Sunday, March 22, 2009

March 20: Springdale to Salina, UT via Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks

We left a little later this morning as I decided to give some attention to my studies.  We had breakfast at the Pioneer Restaurant at around 10:30 and then proceeded to the west entrance of Zion National Park, a mere 2 miles away at the edge of Springdale's city limits.  For most of the year, Zion operates a free shuttle bus service which is required for trips into the 6-mile-long, one way drive into Zion Canyon (excepting those staying at Zion Lodge, who may drive personal vehicles to the lodge but no farther).  This service does not resume, however, until April 4th.  As this was a pristine Friday with temperatures in the 70s, the drive into the canyon from Zion Lodge to the terminus at the Temple of Sinawava altered the name of the park to Zion National Parking Lot.  This was, of course, the way the park functioned year-round prior to 1997; but I had not visited the park prior to 2003, and had ridden the shuttles for each of my 3 prior visits.  Believe me, once you have experienced the canyon with shuttles channeling visitors in and out of the park there is no other way.  Due to this, our stay was brief, with a few pictures snapped and few parking spaces to be found.  

We headed out of the park following the Zion/Mt. Carmel highway to its junction with US 89 outside the eastern reaches of the park.  Turning north, our next destination was Bryce Canyon National Park, a scenic 60-mile drive away.  The weather at Bryce was unseasonal as well (typically 42, today 64-66), which certainly made the visit very pleasant.  The centerpiece at Bryce, which is not really a "canyon", is the elegant rock spire known as the hoodoo, which is created over time by erosive forces.  These hoodoos are present throughout the park and occur side-by-side to create a vast amphitheater of formations which present themselves in colored layers of red, orange, and white.  Additionally, due to the time of year and 8,000 foot elevation, a layer of snow was present around the base of the formations in many areas.  We stopped to take in the scenery at the four essential viewpoints (though there are at least 10 more to see if one has time): Bryce, Inspiration, Sunrise, and Sunset. 

After this, we continued north on Highway 89 towards I-70 and our hotel in the small town of Salina, UT.  From here, I continued work on my studies as we passed a most uneventful, though very relaxing evening generally sitting around.  

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