Friday, October 24, 2014
We kicked off our hiking at Zion with a “baby” hike. It’s interesting that a few months ago, this “baby” hike would have done us in. So we’re definitely getting our legs in shape, even if the rest of our bodies are not following suit.
Out hike took us along the Lower Emerald Pool Trail, the Upper Emerald Pool Trail, and the Kayenta Trail. We started at the Zion Lodge, a beautiful building sited between towering cliffs and the Virgin River.
We hit the trail at about 9:00am when the sun had yet to show itself above the tops of the cliffs.The temperature was cool, perfect for hiking.
On the way to the Lower Emerald Pool we passed hanging gardens clinging to the canyon walls. These gardens of mosses and ferns are fed by water seeping through the sandstone. These seeps are created when water percolates up to 2000 feet through the porous sandstone until the water reaches a less permeable rock layer. From there the water works its way through cracks to the canyon wall. Using Holly as a guide, you can tell how extensive these gardens are. They are lush, green, and in the middle of a desert where the temperature can reach 100 plus degrees Fahrenheit.
We saw many strange things on our travels and seeing a waterfall in what is a desert is certainly one of them. It may not be much of a waterfall, but it’s still a waterfall. Nature takes whatever it can get and manages to thrive. As long as humans stay out of the way.
On the way to the Middle Emerald Pool we had to climb a set of steep stone steps. Like most of the trails we hiked, they are – of course – going up. Sometimes I feel like I’m in an M. C. Escher drawing.
While passing though a very narrow gap, our intrepid tree hugger, Holly, discovered a tree in need of a hug. This brave little tree appears to follow the contours of the canyon walls to get as much sun as possible. Where there’s a will…
The view from the Middle Emerald Pool offered a magnificent panorama of the nearby gardens and the surrounding cliffs. Can you imagine carving a tiny home in the cliff face and having this as your front yard? No mowing or landscaping required.
The trail to the Upper Emerald Pool was much more rugged, but not too difficult for us hearty hikers. This was by far the largest pool. Not a ripple disturbed the surface, as evidenced by the perfect reflection of the rocks. If no one else had been around I could have stared at this in quiet contemplation for hours.
As it was, we had been chatting with some friendly fellow hikers for a few minutes when a horde of middle schoolers appeared. Surprisingly they were not too noisy or rambunctious, maybe because the hike took away some of there boundless energy. Or maybe kids out here are better behaved than the ones back home. Somehow I doubt that.
On the way back we got a great view of the waterfall raining down from the Middle Emerald Pool. You can see the trail we took through the falls. While it might not be Niagra Falls, it’s still neat to look at.
From the Kayenta Trail we got a great view of the Virgin River cutting its way through the canyon (look for the white double shuttle, middle left of photo). This seemingly mild river has spent many thousands of years carving Zion Canyon. As Mr. Spock would say, “Fascinating.”
When we reached the Grotto, we got a nice view of Angel’s Landing, the target of another hike on another day.