Here’s us at the front entrance to Zion National Park, in Utah. Thank goodness for tripods. After my Las Vegas workshop with world famous photographer, Bryan Peterson (a post entirely on that coming soon!) ended, Keith drove us to Zion National Park. Neither of us has been to Utah before, but since Utah contains 5 of America’s 59 national parks, we knew we had to go. Zion National Park is less than a four hour drive from Vegas too. We had a campsite booked for 6 days, 5 nights in the Watchman Campground there.
My favourite part about camping in Zion was the view of the stars before the moon rose. A NASA scientist lamented on TV once that humans have stopped being so curious about life beyond Earth because we can no longer see stars at night from where we live. There is just too much light pollution. This is how many stars I could see on a full moon night (before moonrise), while there were still lights on throughout the campground.
While no campground has yet been able to live up to Sprague Creek in Glacier National Park, Watchman Campground was still beautiful. There were tall mountains on three sides. Deer visited us. They sauntered through the campsites, grazing here and there, utterly unconcerned by our presence. If we didn’t see them in the afternoon, we still knew they had come because there would be a few fresh droppings around the campsite.
And every afternoon, as we ate dinner, the sun bathed the mountains to the south east in a golden glow as it went down for the day.
Our favourite hike was to Observation Point. It is an unrelenting uphill hike, the trail blasted straight out of canyon walls. The net elevation gain is 640 metres (2100 feet). It took us up cliff edges with sheer drop offs. Here is a shot with my rectangular fisheye lens. Is it bad that the layers of rock remind me of flaky pastry dough?
Somehow, a hike uphill even took us briefly through the depths of Echo Canyon.
I loved the desert landscape. The thorned, flat-faced cacti against brambles with towering mountains of Zion Canyon behind gave me an opportunity to use my wide-angle lens, calling to mind Bryan Peterson’s advice on wide-angle lenses: have some immediate foreground to lead into the background that the wide-angle lens pushes all the way to the back. And ignore the naysayers and use f/22 for front to back sharpness. I love this photo!
The view at Observation Point was breathtaking! A clear view of the Virgin river innocently crisscrossing Zion Valley, with a clear view of Angel’s Landing, which is the most popular hike in Zion National Park — and one of the most dangerous in the country. I say “innocently” because the Virgin river carved out Zion Valley from the rocky mountains over 250 million years ago! I find that so much more impressive than the idea that God placed a pre-fabricated Zion Canyon exactly where it sits today. Doesn’t mean I dislike God — just that I really like nature and science and prefer to believe that God allows nature to work miracles in geology and evolution. Anyway, if you look closely, you will see one of the Park’s shuttle buses on the Zion Scenic Drive, which runs parallel to the Virgin river.
On another day, we hiked several easier trails that went parallel to the river. I managed to get a good shot of Court of the Patriarchs, three peaks named Abraham, Isaac and, Jacob from the Old Testament. Don’t ask me to tell you which peak is which; I no longer remember.
Zion National Park definitely exhibited what I understand as “typical” desert weather. Cold at night, and in the early mornings when the sun isn’t out, and then scorching when the sun is up in the middle of the sky. The Watchman Campground contains no shade anywhere. And our campsite was especially bereft of shade since there wasn’t a single tree in its vicinity. So, each afternoon, after we returned from our hike in the hot afternoon, Keith put up — what I call — a “hobo shelter” using tarp, rope and two trekking poles. It took a while to set up, but, once it was up, we sat under it in our camp chairs and read on our Kindles and drank a beer while we waited for the sun to go down. Here it is:
Oh, and look again. There’s other new gear in the photo above too. Our new, larger, two-person tent with a canopy. And a two-burner propane stove. And yes, I brought an Indian whistling pressure cooker with me. On this trip I made beef stew, chicken stir fry, white rice, and chicken fried rice — all from scratch — and often cooked in rendered chicken fat or beef fat. Here’s Keith enjoying the chicken fried rice and an IPA.
And, here’s the fried rice.
And we ate bacon and eggs each morning instead of instant oatmeal. One night we made hot dogs over our camp fire. Here’s that bacon frying in the morning while Keith is coming alive with his elixir of coffee and an nth reading of Lord of the Rings.