November 9, 2015

A Day In Zion National Park

Today we had the privilege of going to visit Zion National Park. This is the first time I can remember going to Zion National Park and it's the first time the boys have been here; Michelle has been here a couple of times with her family before we were married. It happens to be a bonus that currently there is a program to encourage the 4th graders of Utah to go to the National Parks.  This program allows our 4th grader (Michael) to visit most of the national parks for free and the family can come along too. So we didn't have to pay the $30 day fee to get into the park and Michael has a cool parks pass for the next year.

When we arrived at the park today we had planned to hike to Angel's Landing, a short (2.5 miles / 5 miles round trip) but difficult hike. However, we didn't make it to the park until nearly noon. We thought it was a good idea to stop at the visitor's center and get some more ideas about what to see while at the park. We discovered that the planned hike would take most of the daylight we had available and we wouldn't be able to see anything else in the park. After careful consideration, and watching our children run crazy through the visitor's center we decided that we would rather see more of the park on this first visit and give our children a chance to practice trail etiquette (like staying on the path and following directions) before trying the dangerous assent.

Since this was a family visit we had the boys contribute their ideas about where we should go. Donovan was set to make the hike to Angel's Landing and was very disappointed that we would consider changing plans. The other boys were initially disappointed but quickly got excited about seeing other sites and driving through the mile long tunnel.

They got even more excited when they began to see some of the sites on the big map. I think they finally started to realize that there was some cool stuff to see and couldn't wait to get going.

Our first stop was at "The Patriarchs". We could see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (the three pointed cliffs on the right). The hike to the lookout was one switch back about a dozen steps off the road (or a little more but it wasn't very far). 
{My camera freaked out at this stop so I only have the picture I snapped when we first stopped.}

Fortunately Michelle was able to get a great shot of the boys at the lookout.

Our next stop was to see the Emerald Pools. But since we didn't even get to Zion NP until noon we decided it would be best to stop and eat lunch before heading off on any real hiking experiences. Since the river was right there we decided to find a nice spot where we could enjoy the sunshine and eat lunch together. This nice big rock was welcoming so this is where we stopped to eat.

Our boys never miss a chance to throw a rock into a river and today was no exception. We just were worried that Gidean might throw his sandwhich with his rocks on accident.

Before heading up to the pools we wanted to emphasize the importance of following the rules and staying on the designated paths. We weren't super concerned about problems on this particular path but as visions of ascending to Angel's Landing overshadowed our hiking we wanted to take this opportunity to begin preparing our boys for the importance of staying on the trail and sticking together. We made Aleky read the sign out loud for everyone (David helped point out each word on the sign). 

With the rules freshly imprinted in the impressionable minds of our children we headed off to see the pools. 

The boys took off down the path, out of sight and we found them around the bend, off the path, sitting on this rock waiting for us to arrive to take their picture. I figure that at least we tried (and they make a great looking bunch of boys).

Michelle said the Emerald Pools were low, we're guessing that's partly due to the season. But since we've never seen them before we thought they still looked pretty cool. 

The younger boys weren't sure they liked running under the falling water to continue on the path but with some simple coaxing they made it through just fine.

We had some great opportunities to take pictures as we hiked 1.5 miles to the upper pool. Michelle watched to back of the line and Michael was consistently at the head of the pack.

Along the route we found several sets of sandstone stairs. We stopped for pictures on a few of them because they just looked so cool. This is one of the better pictures.

The upper pool was quite as impressive as I had imagined during the hike up the trail. Again, we figured that the low water level had to do with us visiting in November instead of earlier in the year. But our boys were still excited and they quickly went to work exploring the area, looking for amazing photo opportunities. We got a few good pictures. The boys brought home a few scrapes and bruises from their explorations.

The hike to the pools started to wear out our boys! That was surprising to us considering the amount of energy they have and our recent hike up Y mountain. But the boy's excitement for seeing more of Zion NP was beginning to wane. This created a perfect opportunity for a picture with just Michelle and me.

We still had two more stops on our whirlwind tour of Zion NP. The next stop was to see Weeping Rock. The boys were very hesitant to get out of the suburban but once they were out they were off and running! On our leisurely 0.5 mile walk to Weeping Rock we saw some cool plant identification signs and this beautiful tree. With the sun starting to set it made the tree look like it was on fire! The picture is cool but doesn't do the tree justice.

It was cool to see the water just dripping from the mountain side! The plants were small in preparation for winter so we may need to come back during the busy season to get a chance to see this site in its full beauty. But it was still very impressive.

(We discovered some secret stairs!)

We drove past Angel's Landing. Having spent so much time talking about it we had to drive up and see what all of the excitement was about. Michelle wanted to point out how high it was and the narrow trail that led to the top of this special outlook.

The boys were certainly impressed with everything associated with this spectacular landmark.

Our penultimate stop was at the end of the road, literally. We went to see the Temple of Sinawava at the bottom of the Narrows. By this time Gidean was tired and didn't want to hike anymore. A couple of the other boys felt they wanted some alternative forms of entertainment that could be found elsewhere. But since we may not be coming back to the park we wanted to take this short, easy hike.

While the boys were getting tired of hiking they never get tired of throwing rocks in the river. I don't know if we made it to the temple or not but we stopped hiking at the end of the trail. The boys played in the river for a bit before we headed back down the trail.

At the end of the trail (where the Narrows begin/end). The boys had to stop and throw rocks in river despite all of their claims of being "too tired" to hike any more. My boys love rocks!

We hiked back to our suburban. The mile long tunnel was a small detour on the way back to the park entrance so we decided to check it out. We made it there after sunset so we didn't get a good picture but the boys were very excited to drive through this long tunnel. When we emerged on the far side the boys were all to excited to go through the tunnel again, only they wanted to be the only ones in the tunnel. I couldn't fully arrange to be the only ones in the tunnel but we waiting until we couldn't see anyone before driving through the tunnel a second time. It was totally black in there and the boys thought it was great.

After the tunnel we drove all the way back to St. George. We didn't get back into town until after 7 pm so we were all starting to get hungry. Our quick trip to the store required 2 stops to get hamburger makings. Then we got lost trying to figure out the how to get past the "Road Closed" on the only road to our condo. Once we found the long way around we quickly moved to cook dinner. Maybe we moved too fast because our hamburgers didn't get cooked all the way through. Needless to say, we were thrilled with our adventures in Zion NP but the night just needed to end!

This picture was an accidental picture. We were having all sorts of fun hiking, walking, and doing the can-can. At this moment we had 4-5 of us in a row walking in sync. I was trying to take a "selfie" angled picture but I seriously lack practice with that art form. So the picture was completely blurred except for Michelle! That made it really cool so it still made the final cut. ;-)