Our Vantage Points
Zion National Park

On the road again! This time it was Interstate 15, heading south out of Cedar City.   The weekend traffic is light, even relaxing.

We hadn't been on the road 20 minutes before we reached the signs declaring "Zion National Park, Kolob Canyons."   It was a quick double take.   Only by seeing this on the map earlier, did I know there was a northern section to Zion National Park.   Our objective was the old familiar Zion Canyon of years and years ago.   Sometimes the old is more meaningful than the undiscovered...   just like an old joyful hymn.   But now I wish...   sort of...   that we had planned to at least stop at Kolob Canyons.   As it turns out, after we returned home we learned that our niece, Becky, her husband Jeff and their three children had visited Kolob Canyons and we had crossed paths.

A few minutes later, we left I-15 and passed through the delightful small towns of Toquerville, Virgin, Rockville and Springdale.   The latter is at the main entrance to Zion National Park.

Zion Canyon
From the Cable Mountain Trail above Weeping Rock

There is an old hymn stuck in my memory that wants out right now.
The refrain goes like this:
"We're Marching to Zion,
Beautiful beautiful Zion.
We're marching upward to Zion,
The beautiful city of God."
Wow! I haven't heard that one for a very long time! But it's still there in my memory, complete with the first stanza.   I can't remember if the folks at our Methodist Church have ever sung it in the thirty years we've been there.   This joyful hymn was written 300 years ago by Isaac Watts.

Of course that hymn was not referring to Zion National Park, but to heaven.   However, it's pretty clear that Zion National Park has evoked a lot of Biblical inspiration.   It is a beautiful place...   sort of like heaven, I suppose.

Abraham                                                             Isaac                                                             Jacob
The Court of the Patriarchs
A number of natural formations in the park carry Biblical names such as The Great White Throne, Altar of Sacrifice, West Temple, East Temple, Angel's Landing and The Court of the Patriarchs.   Other names are probably just as Biblical.   The Twin Brothers probably refers to Jacob and Esau.   The Watchman is mentioned several times in scripture as a person of high responsibility in the protection of God's faithful people.

Upon arrival at Zion, our first task was to find a campsite.   Despite the sign at the gate declaring "ALL CAMPGROUNDS FULL," we pulled into the first campground.   It bore the name "Watchman" as that was the name of a nearby monolith.   We discovered that the sign at the entrance referred to the situation of the past night.   But now, because folks were leaving their campsites, we had no trouble getting a campsite assignment.
The large Watchman Campground was fairly typical.   It had some very nice tree-shaded sites and some with full sunshine.   But all were dry and dusty under foot.

Partly because the elevation here is only 4000 feet, as low as the one at Lake Powell, this afternoon was the hottest of our trip, peaking at 95 degrees.   But with no options, we and Appy firmly tolerated the heat.

The west edge of the campground is bounded by the Virgin River, the life-giving stream flowing from Zion Canyon.

A wide trail runs on top of the dike that keeps flood water out of the campground.   This trail leads to the Visitor Center.

Cable Mountain After establishing our camp, we checked out the Visitor Center.   It has a very nice layout, capable of handling large crowds which were indeed sizeable even on this May 9th, 2004.   Well done interpretive placards are positioned throughout the exterior courtyards.   The gift shop was well stocked and very busy.   We purchased a CD featuring "Native American" music with a natural theme to play as we travel among these ancient land forms.

Articulated Shuttle buses (buses with a trailer) were leaving the Visitor Center every 15 minutes to take visitors into Zion Canyon.   Evening buses run less frequently but are available to pick up hikers caught in the canyon at night.   No private vehicles are allowed in the canyon except for visitors who are checked in at Zion Lodge inside the Canyon.

Later that afternoon I walked back to the Visitor Center and boarded a shuttle into the canyon, snapping pictures along the way.   Pictures from a bus are always problematic; only one or two were actually worth saving.   The Court of the Patriarchs (near the top of this page) was one of them.   But this canyon presents other photographic challenges as well.   The bright rock faces are easily over-exposed in contrast with the deep canyon shadows.   Perhaps mid-day would mitigate that problem.   But then the best photographs sometimes are not the easy ones.

When I got off the bus at the Weeping Rock, my photography took another serious nose-dive.   The photos I took were not very useful.   Weeping Rock is the place where water is seeping out of slow springs above and dripping off the overhanging rock.   It's possible to get a picture of the dripping, but I failed to really depict this setting.   Perhaps if I had waited for the right lighting, probably about midday the next day, I might have captured what I wanted.

Another trailhead was located near Weeping Rock.   It led upward, promising a better view.   Straight above me was "Cable Mountain," across the canyon on my right was "The Organ" with "Angels Landing" on my left.

But my best photograph from this stop was "the Great White Throne" taken from the bus stop on the valley floor.   This monolith is probably the key landmark of Zion National Park.

The following morning, May 10, we headed east on Utah 9 through the historic tunnel and out of the park.   This part of Zion National Park was, in my memory of earlier visits, almost equal to the fascination of Zion Canyon.   The narrow windy road dramatically leaving the canyon floor, the long tunnel with windows where you may stop and look out and the ripply sandstone "dunes" near the east park entrance, are clear "photos" in my memory.

But most of that must remain relegated to the corners of my mind.   This time our vehicle was measured to assure that it wouldn't be too wide for the old tunnel.   And we could not stop at the windows or at the ripply rock to run up and down.   I think the pull-outs must have been removed.   I didn't see anyone out on foot at this end of the park.

Such is "progress," I suppose.   But my earlier memories of Zion National Park, when I was a youth, then when our children were beginning in school...   those memories are still glossy and sharp.

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