End of the trail - The riverwalk trail along the Virgin River in Zion National Park may come to an end but intrepid hikers can wade upriver under the gaze of The Mystery Mountain.

A Utah Adventure: Part 1,
Getting to Zion

This is the first of a series of stories of my recent trip to Southern Utah. The trip took Liddy and I to Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, and Arches National Park as well as some other scenic areas in between.

The trip had been planned for almost a year but was destined to change radically from the original plan.

Beware the Ides of March

Some Background

Last year I received a marketing email from Nick Page offering $100 off of a photography conference that was to be held in Kanab Utah in March of 2020. Normally these kind of offers end up in the bit bucket because admission is expensive, and you have travel costs on top of that. I am also reluctant to go to events like this because of my less than stellar hearing.

This time I decided to step up and take the opportunity. The cost was within reason, the presenters were names I am familiar with, and if I were to drive down making use of Hotel Prius, then I would be able to keep my expenses down. Because the conference would be held in Kanab, Utah, I would be able to tour the awesome National Parks in the area.

Action Photo Tours

Now that I was hooked for the conference, I began receiving information about photo tours that were being offered as additional opportunities. Most of these tours were way outside my budget but one, offered by Action Photo Tours, was both reasonable, and enticing. It was a single, overnight trip to Alstrom Point to shoot the night sky.

The conference was scheduled for the weekend prior to new moon on Tuesday, March 24th. This meant that the skys would be dark and the Milky Way would be visible. This region is lightly populated so light pollution is not an issue. Bonus.

Alstrom Point is located high above the western edge of Lake Powell. It is a super popular spot with photographers because of the awesome views out across the lake and on a clear night, the results could be fabulous.

Plans Change

As Liddy and I pointed the Prius out onto the Interstate on St Patrick’s Day, we already knew our original plan was in the trash bin and we were travelling into a dynamic situation.

Conference Cancelled

A few days before March 15th, the Ides of March, Utah’s Governor put restrictions on meetings larger than 250 people. The [Outsiders Conference] had a registration approaching 300. Conference Cancelled. Alternatives will be forthcoming.

With the conference cancelled, the number of participants in the Alstrom Point photo-tour quickly dwindled. Then the weather turned against us. Apparently, a small amount of rain turns the sandy track to Alstrom Point into soup.

Adopt Plan C

Instead of Alstrom Point, the tour would go to Bryce Canyon National Park. We would leave on Friday, the 20th, instead of the 19th. Assuming the weather is good, we can do the night photography there. Bonus. We will stay at the Ruby Inn. No sleeping on the ground.

Destination Zion National Park

So. We are on the road. Heading south towards Salt Lake City. About 1100 miles to travel. We don’t have to be there until Friday around noon.

A view of the Yakima Valley looking north towards Mt Rainier

I consulted with Liddy, and we decided to drive directly to Zion National Park. We could use Thursday to explore the park and then drive over to our hotel in Kanab for Thursday night.

We made it to La Grande, Oregon on the first night. A distance of 350 miles. The first order of business was to put gas into the tank. Next, a place to camp. I had just made some privacy covers for the windows of the Prius. Good thing. Our campsite was the local Walmart parking lot.

Earthquake near Salt Lake City

We were up early on Wednesday and pressed on towards Zion. Another 800 miles south.

The radio informed us that there had been a magnitude 5.7 earthquake during the morning near Salt Lake City. Fortunately, this didn’t disrupt the highways so we powered on through. We checked into our hotel in La Verkin at about 7:00 pm.

A long but uneventful trip.

Zion National Park

If you have been keeping track, you would know it is now Thursday morning, March 19th. Yesterday, in addition to the Earthquake news, we learned that the US Federal Government had decided to put a ban on all meetings of 10 or more people in response to the Corona Virus issue.

This meant that all of the National Park shuttle busses were shut down. The park was still open, but if you didn’t want to walk the 6.5 miles from Springdale to the Temple of Sinawava, you would have to be there early. There aren’t a lot of parking spots at the end of the canyon road.

I picked up a breakfast sandwich at a local shop and we were parked up at the Temple of Sinawava before 9:00 am.

Weather was mixed, literally. One minute it was snowing, then raining, then the sun would shine through. Made for some awesome atmosphere for photography.

Snow on the ridges around the canyon containing the Virgin River in Zion NP

We walked up the River Walk Trail which follows the Virgin River until it fills the canyon from side to side. You can continue up the river if you want to get your feet wet. I decided it was a little cold yet to extend our adventure in that direction.

I did however, wander out into a shallow part of the Virgin River to capture this shot looking up the river canyon to the Mountain of Mystery. There weren’t the usual crowds so I didn’t have to do much work to remove the distracting ones.

A view of the Virgin River looking upstream from the end of the Riverwalk Trail in Zion NP

Moving On

We wandered back to the Prius and drove back to the visitor center where I cooked up some oatmeal for lunch. Then it was time to move on, heading east on Utah SR 9, the Zion-Mt Carmel Highway.

The highway passes this magnificent site which you really don’t get to enjoy if you are traveling west because it shows up behind you.

The Great Arch towers above the canyon and highway leading to the Zion-Mt Carmel Tunnel

The dark hole on the lower left of this photo shows one of the viewports that was cut into the side of the canyon wall to allow light and air into the Zion-Mt Carmel Tunnel. The tunnel entrance is actually to the right of this view, outside the frame.

A Viewport in the Zion-Mt Carmel Tunnel peeks out beside a small waterfall

Once through the Zion-Mt Carmel Tunnel, on the eastern side, you may notice this cascade on the right. It is Pine Creek.

Pine Creek cascades down a cliff side near the eastern end of the Zion-Mt Carmel Highway

If you are a bit more adventurous, you might scramble up the ridge on the left side of the highway, opposite the cascade. From there you will get a view of the entrance to the short tunnel and Pine Creek flowing east towards the Great Arch.

You will also see a lot of cactus and juniper trees.

Last Embrace - An old, dead, Juniper is supported by the branches of a young, healthy one.
An old, dead, Juniper is supported by the branches of a young, healthy one.

I described this photograph in this moment: Last Embrace

Ok. TL;DNR you say. Not sorry this is a journal of my moments after all. I hope you enjoyed the photos.

Part 2, Bryce Canyon will be out shortly.

3 thoughts on “A Utah Adventure: Part 1, Getting to Zion”

  1. Pingback: End of the Trail – Northwest Moments

  2. Pingback: A Utah Adventure: Part 2, Bryce Canyon – Northwest Moments

  3. Pingback: Introducing The Rutter ⋆ Northwest Moments

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