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         Travelling Carolina Clay
         Zion National Park, UT (July 2009)
Overall Rating: B
Zion Tree
    I felt at home in Zion National Park but couldn't figure out why, until a park ranger informed us that the sandstone forming the canyon was silt from the Appalachian Mountains.  Yes, those Appalachian Mountains two thousand miles away in our home state of North Carolina.  Seems plausible as the canyon walls are the same color as our thick Carolina clay.  Apparently,  the Applachians were once the tallest mountains in the history of the earth topping 30,000 feet.  Over the last 300-400 million years they've lost four miles in height.

I'd like to return one day and thoroughly hike the park but much of the impressive geology was lost on the kids.  The highlights of their trip were: the hotel swimming pool, tubing on the Virgin River and a petting zoo.  At Weeping Rock where water has spent a thousand years percolating through the sandstone to emerge and support a glade of moss and ferns, five year old Emi asked: "Where does the water come from?"  Her teenage cousin Ben launched into a detailed explanation of the geological forces at work only to have Emi stop him after a minute: "Stop.  That's too long.  I can't listen to anything that long."

I shamefully admit I have not done the two most unique hikes in Zion:  Angels Landing and the Narrows.  I didn't have time to hike the Narrows which is a hike through the stream which has cut a high slot canyon.  I also lost my nerve for the second time to climb Angels Landing.  It didn't help that a housewife had recently fallen from Angels Landing.  I lost my nerve the first time twenty years ago when I visited in December.  Hiked up to the start of the Angels Landing trail and had second thoughts when I saw it was covered with snow and ice.  For most of this trail you are on the side of a cliff hanging onto chains while you teeter a thousand feet above the canyon floor.  

Our only hike this trip was with the kids up to Emerald Pools.  A fun hike where the trail takes you behind a small waterfall.  However, be warned that the purpose of this hike is the trip and not the destination.  The Emerald Pools are less than impressive as they are called 'Emerald Pools" because they are filled with a thick green slime.  The park information claimed the slime had some sort of unique properties but looked about the same as any retention pond in your local mall parking lot.

-  Brian


Gotta Go!
1) Tube the Virgin River

Emerald Pool

Zion Wall

Family Grades
Toni (Mom) - B -  "I loved the tubing.  It had just enough stores and wasn't over touristy."

Sean (10 yrs) - A - "I thought it was really, really, really cool.  You got to go behind a waterfall.  The Emerald Pools: I didn't know how they turned green."

Kyle (9 yrs) - C - "It was just a tiny bit interesting, but not really."

Emi (5 yrs) - A+ - "Because I made a new friend.  But I don't remember her name.  She was nice, but we didn't speak the same language."

Zion National Park, Tube the Virgin River
Zion National Park
Why Go
1)  Magnificient Canyon
2)  Two one-of-a-kind hikes:  Angels Landing and The Narrows.
Getting There
The closest international airport is Las Vegas, but I'm going to assume most people are are going to visit Zion as part of a larger trip to the many parks in norther Arizona and southern Utah.  Here's the location on Google maps.  Here's the national park website.  

1)  Besides lodging and camping within the park, there are several hotels and motels in Springdale, UT just outside the entrance.

2)  I've never had the guts to try it, but Angels Landing is an impressive hike.  This is a dangerous climb/hike but one of the most unique features of Zion.  The trail ends on a high peninsula which juts into the canyon and is only accessible by angels and the most intrepid hikers.

3)  Again, I haven't done it, but The Narrows is a famous hike in Zion.  You actually wade through the stream that has cut a high slot canyon through the sandstone cliffs.
Tube the Virgin River
Why Go
1)  Fun activity for the kids.

2)  A fair amount of wildlife to see.
Getting There
The Virgin River runs out of the Zion canyon and through Springdale.  There are several tube rental places in town.
1)  When we went in July, the river was pretty low, so the tubes got stuck on rocks quite a bit.  Wear some shoes  because you'll be getting up quite a bit to get off the rocks.

2)  Though the river runs through a suburban landscape, there was a fair amount of wildlife.  We came across a deer crossing the river.  Also, had dozens of hummingbirds flitting around our heads as we floated downstream.

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