Southwest – Day 14

Southwest USA

Retirement Trip

September 2019

29 Days – 6,500 Miles – 19 States

7 National Parks

Several State Parks – 6,000+ Photos

1 Trillion Insects Squished by Car Windshield

 From 108 Degrees to Snow

From 282 Feet Below Sea Level to 12,000+ Feet

Bison, Elk, Prairie Dogs, Lizards, Wild Horses

Elvis, Aliens, John Wayne Westerns

Walking In The Footsteps of Forrest Gump

And More! 


Today, we start our return eastbound from Pahrump, Nevada to Zion National Park, Utah.
Our original plan was to take the entire day to drive to Springdale UT which is by the entrance to the park.
However, we arrived very early in the afternoon and decided to see Zion today!
As we were leaving Pahrump, we thought it would be good to get some
photos of these large cacti near the hotel.
They were the only Saguaro cactus we saw on this trip since we were just a little too far north.
Another cactus waving goodbye to us as we left Pahrump.
Soon, we were cruising north on Rt 160 before turning east on Rt 95 toward Las Vegas.
This panorama was taken north of Pahrump near the Ash Meadows National Wildlife Reserve.
This burro (donkey) was grazing near the highway.
Still northbound from Pahrump.
Nearing the intersection with Rt 95 where we turn east and bypass Las Vegas.
As we head east toward Las Vegas, we pass by Nellis Air Force Base on the left.
There was going to be an “AlienStock” gathering with over
100,000 people the next weekend but that fizzled out.
We were near Area 51 but saw no aliens.  However, we did see some interesting plants.
More roadside flora. 
As we approached Las Vegas on Rt 95, there was more traffic.
This time, we circled around from the north, missing the worst of the traffic.
Soon, we were past Las Vegas and heading northeast on I-15 toward St George, Utah.
Near Moapa NV near the Arizona border north of Las Vegas.
Out of the flat desert and into the mountains.  Slowing gaining altitude.
Another photo approaching the Arizona border.
Back in Arizona and Mountain Time Zone again! 
This time, it would be a very brief visit as we are just cutting through the southwest
corner of the state on our way to Utah.
Enjoying our brief section of Arizona as we approach the Virgin Mountains.
As we gain altitude, it is looking less like Death Valley and the area around Las Vegas.
Oh, I spoke too soon.  It seems like the geography of the landscape
can vary so much from one minute to the next. 
Suddenly, the road pointed skyward as we neared the southern border of Utah.
It must have taken a lot of work (and explosives!) to carve out
this pass through solid rock for the Interstate.
Quite a change from the flat roads we were on the past few days.
The mountains are getting larger and larger.  And closer and closer!
As we neared the top of the pass, the road began to level out.
Still climbing!  We’ve come up from the desert floor to
about 2,800 feet elevation at this point.
It’s hard to describe how huge these mountains are.  Photos don’t do them justice.
The first of 3 times we will be entering the state of Utah this week. 
(Our route zig-zags along the border of Arizona and Utah the next few days.)
Starting to see more and more red rocks as we enter Utah.
We are also starting to see some rock formations that look like what
we saw in the Zion National Park brochure.
After passing through St George (and stopping for a great lunch),
we turned east toward Zion National Park.
Hurricane, Utah.  Quite different than Hurricane, West Virginia. 
Only about 20-25 miles to Zion NP now!
Near La Verkin UT and getting closer to Zion NP.
Climbing past 3,800 feet elevation.
Rt 9 near Rockville.  Zion NP starts up ahead to the left. 
We are still about 10-15 miles from Springdale and the Zion NP entrance.
Starting to see some very interesting rock formations.
Approaching Springdale UT and Zion NP. 
The scenery is getting better by the minute.
As you enter Springdale, there is an “oasis”-like area of green.  
Quite a contrast to the surrounding areas.
Welcome to Springdale.  (Elevation 4,000 feet)
Rt 9 goes through Springdale, then through Zion National Park. 
If you don’t have a National Park Pass, you have to turn around and backtrack 25 miles.
Driving through Springdale, there are several hotels, restaurants, and gift shops. 
Those large rocks up ahead are part of Zion NP.  We will be exploring there shortly.
Since we arrived a lot earlier than expected, we decided to explore Zion NP this afternoon. 
Then, if we want to come back again tomorrow, we can.
First, we had to unload the car and carry everything up to the room. 
Second-floor room and no elevators.  Oh well. 
Since parking is very limited at the park, there is an excellent (and free!)
shuttle bus that runs every 15-20 minutes through town.
It takes you to the Visitor Center in the park,
where you can transfer onto the park shuttle buses.
After a short wait, we caught the shuttle bus and were ready to explore Zion NP.
Do we look too much like tourists?
Map of Zion NP.  Our hotel was at the brown #3.
We rode the shuttle to the Visitor Center (#1) and will work our way north to green #9, Temple of Sinawava.
We are saving the museum (#2) for the return trip.
As we rode the shuttle bus to the first stop,
we were dwarfed by the surrounding rocks!

STOP #4 – Court of the Patriarchs

Our first stop was #4, Court of the Patriarchs. 
Named for three towering figures of the Old Testament, these sandstone cliffs
hold court over Birch Creek Canyon and the Virgin River.
As I was taking photos of the Court of the Patriarchs, I turned and marveled at these cliffs behind me.
These magnificent rocks towered over the Zion Lodge stop (#5). 
This stop is mainly for the lodge and is a trail-head for one of the longer trails.
After a quick walk around, we jumped on the next shuttle bus.

STOP #6 – The Grotto

This footbridge crosses the Virgin River to connect to one of many trails in the park.
According to the trailside sign, parts of the climb can be quite strenuous.
Hi from the Grotto!
View from the footbridge.  
You can see some hikers on the trail.

We were anxious to see Weeping Rock (#7) since it has a variety of plant life growing where water seeps out of the rocks.

However, it was closed due to a recent landslide with large rocks. Oh well – on to #8.

STOP #8 – Big Bend

Very appropriately named, Big Bend (#8) is at a big bend in the road. 

 Very scenic, but kind of off by itself.

Big Bend is kind of like being in a HUGE amphitheater.  The surrounding rocks are nearly a mile high.
As I turn around from the previous photo, I am now facing this lovely lady and more large rock cliffs. 


STOP #9 – Temple of Sinawava

The last stop on the shuttle bus line is Temple of Sinawava (#9) .
This is a very dangerous place to be if there is a sudden flash flood.  
Sometimes they occur from storms miles away.
From here, the popular Riverside Walk follows the canyon and Virgin River back through The Narrows.
The Riverside Walk is paved for the first section.
At The Narrows, the trail narrows (duh!) to the point you must
wade through the river to go farther upstream.
There are some smaller trails that go from the Riverside Walk trail down to the river.
After a while, the trail turns to dirt, but is still very smooth.
This is as far as we walked today. You can see the canyon getting narrower and narrower. 
Since we didn’t bring dry shoes with us, we decided to turn around and head back.
As we walked back to the shuttle bus stop, we enjoyed
seeing the late afternoon sun lighting up the cliffs.
Waiting in line for the next shuttle bus.
The late afternoon sun bathed the cliffs in a brilliant red light.

And now, here are some miscellaneous photos we took during the day.

STOP #2 – The Museum

We stopped at the Museum on our way back only to find that it was closed.

I forgot to set my watch up from Pacific Time when we entered Utah,

so it was an hour later than we thought. Oh well!

Although the Museum was closed, the surrounding cliffs were open for photos!
Many of the surrounding rock formations have been given Temple and Tower names.
The mountains on this sign are visible in the next photo below.
These are the Temples and Towers shown on the sign in the previous photo.
After this, we stopped at the Visitor Center gift shop,
then headed back to the hotel on the next shuttle.

Zion National Park Website:  

Learn more at Wikipedia: 

Our original plan was to just get oriented today and really explore the park tomorrow before driving to our next hotel and hour south of here. Since we saw everything we wanted to see at the park today, we decided that tomorrow, we would get up, check in early at the next hotel and go explore the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, which is only an hour south of that hotel.  That would put us almost a day ahead of schedule and allow for a rest day.  (And laundry!)

Hope you enjoyed our travels today. Thanks for joining us.  See you tomorrow! 

Mileage Today:  252 Miles

Trip Total:   3,387 Miles