Well all I can say is “Wow. What a day”. We left about 9:30am and got back around 7 pm and saw a whole range of incredible scenery and got up close to some amazing animals.
I think we set a new record for pictures in one day at 737. It was hard to stop. This going to be a long post.
We decided to investigate one of the lesser travelled parts of Zion National Park. Kolob Terraces Road climbs up to the top of the mesa in the middle top section of the park to end at the Kolob Reservoir. We started at 3500 feet in elevation in Springdale and climbed to 8100 feet at the reservoir.
Heading off the main highway.
We first climbed up to about 6000 feet and levelled out on the sage brush plain.
Then it turned into cattle country.
We started climbing again.
Into a poplar forest.
Our first stop was call Lava Point at around 700 foot elevation. We turned off onto this dirt road.
Back to some snow.
I had gotten into the car in the morning in shorts and a T shirt. Up here it was cold and there was a strong wind. On went the long pants and a jacket.
Here we are at the lookout at the end of the lava flow point.
Parts of Zion Canyon are visible in the distance.
Onwards higher, there were a lot of houses.
Even a little town with a store.
I guess they had plans to expand because this fire hydrant was all by its lonesome over the next hill.
Finally at the reservoir. It seemed like it was a shadow of its former self.
It was really windy here. We drove around to the end of the reservoir. As we rounded one point we saw some birds hovering. It turns out they were eagles.
Driving around one of the large flat areas that used to be under water the most amazing thing happened. We saw some crows and a large bird scavenging some large animal. We assumed that it was a vulture or a buzzard. Nope. It was California Condor.
We carefully drove closer and I got out to take more pictures.
After a few minutes it started flying and we thought we were done.
But it flew to a tree right beside the road.
So we drove up next to it VERY slowly.
It had a number and radio transmitter on each wing.
Whenever the wind blew harder, it had to open its wings to steady itself.
It stayed in the tree at least 20 minutes so we quietly sat in the car, watched and had our lunch. Incredible !
When it finally flew away, we headed back down the road. We stopped at the pullout with a view of Lava Point in the distance and another lava outcrop up close.
I had planned to do one of the hikes in the area that we could handle. Most of them are multi day backpacking or trouping many mile through water. There was one called The Subway, which goes to a place where a river has carved what is almost a huge tunnel. You need a permit to go and it is a tough hike. There are some pictures of it here http://www.zionnational-park.com/images/album2/index58.htm.
The one we did is a 7 km round trip flat hike called Northgate Peaks. You start next to what we though was a small hill.
Here is the view from the other side that we got later in the day. Not so small.
It was a change of pace, being a walk through a pine forest but there were no views and it got a bit monotonous.
At the end was another lava covered point.
The requisite panorama for the post, Scroll right.
Jennie is always checking out the flowers.
On our right was another dome and we could see people climbing it. I circled some of them.
It looked steep.
Looking back to the start of the hike, the skies seemed to be getting darker.
Just as we got near the car it started to snow, just for a few seconds.
I had read in someone else’s blog about an alternate way back. Smith Mesa Road is a 20 mile dirt road that eventually loops back to the highway. It was in really good shape so it was not too hard on the CRV.
Back up we go.
And then we hit wide open cattle country.
At the top of the loop we had a view down another deep valley.
Looking back where we had been.
At one point I saw something cross the road. I am guessing it is a wild turkey.
At this point we are about about 5500 foot elevation.
Time to start heading back down to the highway at 3500 feet.
At about 5000 feet we T’ed into a paved road. Across the way was a barb wire fence and NO ADMITTANCE signs everywhere. We found out later that there is an NASA and Air Force base where they test ejection seats up on the mesa.
From here we only had about 2 miles to go and we really started going down on a narrow road blasted into the side of the mesa.
We started down at that little notch in the mesa, in the picture below.
Looking back up.
Here is our approximate path, with a lot more twists and turns than shown.
We were tired it it was getting late so we decided to have dinner here.
The two older guys running it were real characters. It took us a while to get our meal but it was fun to listen to them. I had a buffalo burger and Jennie had a BBQ chicken sandwich but we shared. The burger was very good. The BBQ was OK.
A long but great day.
I could easily have posted dozen more pictures…