Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Zion National Park, Part One

It was an overcast cool day when we started out for the park yesterday. By late afternoon the sun came out but unfortunately a fierce wind also whipped up then, blowing sand into our faces. Despite the crazy, unpredictable weather we still had a great day and managed to hike quite a few trails. The park has 147,000 acres of sandstone canyons and high desert plateaus. Zion Canyon is the largest canyon in the park and the most accessible. A paved scenic drive follows the Virgin River along the canyon floor and through the park.
Our first stop was at the Three Patriarchs. A Methodist minister named the three sandstone cliffs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. As the sign on the trail indicates, they "hold court over Birch Canyon".
At the Emerald Pools area we chose to take the trail which leads to the lower pool. There are three sets of pools which have a greenish hue to them because of the presence of aquatic green algae. The paved trail took us under some waterfalls which got us a bit wet. If we had known we would have dressed differently!
That is a bit of a weird picture, sorry about that. But maybe you get the idea. An interpretive sign there notes that after the spring snow melt, or an occasional rainstorm, the waterfalls  can be spectacular. Anyway, the pools are a very unique desert oasis. We found another unusual wet area at Weeping Rock. Here we took a short but steep trail into a rock alcove which has dripping springs. This is a vertical oasis where water seems to bleed out of the rock. Rain and snow from above passes through sandstone layers, but when it reaches shale layers the water runs sideways and emerges on the cliff's face as a spring.
On the rocks here, and also at the Emerald Pools are what are called "hanging gardens".  Plant life, as ferns, seem to thrive in the wet environment. I will have more on our day in the park in the next posting.

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