Hiking Zion in 105 Degree Heat

canyonWell everyone had intentions of getting an early start, to start the day, but it was hot the day before and we were in lazy dazy mode, so I’m not sure what happened, but our day started at 8:30 AM.  We’re staying a the La Quinta in Springdale, Utah, which is a very pleasant change of pace.  The hotel supplies breakfast, which was a standard but good, Belgian waffles, coffee, OJ, and a Mc Donald’s knock off egg ham and cheese on an English Muffin were the menu.  We ate our fill and took off for Zion.

Zion NP was packed.  We met up with my cousin, Bob, (Bob was a very popular name in the family.  I’m Bob #3, he’s Bob #5 – there were seven in all), prior, and he had difficulty in finding a parking spot.  Event though we were still there relatively early, the place still looked like Manhattan during rush hour.

They have changed things significantly in Zion since we were there last, 17 or 18 years ago. They now have a shuttle system, and vehicular traffic is prohibited from traveling towards Zion Lodge where we stayed.  There are no bike lanes, and bicyclists must share the road, narrow, with the shuttle busses.  In effect, they National Park Service has made the park less accessible now than it was in the past.  I know why they did what they did, but very few people are going to make the walk to the more interesting places between the shuttle stops in 105 degree heat.

virgin_riverWe stopped at the Emerald Pool stop, which was also the Information Center, and the Zion Lodge.  We last stayed at a cabin near Zion Lodge, when rooms were affordable.  I think we paid about $49 for a room with two double beds 17 or so years ago.  The food was definitely more affordable, and the rooms, well, they are now about $220 a night plus taxes and fees.  I think that the option of camping in an RV is currently a better solution if you want to stay close to the park, but I’m sure that it is only a matter of time before that arrangement changes too.  There is too much pressure on, and too many visitors to, the parks to allow the current, very fair, system to continue. We found the cabin we stayed in.

There was some discussion with the maintenance crew and us regarding the color of the cabins 17 years ago, but no one has been there long enough to remember what was really going on at that time.  We remember them as white, but to the maintenance crew, they were always brown.  I’ll check our photos when we get home, if we can locate them. The lawns have been yanked out and native vegetation (weeds) have full run in most areas.  There still is lawn in front of the Lodge, and people gather there and have picnics, but most other locations have gone native.  There were deer and tons of ‘deadly nightshade’ growing between the parking lots and the roadways, but they both appear to be gone as a result of the lack of moisture.  All of the grasses are already bleached white and the buffalo grass had borne seeds, and it’s waiting for moisture to grow again.  It’s all back to native, but the Lodge was an effort to put a little bit of civilization in the wilderness.  There will never be wilderness here with over 3 million visitors here a year.  Someone should be thinking of a new plan.

The trail to the Emerald Pool was dusty, a testament to the fact that the area has been going through an extended drought for the last several years.  Emerald Pool was more of a puddle, and it’s only June.  I can’t imagine what the pool will look like during August.  Climate change is here folks, and no amount of finger pointing or maintaining what is isn’t, will fix things. Someone better start thinking of some solution before it’s too late.  Most of the area we have traveled through is desert, and it’s only been through the incredible engineering and hard work of the original Mormon settlers and their descendants that there is any agriculture or farming here at all.  We left the verdant natural pastures of Wyoming for the sagebrush or sun bleached scrub of Utah.  There are beautiful pastures and fields here in Utah, but the difference is irrigation.  Irrigation depends upon water, and after the ancient aquifers are drained and the yearly 12 inches of precipitation no longer comes, there will be no irrigation.  For further information read the book ‘The Worst Hard Time’ by Timothy Eagan.

I hiked to the upper pool while Bob and Louise took a breather in the heat.  The ‘pool’ was a wetted rock.  The gallonage in the pool was outnumbered by the number of people standing around, soaking their feet, or children yelling that they were having the best day of their lives and they didn’t want to leave.  I hiked down the .2 miles and 181 steps to report that the hike was unnecessary.

narrowsWe strolled down to the visitor’s center, got some ice cream and hopped on the shuttle to the last stop, the trail that runs a mile along side the Virgin River. There were hundreds of people wading in the river at the end of the walkway. It looked like a combination of the Easter Parade  or the flood of an invading army.  The number of people in on around, swimming in the river was boggling.  The river was pretty much ankle deep, as opposed to be chest deep in some locations 17 years ago.  We didn’t bring secondary footwear, so crossing the river wasn’t an option.  The chasm narrows, but between the people, heat, and uncertainty, the hike deep into the narrows wasn’t appealing.

bob_bobWe walked back to the shuttle, looked at birds along the way and the incredible scenery that proved very difficult to photograph, because of the trees, angle of light and haze.  The shuttle took about 45 minutes to get back to the visitors lodge and was crammed.  No tourists from Tokyo, but they would have felt at home.  Quick showers were taken and we were off to St George for business.

There are not pharmacies on every street corner in Utah like there are in New Jersey.  Thanks to two excellent ladies, Betsy and Kate, at Rite Aid in St George I was set up.  We also stopped at a local NAPA store to see if we could resolve the broken shock problem.  Resolving the broken shock is uncertain, but the staff was excellent.  One person, Justin Mardis was excellent, and not only provided me with all the options  regarding shocks, but made a recommendation for dinner, a place that has been in St George since 1942, a place called Bishops.  Our waitress, Katie was a hoot, and jetted around the restaurant like she was on rocket powered roller skates. The food as excellent, filling, priced right, and satisfying.  Lemon chicken, country fried chicken, and pork chops were the selections and fun was had by all, including Katie, who really set us up well.

virginThe drive back to Zion was very nice.  Once back to to the hotel, we relaxed, did some more laundry, and got ready for another day of touring Zion tomorrow.