Day 14, November 12, 2016
Start: Zion Mountain Ranch, Utah
Detour: Zion Mountain National Park
Destination: Bryce, Utah
Total miles for the day: 131 miles
Total miles from day 1 start: 3,585 miles

We drove to Zion National Park early in the morning. We thought we’d get an early start so we could tackle one of the most popular dangerous hike in the US, Angels Landing. Since we’d been on the road for so long, we forgot that in the real world today was Saturday and part of a 3 day Veteran’s Day weekend. We were there before 8am and the visitor center parking lot was already getting full. 80% of the cars we saw were from California. Go figure. Since this was also an unusually warm, beautiful day for the Southwest in November, the park was packed. When you are rock scrambling up a steep mountain that’s only wide enough for one person, crowds are extremely dangerous. It definitely made Angel’s Landing a lot scarier. They really should limit the number of people who go up. Marc said this was the scariest hike he’d ever been on because the crowds were horrible. People weren’t respecting the unspoken rules of hiking. We had people tailgating us during our rock scramble while talking about politics with strangers! (This was a few days after the elections and most people like myself were tired of hearing about if by now.) People ignoring us when passing or not greeting us when we greeted them. Despite the people, the hike itself was fun and once you reach the top, you are rewarded with sweeping 360* degree views. It’s pretty incredible. After our hike, we took the shuttle to a few other stops and then called it a day.

Zion is obviously beautiful, but how it developed is interesting too. This is from the National Parks site:

  • Geology of Zion: Zion National Park is located along the edge of a region known as the Colorado Plateau. The rock layers have been uplifted, tilted, and eroded, forming a feature called the Grand Staircase, a series of colorful cliffs stretching between Bryce Canyon and the Grand Canyon. The bottom layer of rock at Bryce Canyon is the top layer at Zion, and the bottom layer at Zion is the top layer at the Grand Canyon.
  • Description of its formation:
    • Sedimentation: As the land rose and fell and as the climate changed, the depositional environment fluctuated from shallow seas to coastal plains to a desert of massive windblown sand.
    • Lithification: Mineral-laden waters slowly filtered through the compacted sediments. cementing agents…with pressure from overlying layers over long periods of time, transformed the deposits into stone. Each layer originated from a distinct source and so differs in thickness, mineral content, color, and eroded appearance.
    • Uplift In an area from Zion to the Rocky Mountains, forces deep within the earth started to push the surface up. This was not chaotic uplift, but very slow vertical hoisting of huge blocks of the crust. Zion’s elevation rose from near sea level to as high as 10,000 feet above sea level.

So I guess we were headed upward to Bryce after Zion. (By the time we left, there was a long line of cars at the entrance and so much traffic inside the park. Thank god we were there earlier!)

On the way to the Bryce, we saw a herd of antelope in the mountains! There were lots of deserted, western style buildings along the highway. And as we got closer to Bryce, we passed Dixie National Forest which had natural red rock bridges and a preview to Bryce canyon’s hoodoos. We had a few hours of daylight left to get a glimpse of Bryce Canyon so we headed to sunset point to catch the sunset! The colors in the canyons were really cool. More about the landscape tomorrow.


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