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The two RV Gypsies at Zion National Park

August 11, 2012

USA map showing location of Utahmap showing location of Zion National Parksign: Zion National Park

Zion National Park is located in the Southwestern United States, near Springdale, Utah. A prominent feature of the 229-square-mile park is Zion Canyon, which is 15 miles long and up to half a mile deep, cut through the reddish and tan-colored Navajo Sandstone by the North Fork of the Virgin River. The lowest elevation is 3,666 feet at Coalpits Wash and the highest elevation is 8,726 feet at Horse Ranch Mountain.

sign-Patterns in Stone - Checkerboard Mesa

As the two RV Gypsies entered Zion National Park from the east entrance, they immediately were amazed by a colorful display of orange, brown and white slickrock that included one of the parks landmarks, Checkerboard Mesa (SHOWN BELOW). The majestic criss-crossed mountain appeared as a massive hill towering 900 feet above the Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway and resembled a giant, extended chess or checkerboard.

The vertical and horizontal fissures were more evident on the north side of the mesa, where most of the photographs of the mountain were taken. The left to right deep scratches are due to a north to south wind direction while the vertical cracks are a result of weathering, a cycle of freezing and thawing. Change still continues in the park, so much in fact that the massive monoliths will eventually break down and once again become great dunes of sand.

sign about crossbedding and more

Karen Duquette at Checkerboard Mesa

Karen Duquette at Checkerboard Mesa
Checkerboard Mesa

Immediately west of Checkerboard Mesa is Crazy Quilt Mesa, another wonderful example of crossbedding.

panorama of Checkerboard Mesa and Crazy Quilt Mesa

Crazy Quilt Mesa

Crazy Quilt Mesa
Crazy Quilt Mesa
Crazy Quilt Mesa
Crazy Quilt Mesa
Crazy Quilt Mesa

Lee stayed by the roadside to take the above panorama photo, while Karen took a short walk beside Crazy Quilt Mesa. Then Lee turned around to photograph Karen.

Karen Duquette near Crazy Quilt Mesa
cacti
cactus

Temple Cap Formation

Temple Cap Formation
goat
cliff

Follow the red asphalt road

the red asphalt road
the red asphalt road
scenery at Zion National Park
scenery at Zion National Park
scenery at Zion National Park
scenery at Zion National Park
scenery at Zion National Park
scenery at Zion National Park
scenery at Zion National Park
scenery at Zion National Park
scenery at Zion National Park
scenery at Zion National Park
scenery at Zion National Park

The two RV Gypsies drove their truck through a tunnel. Because of the significant planning, skills, materials, and overall design and engineering, the Zion Mt. Carmel Highway and Tunnel are listed in the National Register of Historic Places and in May 2012, was designated as a Historic Civil Engineering Landmark by the American Society of Civil Engineers.

Going through a tunnel at Zion National Park
Going through a tunnel at Zion National Park
Going through a tunnel at Zion National Park
Going through a tunnel at Zion National Park

The two RV Gypsies not only had to go through the cliff via a tunnel, they had to descend to the canyon floor via a series of many switchbacks. Exiting the tunnel, one of the road switchbacks is shown below.

exiting the tunnel at Zion National Park
switchback road at Zion National Park

history bookIn the 1920s, the east end of the canyon appeared to be a dead end, an impassable barrier to transportation. And the cliffs presented the toughest challenge to highway engineers. Building a highway over or around it was not possible. Their solution: a one-mile tunnel behind the cliff face. When the tunnel and highway were completed in 1930, it opened the region to motor tourism, linking Zion to Bryce and the Grand Canyon's North Rim.

Now the tunnel itself has become a kind of barrier, as today's RVs and tour buses are too large for two-way traffic within the tunnel. Their solution: to charge $15.00 for any vehicle exceeding 94 inches in width and escorting them through the tunnel.

 

After going through the tunnel, the two RV Gypsies looked back to the east at the cliff.

just east of the tunnel at Zion National Park
just east of the tunnel at Zion National Park

Below: another window in the tunnel

window in the tunnel at Zion National Park
panorama and red asphalt road at Zion National Park
switchback at Zion National Park
road and scenery at Zion National Park
panorama at Zion National Park

At the Zion Canyon Visitor Center, shuttle buses had to be taken to see the rest of Zion National Park. Zion Canyon Shuttle stops at eight locations in the park. Riders may get on and off as often as they like. Riding the shuttle is free. The shuttle has big windows though which the two RV Gypsies were able to take some beautiful photographs, shown below.

shuttle at Zion National Park
scenery at Zion National Park
scenery at Zion National Park
scenery at Zion National Park
scenery at Zion National Park
scenery at Zion National Park
scenery at Zion National Park
scenery at Zion National Park
scenery at Zion National Park
scenery at Zion National Park
scenery at Zion National Park
sign: Temple of Sinawava at Zion National Park

The last Shuttle stop was the Temple of Sinawava. Here the river canyon narrows abruptly. The cliffs' colors and textures are clues that two different rock layers intersect at the riverbed and affect how the canyon is carved.

Confined within the hard Navajo sandstone upstream, the Virgin River is forced to slice straight down, creating a tight, perpendicular gorge. Everyone got off the shuttle to explore the Riverside Walk.

the Virgin River at Zion National Park

Riverside Walk is an easy trail. Traveling upriver, the trail passed by lush vegetation - a desert swamp. Overflow from occasional cloudbursts and spring runoff left the low ground moist, creating a cooler, greener microclimate of ferns and mosses.

The virgin River at Zion National Park

Many squirrels along the Riverwalk Trail looking for a hand-out. The park urges people NOT to feed the squirrels.

squirrel at Zion National Park
squirrel at Zion National Park
squirrel at Zion National Park

While taking a break along the pathway, Lee took panorama photos sweeping the camera upward. The cliffs were just too tall to photograph without the panorama.

panorama of cliff at Zion National Park
panorama of cliff at Zion National Park
panorama of cliff at Zion National Park

At the end of the trail, the two RV Gypsies descended down a handful of stairs and over a few rocks to find a crowd of people crossing the Virgin River. Everything in Zion takes life from the Virgin River's scarce desert waters. Water flows and solid rock melts into the cliffs and towers.

the Two RV Gypsies at the Virgin River at Zion National Park
The Virgin River at Zion National Park

Karen decided to join the crowd so she walked across the Virgin River. Lee decided that he would rather not get his hiking boots wet and photographed Karen from the side. The Virgin River was very rocky in this area, so Karen used a walking stick to help her find and step over the large rocks that were hiding under the water.

Karen Duquette walking in the Virgin River at Zion National Park
Karen Duquette walking in the Virgin River at Zion National Park
Karen Duquette walking in the Virgin River at Zion National Park
Karen Duquette walking in the Virgin River at Zion National Park

Although many people continued on down the Virgin River where the sides of the cliffs are said to get very narrow, Karen decided not to go any further than where she can be seen by Lee. She took a break to sit in the water and cool down a bit. Lee thought she was nuts.

Karen Duquette sitting in the Virgin River at Zion National Park
Karen Duquette sitting in the Virgin River at Zion National Park

But Karen wanted to cool off even more, given the hot weather, so despite being in regular hiking clothes and hiking boots, into the cold Virgin River she went, once again. Her hiking boots made squushing noises all the way back to the shuttle bus.

Karen Duquette in waist-deep water in the Virgin River at Zion National Park
Karen Duquette in waist-deep water in the Virgin River at Zion National Park
sign: Leaving Zion National Park
Look below

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