(Day 12: Zion National Park)
We had decided to go easy on the legs today. In other words, a rest day. And I really think I am getting the hang of rest days now, so….a pre-dawn start, a 4.5 mile hike and a few laps in the pool, then?
Getting up before 7am felt like the middle of the night and, when we emerged from our room by 7.15, it looked like the middle of the night too. It was still completely dark. I almost wondered if I had the right time for sunrise. We drove five minutes down the road into the park (free access at that time of day, no rangers in the pay huts!) and parked at the museum. I had heard that this was the place to go for sunrise and there were certainly a few cars there. We found our way around to the back of the museum. We were definitely in the right place.
I took up a spot on the end of the line and set up my tripod and camera in the near dark. It was cold, despite our many layers of clothing. The light soon started to increase though, first going through a magical soft light before it started to get flat.
As we waited for the first rays of the sun to hit the mountains (the reason for our location, as this is where the sunlight hits first) some deer wandered into the middle distance to graze and eat breakfast. Slowly, the sun came up. There was a group there who were part of a photography workshop, so I kept my ears peeled for hints and tips that I could put to use, such as the best white balance to use.
Meanwhile, I reckon Andrew did ok with his iPhone…
Eventually the general consensus was that the best light had passed, so we all packed up and Andrew and I headed for breakfast at Cafe Soleil, which was on our way back. They still do a fantastic veggie scramble (red potatoes, scrambled egg, mushrooms, peppers, tomatoes, spinach), which I discovered last year, and which I was very happy to reacquaint myself with. We came back to the hotel, but missed the turning at the first attempt. The logical turnaround was at the bike shop. I took this as a sign that I should call in and buy a new water bottle (or two). This is my favourite bottle, because it is white, with black and yellow accents, just like my bike…such things are important…! Surprisingly, one of the guys in the shop also remembered us from last year.
We made it back to the room at the second attempt and got changed into shorts and hiking gear, assuming that the weather was now warming up, a belief confirmed when we left our room, with the sun now fully up. For our easy day we had decided to hike the Northgate Peaks trail, which although 4.5 miles long, is fairly flat and easy going through forest and meadow. We were followed into the trailhead car park by a fairly unusual German van, which had been converted (or designed?) as an RV. With those wheels, I would think it could go anywhere.
The walk was really nice, quiet (although not totally to ourselves unlike yesterday where we didn’t see another soul all hike), and relaxing. The wind rustled through the pine trees and the smell was gorgeous, mixed with hints of vanilla and sage and just a little red dust. Along the way, there are sections with lava boulders littering the ground. I’m not sure how far the lava was thrown, but the black rock adds contrast to the red, yellow and white sandstone.
I kept hearing things rustle in the trees only to realise that it was the sound of pine cones falling off and making their way to the ground. Some areas were ‘pine cone alley’ but I did a risk assessment and thought perhaps so many had already fallen off that we’d be safe…wrong! Luckily, although they did still fall off as we passed, they missed us by a few feet each time.
On our way out to the viewpoint we were passed by a couple of men riding horses. I can’t ride, but I have to say that the location, trail and weather made it look idyllic.
It was a fantastic view from the end. I stood on the top spot, right at the end of some lava rocks which fall away to the meadowland far below. It felt fantastic.
After some (ok, lots) of photos, we sat and had a snack and soaked up the scenery and sunshine, before heading back. We detoured very slightly to look down into Russel Gulch from the top of the Subway Trail.
Even if you didn’t hike up here, the drive along the Koloa Terrace Road is worthwhile as it is hugely scenic, especially the descent back to the Virgin River Valley.
Coming back into Springdale we stopped briefly at a river park I had spotted on the way out. We only spent 10 minutes or so wandering around, but it was very pleasant and definitely somewhere we would come back to for an easy, local walk.
After a brief stop at the grocery store, we returned to the hotel and got changed to go to the pool. Andrew read his book, while I read briefly, before having a leisurely swim surrounded by amazing scenery, followed by a quick dip in the hot-tub, where I ended up providing advise to a couple on the Angel’s Landing hike route.
We came in as the temperature started to drop and showered before going out for dinner. We had originally intended to go to a different restaurant tonight, but…well… Zion Pizza and Noodle has the best view of sunset from the patio (as well as pizza, obviously!).
That’s it for today. Another (reasonably) early start tomorrow…