Sunday, 24 October 2010

Zion, Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head and a Cooperative Goat

I didn’t know what to think of Zion at first.

After abandoning the route I had intended to take to get to Zion, I arrived later than I would have hoped and just went straight to the hotel that one of my readers, James, had suggested.

I was there for a day and a half and the sight that greeted me when I woke on the first morning both delighted and disappointed me. This is what I saw....





















It delighted as it was a beautiful sight. It disappointed because I knew what would follow. I can always remember the words “Red sky at night, shepherds delight. Red sky in the morning, shepherds warning”. There are no doubt other similar variations, but one thing was for certain – it would probably be cloudy and maybe rain. It did both.

I think because I have been so lucky with the weather on this tour and I am used to seeing clear blue skies and terrific sunlight, on the few occasions it has been cloudy or wet, I think less of the place I am at. That is silly really but I have become spoilt by the fantastic weather I have experienced.

I had planned on being in Zion National Park for less than a day, but I extended it when I discovered you have to leave your own vehicle behind and get a bus in the main part of the park. I knew having to travel by bus would mean that would take longer than if I had been able to use the bike. As it turned out, the bus service was excellent with just a few minutes wait at each stop.

This was one of my first views of Zion. Despite the looming clouds, the early morning sunlight was illuminating the highest peaks....





















These three peaks have a wonderful name – the Court of the Patriarchs. Splendid!....





















Another shot looking up at just one of the trio....



























I had taken the bus as far as the narrowing canyon would allow and the next part had to be done on foot. With the depth of the canyon, its steep walls and the clouds above, the light for taking photographs was poor, so I concentrated on the river....



























It is amazing to think that this small river created the Zion Canyon almost on its own. At this time of the year, the creek is slow moving with not a lot of water flowing. I should imagine in the spring when the snow is melting it is an all together different river. For now, the river was content with being just a small stream really....




























There were a few small waterfalls....



























The water that feeds the river comes from many different places. Here the porous sandstone has water running seeping through it that then runs down the face of the canyon, creating a hanging garden. The plants have a very tenuous hold on life....



























Looking up at the high peaks from within the canyon....



























Sunlight and blue skies were at a premium today....















































While I was standing in the canyon taking a few pictures and concentrating on the scene, a bus load of people arrived and I couldn’t resist taking a picture of them. I try to take my pictures without any person in and sometimes that is not easy. The reality of sometimes crowded places means you have to be quick to get your pictures sometimes.... this was about the worse that it ever got on my tour....





















Coming back down the canyon, I hopped of the bus at Big Bend....





















This was near the visitors centre and museum....





















Not so many pictures from today – very soon the skies darkened and the heavens opened. I did manage to get a decent shot of the mountains through the rain....





















The rain ended the mornings look at Zion early. By late afternoon, I ventured out again to go see a nearby ghost-town called Grafton. It is being preserved as a historic site and so it should be, as it has a considerable history and is located in a beautiful setting. Here are all of the building that remain....

















































































Many of you will remember a movie called Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford. One of the memorable scenes from the movie was the “bicycle scene” when Paul Newman is riding a push-bike. This is easily remembered due to the song that accompanies the scene –“Raindrops are falling on my head”. That scene was filmed at Grafton. Here it is....



The early residents of Grafton suffered from a lack of water for their crops, disease and being attacked and killed by Indians. The local Grafton Cemetery is a sobering sight....





















The girl who lies in this grave was killed at the age of 14 years....




























Lucy Jane died at just 7 months old....





















James died when he was just six....



























I am pleased I went to see Grafton.

The next day I went to the other main part of Zion, on its east side. The weather was better when I started out....





























































The road rises quickly and passes through a number of switchbacks before entering a 1.1 mile long tunnel....





















By the time I came out of the tunnel, rain threatened again. I rode to the eastern end of the park and on the way back, I spotted just the head of something on top of a cliff. You might need to click on the picture to enlarge it to see what I saw....





















I took quite a few pictures and the best ones were where I set the camera for the sky to be exposed properly and that silhouetted out the hill and the animal.

From where I was I could only see its head, so I climbed part of the adjacent hill to get a better look. I felt pretty silly wearing my gloves, helmet and leather jacket as I climbed, but I didn’t have time to take them off in case the animal moved. As I climbed, the animal, which I now recognised to be a Mountain Goat raised up from its laying position to watch me climb. I was on a different hill, so it didn’t seem at all bothered by my climbing. It turned and watched me....





















At about a hundred feet up, I was more or less level with it. Now I was in position, I was willing it to stand, which after a few minutes, it did....





















The mountain goat then did the decent thing by moving a little way and stopped in the perfect position for this picture, which is my favourite....



























I was later told that seeing mountain goats here is quite unusual, so I feel very lucky to have seen one.

I got back to the hotel just before it rained. Lucky me. I still had my camera out so I got this shot of the hotel in the foreground and the Zion mountains in the back....





















I have to say thanks to James for recommending the Majestic View hotel, which was very good indeed. Here are a few pictures....



































































The clouds were partly covering the mountains on the morning I left, so before I put my camera away in my saddlebag, I took a few last pictures....


















































































With the sun out, I felt better about Zion than with the overcast skies. I rode away with a smile on my face.....

10 comments:

SonjaM said...

Wow, the second pic looks like a painting.
I will make sure I keep that hotel in mind, it looks fantastic, no make that majestic!

Charlie6 said...

Beautiful shots Gary....really liked the one of the mountains through the rain...

Alas, this is not the year for Natasha and I to ride Moab and Monument Valley...engine troubles kept me from even leaving the Denver Metro area yesterday....more to follow once the problem is diagnosed by the mechanic.

dom

FLHX_Dave said...

Did you get to check out the Zion entrace off the I-15. It only goes back 10 miles and ends. Nice view there too.

I love that tunnel. I know, sounds stupid but it reminds me of riding down a coal mine shaft.

Very nice. I have taken a zillion pictures of that place and your pictures are putting mine to shame. Beautiful.

BeemerGirl said...

I'm glad you experienced multiple days and weather conditions. As the saying goes, experiencing the bad makes the good that much sweeter. The pictures are wonderful! Love the goat, but also love low clouds below the mountains near the hotel. Great!

bobskoot said...

Gary:

We were lucky to visit during the Non Tourist season and there was not enough activity for them to drag the buses out, so we had to drive our rental car through the mountain (tunnels) by ourselves, so we had our car and could stop where we wanted.

I love all of your photos where the clouds surround the mountain.

bob
bobskoot: wet coast scootin

motoroz said...

Getting the photos of the mountain goat was great. Good job. Utah has some great places. Glad you are getting to see them. I hope to in the future. Thanks for the posts.

mq01 said...

OMG! priceless!

Eve said...

I think you've outdone yourself Gary! This post is spectacular! All the photos are wonderful and moving! Wonderful!

George F said...

I love all the pictures but the second and third pictures are just amazing :-) I loved driving through the tunnel too, the park is just amazing. I just drove through though, didn't have much time to explore. I'm going to keep the picture of the hotel so when I go back I will look for that hotel :-)

Gary France said...

Sonja – The light in the second picture was amazing. I was hoping for clear blue skies as clouds normally make for a grey picture, but these clouds were dramatic looking and letting the sun come through. These were good clouds!

Charlie6 – I was really sorry to hear about Natasha, but I have since read that the patient is getting better in Golden!

Dave – Yes I did check out that view. I really enjoyed hearing the noise of my bike in the tunnel – I gave it an extra few revs just for the heck of it. Actually an extra few thousand revs!

Beemer / Lori – I was very lucky in Zion, for while I had to discard many dull looking pictures, I was lucky enough to get a few really good ones!

Bob – I shared the road and buses with way too many other people. It was very crowded, but despite that, it is a stunning place. There was quite a lot of road construction happening, meaning many of the turnouts were closed, so stopping was a challenge!

Oz – I had to climb a long way up a steep sandstone slope to get those goat pictures. Coming back down was slippery and a little scary!

mq01 – Thanks!

Eve – Thank you!

George – Thanks. It is funny that when I was taking the pictures I wasn’t at all sure if they would be any good. The hotel is at the southern end of Springdale. Zion is a spectacular setting for taking pictures and I was lucky that the weather played its part.