Sunday, 5/16/21: WOW!!

These mountain goats (or whatever) must have been strategically placed by the Park Rangers along Zion’s beautiful Highway 9 to enhance the wow factor.

For the past two days, we have tried to get tickets for the shuttle bus at Zion National Park. To eliminate traffic on the main scenic road in Zion, the Park Service came up with the idea of barring cars on the road and shuttling people into the heart of the park using buses. To get tickets, you have to go online. You can reserve a ticket for some future date, or go online at 5:00 pm and try to snag a ticket for the next day. All these tickets are in very limited supply. Once gone, they are gone. I missed out both days that I tried.

I read that there is still much to do at Zion even without the tickets. It is a big park with many areas accessible by car. I guess we’ll just have to settle for that.

Highway 9 is a strange road. It goes right through the Park in such a way that even if you were just driving through to the next town after the park, we are required to pay the Park fee, and it is hefty if you don’t have the magic card that we have.

But what a highway it is! There are 10 miles of road from the main gate to the visitor’s center. That 10 miles is the most beautiful stretch of scenery I have ever seen in my entire life. That is saying a lot, as we have seen a lot of cool stuff. The dazzling pink formations are surrealistic and psychedelic. I could barely drive the car. I couldn’t take my eyes off scenery. The road just didn’t seem so important. Wow, it was incredible.

Zion is one of the busiest National Parks in the country. I read that if you don’t reach the visitor’s center by 10:30 am you won’t get a parking place. At 9:18 am all the spaces were taken. By the looks of dozens of people fishing around in their trunks getting stuff out, we could see that we just missed several spots.

We have a full-sized van with kayaks on top, right? That kind of makes us look like an RV, right? I quickly slipped into the RV parking lot and claimed one of the two or three remaining spots. Alright, that worked.

Now here is the awesome part of the day. The Park doesn’t allow cars on the main scenic road. That means no traffic except the occasional shuttle bus. The shuttle bus system limits the number of people that can access the main scenic road. This means, yes, you are probably catching on, that the Park’s best part is not so packed after all.

Enter, our ebikes. Bikes are allowed on the main scenic road. Better yet, class 1 ebikes are allowed. It is 8 miles from the visitor’s center to the end of the scenic road. There are up and down grades. The scenery consists of a lush green canyon bottom, the clear fast running Virgin River splashing down through the greenery, and tall pink and white majestic rock walls guarding over the valley. What better transportation than ebikes for this trek into paradise? We felt sorry for the poor people stuck on the shuttle buses. Ebiking was absolutely, the only, the best, the greatest way to see Zion National park.

Of course, everyone zoomed up to the Narrows, the pre-eminent trail in the Park. Basically, it is a walk up the Virgin River through a slot canyon. To reach it, you have to go to the end of the scenic road, walk two miles up the Riverside Trail to where the canyon walls finally close in on the river.

We got as far as the Narrows Trailhead. You needed a good pair of water shoes to continue on. Some people were just wearing plastic sandals. That wouldn’t cut it for long. Those who wanted to continue farther really needed high-tech water boots. We saw many of those. You could, if willing to wade waist deep in the river, get up river several miles, and the hearty ones did.

We had neither good or crappy water shoes. I did rock hop up a very short way just to get a feel for the trail. For us, the two mile Riverside Trail was a pure joy in its own right.

Another much ballyhooed trail was the Angel’s Landing Trail. It’s a brutal 5.4 mile round trip with a whopping 1,500’ incline to a scary narrow path along the knife’s edge of a rock formation. I wanted to go so badly, but we were so excited to hop on our bikes that we didn’t bring our backpacks for water and high-energy snacks.

Instead, we took a 3 1/2 mile round trip with a 350’ incline up to the Upper Emerald Pool. At 2:00 pm, the sun was killer. Without our water and snacks the sun seemed to triple the 350’ climb. The two things that saved us were: 1) The Emerald Pool was shaded by the cliffs that surrounded it. It was actually kind of cold by the pool; 2) The walk back was all downhill. We would have died on Angel’s Landing.

The drive back out Highway 9 was just as breathtaking as the drive in. I can say that our visit to the first of 5 National Parks in Utah was all that it was cracked up to be, and then some.

Our ebikes really worked out great at Zion National Park. Actually, it is the best way to see this section of the Park - better than the shuttle.

The Virgin River flows through the Park along Canyon Road.

The Narrows: where the Virgin River meets a slot canyon.

The Upper Emerald Pool Trail. Although not as difficult as the famous Angel’s Landing Trail with its 1500’ climb, it was tough with a 350’ climb.

The Middle Emerald Pool.

The Upper Emerald Pool.

Glossary of terms used for newcomers: 1) V-Jer. The name of our camper. 2) Saturn. The name of our Van. 3) Duende. Our mischievous gremlin that breaks things. 4) Tata. The good gremlin that helps us fix Duende’s dirty work. 5) The Black Hole. This is what we call Walmart because every time we go in for just a couple of items, we come out spending way more than we figured. 6) QT. Quaint Town.

Dave and Wanda

Mask Up To Save Lives.

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