California 2021:
Day 16 - Zion National Park


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California 2021: [Day 1 - Chicago] [Day 2 - Route 66: IL] [Day 3 - Route 66: MO] [Day 4 - Route 66: OK] [Day 5 - Route 66: TX] [Day 6 - Route 66: NM] [Day 7 - Route 66: AZ] [Day 8 - Route 66: CA] [Day 9 - Route 66: CA] [Day 10 - Los Angeles] [Day 11 - Los Angeles] [Day 12 - Palm Springs] [Day 13 - Joshua Tree NP] [Day 14 - Death Valley NP] [Day 15 - Las Vegas] [Day 16 - Zion NP] [Day 17 - Grand Canyon North Rim] [Day 18 - Toroweap, Grand Canyon] [Day 19 - Page, AZ] [Day 20 - Durango, CO] [Day 21 - Great Bend, KS] [Day 22 - St. Louis, MO] [Day 23 - Heading Home]

Monday, November 15, 2021: We were up with the sunrise, then we packed our gear and headed to Jack in the Box for breakfast on our way to ...
... Lake Mead National Recreation Area.
We were headed northeast today, and decided to take the scenic route around Lake Mead, ...
... stopping at Sunset View Scenic Overlook to look out over Las Vegas Bay, ...
... which shouldn't be confused with Lake Las Vegas, which is further to the west.
The Las Vegas Wash was filled with water from Lake Las Vegas headed to Lake Mead.
We bent eastward, ...
... admiring the rugged terrain, hills, and the winding road.
After a little more than an hour of driving, we headed in toward Echo Bay, ...
... which had a historic marker noting that John Wesley Powell ended his first expedition through the Grand Canyon near here.
We checked out the facilities, which included this fish cleaning station, ...
... with a reminder to turn on the grinder before putting fish parts in the bowl. Ewww.
When we left Echo Bay, this sign let us know that the good stuff was coming up, as if the entire drive hadn't been scenic enough.
Nearing Valley of Fire State Park, ...
... the color of the surrounding hills suddenly changed to a deep red. It was a stunning change over a very short period.
Keep an eye out for bighorn sheep. Check.
We paid our park fees, got this great shot of Debbie, and headed in.
The road descended into the valley, ...
... with gorgeous red rocks on either side of the road.
There was a set of rocks coming up on the left side. This was the Seven Sisters, which seems to be several sets of large rocks with a smaller rock in the center.
As we got closer, the small center rock wasn't looking so small after all.
Holy crap. That small rock is actually enormous. The area had picnic grounds and a separate area set aside for weddings.
As we left the area, we added turtles to our wildlife lookout.
We took the spur in the road leading to Rainbow Vista, ...
... which wound through the hills, ...
... passing scenic rocks and more picnic grounds, ...
... until we arrived at Rainbow Vista.  Here's the view to the right, ...
... and to the left.
We returned to the main road, and then took the next spur to Atlatl Rock. This formation is named for a throwing stick used by the ancient tribes that inhabited this area. We admired the view, but decided against the climb to see the petroglyphs on the stone.
These formations are known as the Beehives due to the cross-bedding or groove formations in the stone.
We left the Beehives behind, ...
... enjoying the look of the round holes in the red rock formations as we made our way to the western end of the park.
As we stopped at the fee station at the western exit, the ranger pointed out a bighorn sheep on a ridge to the north.
The road followed the valley out of the park, with the mountains now devoid of the striking red color that gives the Valley of Fire its name.
We passed through BLM's Muddy Mountains Special Recreation Management Area, ...
... and we got onto I-15 headed north. How's this for an artsy shot?
We'd passed a lot of bridges with cool art work, but this one near Mesquite, Nevada, ranked near the top.
We crossed back into Arizona, ...
... and continued north toward the Virgin River Gorge where the road seemed to disappear into the side of the mountains.
This was an incredibly beautiful rock-lined route, ...
... with the Virgin River sometimes to the north, ...
... and sometimes to the south.
We had been through here before, most recently in 2006.
So beautiful.
I-15 took us over the state line into Utah, ...
... to St. George, ...
... and the startling white color of the Mormon temples.
We stopped for lunch at the Blimpie north of St. George in Hurricane, UT.
After a rest stop, we got back on I-15 headed north, and were enjoying the 80 MPH speed limit.
Ah, look at these wide, newly paved roads. You don't realize how much you miss them until you've been on back roads for a while.
We got off the highway in Leeds to mail a card for Tom's Aunt Helen's birthday, and then got back on for the drive to ...
... Kolob Canyons, which is part of Zion National Park.
Tom went to the window to show our annual National Park pass, ...
... and we proceeded on the scenic drive, ...
... up and up, ...
... to the Timber Creek Overlook. This is the view looking east, with Nagunt Mesa to the left of center, and Timber Top Mountain on the right, ...
... Horse Range Mountain to the north, with its spectacular dividing line between the upper and lower portions, ...
... the valley to the south with Shuntavi Butte at the end of the range on the left ....
... and back around to the east for a different perspective on Nagunt Mesa (right) and the slope leading up to Beatty Point (left).
We left Kolob Canyons and headed north, ...
... just in awe of the different colors in the rocks.
We intended to head north around Cedar Mountain to Cedar Breaks National Monument, but as we got closer to Cedar City, we saw signs that said tire chains were required from October to April. We didn't have tire chains, ...
... so we turned around at the site of the Old Mill, which operated from 1874 to 1952, and headed south ...
... once again looking at the beautiful red and white striped mountains.
With our change in plans, we decided to drive east through the main portion of Zion National Park today instead of driving in from the west the next day. We were heading east through Springdale on the appropriately named Zion Park Boulevard ...
... when we saw another Escape Campervan ...
... not far from the entrance to Zion National Park.
There were deer frolicking in the campground on our right ...
... as we reached our first stop in the park: the Human History Museum. We were here to see the Stephen Mather plaque at the musuem, but unfortunately it was closed for construction.
Tom let Debbie out of the van, and she stalked along the side of the road, trying to get a photo of the plaque without violating the do-not-enter signs around the museum.
We were frustrated to be so close to a known location, but unable to get any closer and remain good, rule-following citizens.
Having already visited the main valley of the park 25 years earlier, we opted not to use the required shuttle service to see it and instead, drove the scenic Mount Carmel Highway.
As we headed along the highway, we increased our elevation via switchbacks up the mountainside.
We stopped an an overlook to view the arch on the left, and we noticed some holes in the mountain on the right.
Here's a close-up. We realized that they were air holes for the tunnel that we would be going through in a little while.
We kept climbing, ...
... and got a larger view of the arch on our next pass up the canyon wall.
We spotted another air hole for the tunnel, ...
... and another Escape Campervan. We're going to collect them all!
That's the road way down there. We were really getting up the mountain.
We encountered road construction and stopped traffic just as we reached the western entrance of Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel, ...
... but after only a minute or two, we were flagged through to the tunnel.
The tunnel was completed in 1930, and makes a sharp turn just after entering before traveling nearly a mile through the mountain side.
There were many holes to let in light and air, ...
... including these that were likely the ones we had seen from the overlook.
Two minutes later, we were out of the tunnel, ...
... looking at the spectacular formations that make up Zion National Park.
The road wound through the rock, ...
... through another, much shorter tunnel, ...
... and through so much beauty that it is hard to describe.
The green of the trees provided a nice splash of color against the tans, reds, and whites of the rock.
It's amazing that trees can grow here. That is sheer rock. There was no dirt or soil to be seen anywhere.
It is so beautiful ...
... everywhere you look.
Look at the lines in the rock. There are at least three different directions of grooves, all contributing to unbelievably beautiful scenery.
Look at all of the colors. Wonderful.
And then all too soon, we were driving out of the park, ...
... bison! ...
... and back into farmland toward civilization.
We passed an area with many dead deer by the side of the road. They were single carcasses, but on both sides of the road, every few hundred yards. We had also seen that in February near Coral Pink Sands State Park which was very near here, but we still don't know whether they are being hit by cars or if they are just dying by the roadside. Odd. Sad.
We were coming down out of the mountains, ...
... and got one more spectacular view, ...
... before arriving at our destination for the evening: Thunderbird Lodge, ...
... home of the Ho-Made Pies.
We checked into the hotel and were assigned a beautiful room at the end of the row, ...
... with a partially screened patio that had a view of the road to Zion National Park over one of the holes on the golf course.
It was late in the day and late in the season, so there were no golfers out, just a lovely view.
Tom's a happy boy.
We headed over to the restaurant to get some food, and realized that there were very, very few other people here. That's our van at the end of the unoccupied row.
In the restaurant, we looked around at the signs and license plates on the walls, and noticed the scenic byway sign.
Here's a close-up. The other Utah Scenic Byway signs that we had seen were slightly different, with the same overall theme but with different colors.
The entrance to the kitchen area had a great desert-themed mural on the wall, and had a shelf with many vintage cameras running along the top.
Debbie ordered the hot turkey platter: sliced turkey served open face on ho-made bread with mashed potatos, chicken gravy, and vegetables.
Tom ordered the Larry, a roast beef sandwich on Texas toast, with a side of onion rings and a cup of chili.
We got two slices of ho-made pie for dessert: a slice of strawberry rhubarb and a slice of thunderberry. We ate them later in our room and decided that we will definitely skip dessert the next time we are here.

Day 17 >


California 2021: [Day 1 - Chicago] [Day 2 - Route 66: IL] [Day 3 - Route 66: MO] [Day 4 - Route 66: OK] [Day 5 - Route 66: TX] [Day 6 - Route 66: NM] [Day 7 - Route 66: AZ] [Day 8 - Route 66: CA] [Day 9 - Route 66: CA] [Day 10 - Los Angeles] [Day 11 - Los Angeles] [Day 12 - Palm Springs] [Day 13 - Joshua Tree NP] [Day 14 - Death Valley NP] [Day 15 - Las Vegas] [Day 16 - Zion NP] [Day 17 - Grand Canyon North Rim] [Day 18 - Toroweap, Grand Canyon] [Day 19 - Page, AZ] [Day 20 - Durango, CO] [Day 21 - Great Bend, KS] [Day 22 - St. Louis, MO] [Day 23 - Heading Home]

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