Sunday, April 30, 2023

4/25 Zion to Abiquiu Lake, NM

This posting includes some of the photos I took on my way out of Zion through the east entrance and tunnel, and also some photos driving through New Mexico on my way to Abiquiu Lake. 

In reality, I took three days to get to Abiquiu with overnight stops in Page, AZ, (mostly to do laundry) and in Farmington, NM.  I've taken photos in both of those places and frankly, since there were not very many decent campground in or near Farmington, I ended up staying in the county fairgrounds.  Most county campgrounds are pretty basic, but I figured why pay $50 for a crummy commercial campground with lots of permanent residents when I could pay $30 for a county facility that had good security.  I had been here before, and found it OK. 

Last time, there were a few other campers, but this time I had about 80 campsites to choose from and no neighbors at all!  Sites had water and electric hookups, and I was within sight of the guard booth, so what else did I need?  Quiet night, at least.  (Note: The pickup truck in the distance was the last of the county workers who had been working on some of the campground water hookups.)

The next morning, I stopped at Target to pick up a few groceries and Penney's to get a much-needed haircut.  Other than a gas station/convenience store, there is nothing near Lake Abiquiu for about 40 miles, so I am making sure I have everything I need for a couple of weeks or more.  The convenience store looks a little better than most, but I don't want to pay high prices when I can get what I will need in a larger town.  
One nice thing on my drive, however, is that gas prices dropped from about $491 per gallon to $3.79 a gallon once I got into New Mexico!   
Anyway, the drive out of Zion is just as scenic as the drive in way, except I did not take as many photos.  This is the road just before the east exit. 

The east exit and the tunnel are at the end of this canyon.

There are at least five or six switchbacks to gain enough elevation to enter the tunnel, but I stopped at one of the lower ones to take photos and ended up chatting with a couple from Portugal/Brazil, and California.  In other words, they had lived in each of these in the order listed, but were now living back in Brazil and in the U.S. for a three-month trip. 

Headed up.  Note the lack of barriers to keep you from driving over the edge.  I think the low stone wall might warn you on your way over, however, so it might be a bit useful.

Almost there.

And of course, you will find a line coming in or going out of the tunnel.  This line is headed west into the park and is waiting for opposite-way traffic to get out of the tunnel so they can go in.  There is no doubt at least one big motorhome leading the line coming out and going through. 

Obviously, this whole area was lake bed and/or beach and sand dune at one time.  Note the interesting textures caused by the sand patterns. 

These formations look like they may have been made by puddles, maybe????

Leaving the park.  Line was at least a mile long. Lesson learned is to get into the park as early in the morning or as late in the afternoon as you can. 

I stopped in Page to do laundry and spend the night, so I think the rest of these photos were taken in New Mexico.  I absolutely LOVE the empty roads!!!  Many times, I can come to almost a full stop to take a photo.   Otherwise, it is point and shoot and hope for one good photo out of two or three.

This is Shiprock in New Mexico.  You can see it a long way in the distance because there are few big rocks or mountains around it.

Last long and empty road for today!! 

Sunday, April 23, 2023

4/22 Zion National Park - Weeping Rock

 One of the stops on the Zion National Park is Weeping Rock.  Water that falls as rain or snow on top of the mesa slowly moves through the sandstone until it hits a layer which is impermeable. At that point, it flows sideways until it finds another place to flow downward or it flows out of a cliff face.  This process can take months or even years, so Weeping Rock weeps this spring water almost always.  

It is only a short walk from the shuttle stop and parking lot, but unfortunately, it is almost entirely uphill!  Weeping Rock is the dark, cave-like area just to the right of the bottom of the waterfall in this photo. 

Getting closer!!! 

Today was a windy day, and occasionally, the wind would blow the falling water sideways!

This is the stream that the water falls into at the bottom of the waterfall.  Within only a few hundred feet, it travels under the roadway and empties into the Virgin River.

This is the sort of shallow "cave" where the water drips over the edge and seeps through the back wall.  

The water is not only dripping from the top of the "cave" but seeps through the nearby cliff face, resulting in plant growth.  There are also quite a few little springs along the trail, but I forgot to take some photos on my way down. 

The waterfall is really close to the cave area. 

When the wind blew, sometimes the water covered the entire face of the opening and got us all a bit wet, but the spray felt good!

Another view up the canyon from Weeping Rock.  

Only a few more days left here.  It has been such a pleasant place to stay because of the nice campground and the incredible views from everywhere.  I will be headed back to northern New Mexico and then Colorado on Tuesday, April 25th. 

4/21 Zion National Park Lodge and Temple of Sinawava

The photos here are really from more than one day, but I wanted to focus this post on the places I stopped at on my trips on the shuttle and my bike.  I have been to Zion National Park several times, so did not feel the urge this time to see everything.  

One interesting thing that was very different on this visit was that there has been a lot of snow melting in the mountains, so not only was the river raging, as shown in my last posting about the campground, but there were some huge waterfalls that only rarely show up.  Most people visiting here this month will never see them again in future visits.  

First stop was Zion Lodge.  It is the only park-owned place to stay in Zion, other than the campgrounds.  It has a cafe for hotel visitors and visitors, as well as a gift shop and some great views.

One of the shuttle stops below.

This is the last of the shuttle stops--The Temple of Sinawava.

Normally, you would be able to take an easy trail that follows the river until you reach a place called The Narrows.  When the river is calmer, you can wade through the shallows at the Narrows for about a quarter mile upstream.  However, the long trail to the Narrows is closed right now because of the river's current being so strong and part of the trail washed out.  (Best time to see and wade in The Narrows is late summer or fall.  You can even rent waterproof boots and hiking poles in Springdale for that purpose.)

However, because of the snow melt, the falls shown in this photo are a bonus because they are very seldom here, even in spring. 

Most people were focused on the waterfall, but if you turned around and looked at the cliff face behind the shuttle stop, you could see these two climbers.  I watched them for quite a while, and they were definitely headed down, so I assume they had started up in the morning.  The sun was setting behind the cliff face, so it was getting quite chilly, and I was cold in my nylon jacket.  I am sure these two will be happy to get down from their climb and get warm!

Back to these gorgeous falls.  Hard to get it all in one photo.   

The water from the falls drops directly into this pool and then goes into the Virgin River. No wading or swimming in this river right now because of the strong current and also the toxic cyanobacteria in the river.  

A view up the canyon from the falls area.  


It has been several months since I had ridden my bike, so it took me a couple of days to get it uncovered, cleaned up, and air put in the tires.  But I finally took my first bike ride on the paved bike and walker's trail that goes from the South Campground to the Zion Lodge. 


I saw several deer along the bike trail. The deer have not been doing well at Zion for several years because of the toxic cyanobacteria in the Virgin River, which is mainly where they drink from.  Last time I was here a couple of years ago, you could count their ribs.  This time, they looked a little better, but their fur was scraggly, as if they had mange or something similar. 


 A couple of views from the bike trail. 


I was here late in the afternoon, so there were not very many walkers or bike riders on the trail. 


Next post is about Weeping Rock in the Canyon.  I separated that one from this post so it would not be too long. 

4/17 Watchman Campground, Zion National Park

 Zion National Park has two main campgrounds:  Watchman and South.  South Campground is undergoing some construction and so is closed for a while.  It has mostly smaller non-hookup sites appropriate for tents and smaller RVs.  Watchman is the larger campground and has four main areas.  The loop I am in, Loop A, has paved sites and electric hookups.  Loop B has gravel sites and electric hookups.  Loops C & D have no hookups at all, and Loop E has several group areas with no hookups.   All loops have restrooms, but no showers, and there are drinking water faucets near each restroom.  If you want a shower, you need to go across the river into town.  

One problem even with Loops A and B is that the maximum length of trailers or motorhomes is only 40', and the other Loops have even more restricted lengths.  The other problem is that campgrounds are almost always full, so it is important to get a reservation as soon as sites open, which is 6 months in advance. 

However, there is one commercial campground across the river in Springdale and several campground several miles away on the southern entrance to the park.  I even noticed that there are several fairly new "glamping" campgrounds for people who do not own an RV on the hihway on the way to Hurricane, UT.  One had mini-cabins, tents, and covered wagons, all with real beds, microwaves, mini-refrigerators, and lots of comfort.  Not cheap, but most had bathrooms and even AC and heating.  

Another glamping place farther down the road has tipis, "cliff dwellings," and covered wagons, at equally expensive rates.  I think I'll stick to my $15 per night senior America the Beautiful pass rate!!  (This pass is available to any citizens or permanent residents over the age of 62 and is good for a lifetime of free entrance for the pass holder and anyone in his or her car to any National Park and 50% discounts on campgrounds.)  Check it out here:

Anyway, Zion has some very nice campgrounds, but you do need to make reservations very early.   


The next two shots are of my site, repeated from the last post. 

 You certainly can't beat the view from the Watchman Campground!

It is very convenient to get from the campground to the visitor center, shuttles, and even the little town of Springdale. 

There is a very convenient raised sidewalk that goes along the Virgin River to the park entrance and the small bridge that crosses the river into town.  On the left of this photo are some of the restaurants and a hotel across the river in Springdale. On the right are a couple of camp sites. 


As you get closer to the entrance booth, you pass the main Zion visitor parking lot. 

Because of the large amount of snow in the mountains this year, the Virgin River is raging! 

It is very close to overflowing its banks and causing damage to the businesses on the other side. 

I took some video of the river and uploaded it to YouTube here:  It is a bit noisy because of the wind that day.

You can see the pedestrian bridge on the left and the entrance booth on the right at the end of the sidewalk.  


You have to show your park pass every time you go into Springdale, which is a bit of a bother, but they have the ropes set up so that you can get into the park from the campground without showing your pass, at least most of the time.  All in all, however, the campground is very convenient to everything.