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Day 179 – Zion Canyon Loop, May 25, 2011

As I mentioned yesterday, I arrived relatively early to the Visitor Center in Zion National Park, parked VANilla under a shady tree, and boarded the shuttle for a 30 minute ride to the Grotto.  From the Grotto, I took the mile long, rocky Kayenta Trail along the cliff’s edge overlooking the Virgin River lined in cottonwoods.  As I rounded the bend, in the distance a tall cascade of water tumbled from the cliff side in the morning sunlight.  The waterfall reflected every color of the rainbow…what a pleasant surprise.  It was hard to contain my eagerness to reach the Upper and Lower Emerald Pool Trail.

I only passed one person on the way to the lower trail which was extra special given the crowds of recent days.  If only the rangers weren’t operating a gas powered wheelbarrow cart and drill on the lower trail!  To avoid the construction, I turned toward the upper falls where I delighted in having the place to myself.  The tranquility of being alone at the falls overshadowed my disappointment in discovering that the pool was far from “emerald” and more like brown!

As I climbed up a few rock stairs flanked by two large boulders, I was greeted head on by a young buck!  Startled, we both froze like a deer in headlights.  Oh how I wished I was walking with my camera held up to my face…I would have captured a fantastic image of the mule deer donned with baby antlers standing on the trail in front of a backdrop of high cliffs.  As I stood staring, I hoped the little fellow didn’t feel trapped, and I felt extremely fortunate that he wasn’t a moose or a bear!  The deer made the first move toward the left off the trail, but stopped to eat some leafs off a tree and pose for brief photo.

I turned back down the path to reach Lower Emerald Pool Trail, a paved path which led beneath a rock overhang and behind the falls and to the Zion Lodge.  Squirrels and lizards scampered about as hummingbirds hovered over wildflowers, and tourists joined the path to the falls.  I walked along the river back to the Grotto, boarded the shuttle north to see the additional three stops before returning to VANilla where Petey greeted me with a loving whine and groan.

Petey and I took a stroll on the only dog friendly path in the park, Pa’rus Trail, but it was short lived as Petey seemed to melt in the sizzling sun.  We spent a few hours resting in the shade before we took a tour through Springdale and Rockville on our way to find Grafton, a famous ghost town.  The road to Grafton proved slightly difficult to find.  Only one sign off highway 9 pointed in the direction of the town that served as the backdrop for the bicycle scene in the movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and it was facing the opposite direction from the way I was traveling.

VANilla bounced along the rutted, dirt road to two buildings, a schoolhouse and the Alonzo H. Russell Home.  The schoolhouse was constructed in 1866 after Brigham Young followers and members of The Church of Jesus Christ Latter-day Saints (Mormons) were sent from Salt Lake City to settle the area.  The two story, adobe brick building stands on a lava rock foundation quarried from a nearby hillside and was used as a school, church, meeting house, and community center.  The Alonzo Russell home, built in 1862, was purchased by his son in 1910 for $200 and a cow.  The home’s last resident moved to St. George in 1945.

A short distance away, we found the Grafton cemetery.  In 1866, thirteen people died in rapid succession taken by epidemic, an accident, and conflict between the settlers and the Indians.  The Berry family headstone reads, “Killed by Indians”.

After visiting the old town, I drove around some forest land taking in the views and eventually returned to Springdale for a $5 shower at the Outfitter shop.  I plan to join civilization at the local sports bar to watch Mavericks game tonight.  ETB

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