Woke up to a very bright and sunny day. We tried to get out of the house as soon as possible. The sun crossing the desert to St. George, UT was going to be VERY hot if we took our time.
Next stop… Zion National Park!
Highway 15 North out of Las Vegas, thru Mesquite and the Virgin River Gorge. We passed Mesquite and I thought of the last trip thru there when a nut holding my shifter / shift linkage in place worked itself loose. I went to shift and nothing! Luckily we girls had some tools and figured it all out.
About two miles out of Mesquite is Arizona… no sooner did we cross the border than we stopped and tore our helmets off! Four days with no helmet! Yippee!! Onto the Virgin River Gorge…I must admit I love riding through the Gorge… the road has some shade due to the high walls and the road is curvy… lots of fun to open up the bike and go for it! Sue and the girls kept right up. It was fun to watch the girls in the car… talking and laughing and apparently enjoying a good song because I could see their heads moving to the music!
Once in St. George we split off the 15 and onto the 17 through Hurricane to La Verkin. From there we split off onto the 9 toward Zion National Park.
Fort Zion Trading Post, Virgin UT
Roughly 20 miles outside of the park is the Fort Zion Trading Post. We made our first “tourist stop” there. Ft. Zion is a large store that has been built to resemble a large old frontier fort. The “trading post” is filled with everything you can imagine… fabulous Indian jewelry, posters, metal signs, rugs, hats, tshirts… you name it it is probably in there… including a cooler with cold drinks and some very good ice cream. What makes Ft. Zion unique is that the owners have built a “town” for a small fee you can walk around and feed some of the animals they have rescued. The small fee is for the feeding and care of the animals. This is not your average town… this town looks like something Tim Burton would build for one of his movies… if it were a western.
We did not stay very long as we had to make it through Zion and over to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon before sundown. Riding on the back roads of Utah in the night time is not a smart idea… there are lots of animals out there!!
Twenty miles later, we arrived in Springdale, the western entrance to Zion National Park. Zion has a campground and a lodge inside the park, but Springdale is where the majority of lodging can be found. This is also where I stock up on supplies if I am here to camp. Springdale is also home to the Giant Screen Theatre… movies are projected onto a six story tall screen! During the day the theatre plays movies about Zion and at night they play Hollywood movies. I want to see a Lord of the Rings marathon on this screen!
As it was a holiday weekend, the line to the park kiosk was a bit slow going. Sue and I paid for ourselves ($12/bike) and the girls purchased a National Park Pass ($80/year). The pass allows up to four passengers in a car or two motorcycles to enter a National Park or National Monument without paying the entrance fee for a year.
Waiting to go thru the tunnel
Off we went. Zion is one of my favorite parks to ride through… ok… they all are… but I have a warm spot for Zion. The park road runs through a large canyon with walls as high as 2200 feet! The canyon walls are the most beautiful red colored Navajo Sandstone and as the sun rises throughout the day the walls seem to magically change color. Unfortunately, we did not have the time to hop on the park shuttle and make our way up to Court of the Patriarchs or the Temple of Sinawava. (Access to the Court and the Temple is by shuttle only April-October.) We turned right and crossed over the river. The road meanders up the canyon via a system of switchbacks… it seems each switchback brings new and breathtaking views.
Part of the way up the canyon is the Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel…built in the 1920s when autos were small. Luckily our bikes and car were small enough to not have to obtain a permit to go through the tunnel. The tunnel is a mile long and has a few windows cut out throughout the tunnel. The tunnel only runs one way at a time, so, while we were waiting for our side’s time to move through tunnel, we were taking photos and enjoying the view of the arch. The air in the tunnel reminds me of the tunnel in Yosemite… heavy, dank and moist. I really wish I could stop at one of the windows and look out!
Arch near the tunnel
Leaving the tunnel, we travel thru the park and another tunnel on our way to Mt. Carmel. The scenery continues to change with every twist and curve. We leave the red rocks and begin climbing to the plateau and Checkerboard Mesa. As we travel the road the sandstone changes colors… from deep red in the canyon to pale pink to the white of Checkerboard Mesa. The color changes are due to the different minerals in the sandstone… calcium carbonate = white… iron oxides (rust) = red. We stop many times for photos…. the girls in the car end up leaving us behind while we keep taking pictures.
As we stop at the different turnouts, we keep running into a Korean woman travelling by herself. She keeps trying to take pictures of herself with her point and shoot camera. Since I love taking photos and she is obviously struggling, I offer to take her photo. This happens again at the next stop and the next stop. At each stop we all start giggling because I would just walk over to take her picture. I always seem to meet the nicest people when I travel. I consider myself blessed in that regard.
on our way to Checkerboard Mesa
We finally finish our sight seeing and roar out of the park… well… I still have stock exhaust so I wouldn’t call it “roaring”.
One of the great things about travelling with these girls is that we understand how we travel. The girls in the car just headed out of the park to Mt. Carmel while Sue and I continued to stop and take pictures. When Sue & I catch up with them they are in the parking lot across from the Thunderbird Lodge… this lot services a small grocery store, trading post and ice cream shop as well as being a gas stop.
There are tour buses in the parking lot. When we come out of the grocery with our lunches, we notice some of the tourists checking out our bikes. A couple of guys came over, they are surprised it is women who are riding. It is fairly common for this assumption to be made… especially when they see that I am not on a sportster.
We had a pretty decent lunch… laced with and despite the tour bus exhaust… checked out our route to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon… and off we went.
Roughly 200 miles down… another 100 to go. That is about two hours and Mother Nature is threatening rain!! And we have an 8:30pm dinner reservation at the Grand Canyon Lodge… time to hustle!
A little weather note: It gets HOT in Zion… sometimes to 100 degrees… make sure you have water and sunscreen.
Zion National Park: http://www.nps.gov/zion