and I was so fascinated by what I was reading
on the sign outside of it that I found some courage and went in to look around.

I took a photo of the sign.  The history was very interesting.
The people there had an especially difficult time in 1866 when they lost 13 of their loved ones.
Many died of disease, some were killed by Indians, and...what really got me...
two little girls died when their swing broke!

We heard that movies have been shot in Grafton.  One famous movie, 
"Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" was partially shot there. 

We had a fun day exploring nearby areas and found some interesting places.
At the end of the day, we headed back to Springdale (just outside of the main part of Zion National Park and where we were camping) for dinner.  Then, it was back to camp to get our packs and hiking gear ready for an all day hike on Friday to Observation Point.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Canyoneering Day

My husband and I got hooked on canyoneering about a year ago when we went on a one day adventure with Zion Adventure Company.  You can read about that HERE.  Since then, we started purchasing gear to do it on our own and went again last October for three days of canyoneering school.  HERE are some posts about that.  Our daughter was curious and excited to try it out too.  So, when we went to Zion for Spring break, we rented a harness and helmet for her and we were off to share what we'd learned.

We hiked up into these rocks at Lamb's Knoll to play in some of it's wonderful slots...

We gave her some instruction before we got started.
Then, her dad taught her how to hook up to rappel.
She practiced hooking up a few times. 

When she felt confident about what she'd just learned, dad headed down the cliff.
Once he was down there, he'd be able to belay to give her an extra bit of safety and confidence.

I was still with her to make sure all of her equipment was set up correctly.
And, down she went...

Then, it was my turn...

Onto the next one...

There goes my hubby...

Our daughter said she was a little nervous going down the first rappel.
But, she did it and was ready for the next one.  Way to go!

The start of this one was a little tricky and scary but she did it!
There she goes...

My turn.  This one is a little tricky because the walls twist and turn. We have to be very conscious how we place our feet and weight, and of the direction the rope pulls as the walls change direction.
If we're not careful, our weight can cause us to lose our footing and we could take a swing.
Not fun....I've done it before.  But, none of us did it on this trip.  This rappel is super fun and rewarding.  That's hubby at the bottom belaying us for an extra bit of safety.

This rappel is longer and a bit tricky to start.  The slot to exit is quite narrow.
We can't even squeeze through with a small pack on our backs.  So, our packs have to be
attached to a line and hung below us on the way down.  There he goes...

Here's my daughter getting ready to go.  She had to get herself into place,
move her backpack so it would be ready to slide off and hang below her,
grab her confidence and bravery, and rappel down.  

Here she is just after she started down.
That's my hubby below, at the bottom of the slot canyon...

Oh, and I have to was interesting how her new hiking shoes, her shirt,
the rental helmet, and the rope all matched so perfectly.  Kinda cool, huh?!

Here's the last bit of fun on this route.  It's a VERY narrow slot
that we had to down climb and drop below a wedged rock.
Ready, set, go...

We had to pass our packs down because it was too narrow to wear them.

The last few yards include a walk down some small tree trunks.
We had to hold our packs over our heads to fit.
There's my hubby and daughter...

There's no way we'd be doing any of this without my wonderful hubby!
I trust him, his abilities, and strength.  I appreciate that he's always at the bottom
of each rappel to provide us with an extra bit of safety and confidence.
And, I appreciate his patience when we get a little scared.
He's awesome!

Our daughter is now hooked on canyoneering too.  We all can't wait to go again!
And, we can't wait to do bigger and more exciting canyons.
The thrill of it is awesome and the scenery is like nothing we could ever see
or experience without doing this.  It's amazing!