Monday, October 15, 2007

Zion National Park

My work-related conference in Las Vagas was over about 2pm on Friday, Oct 12th. I took a quick shuttle ride to the airport to pick up a rental car then head NE on I-15 out of Vegas. With the speed limits at 75 mph (and nearly all traffic moving at 85 mph), in two hours I quickly reached St. George, UT, my planned overnight stop.

Early Saturday, I drove the next hour into Zion National Park. After parking at the South Entrance, I jumped on the Park Shuttle for a ride to the starting point for the 4 mile, 2000’ climb to Observation Point at an elevation of 6,800’. Observation Point is considered by the locals to be the one of the premier vistas in the Park. The other is Angel’s Landing.

Zion Park is an unbelievable place. The Red Rock walls jut straight up for 2000 feet or more. And unlike the Grand Canyon where you view everything down from the rim, in Zion you are at the bottom looking up…constantly. And the rock cliffs are varied in colors from a pure white to a dark red. And some are horizontally striated with the different colored rock layers deposited eons ago.

My climb began about 8:30am. It was 40’s cool and the morning sun had not hit the climb path which is carved out of the rock walls in many places. The views were absolutely breathtaking (literally) as the constant climb to the rim top began. For the most part, the climb path was smooth and very easy to negotiate. The park maps say there are 27 switch backs on the way up as you meandered through canyons then up along the canyon wall to another switch back. And the view….words can’t describe and the attached pictures tell only part of the emotion as you walk up through the eons of sedimentary rock laid down 80-100 million years ago then uplifting began by the Pacific tectonic plate which started some 40 million years ago. The Virgin River created the canyons and continues to slowly carve out new landscapes.

At about the 3 mile mark, you get to the canyon rim but Observation Point is still another easy hiking mile along the rim. The point is actually a narrow, finger “outcropping” about 50’ wide at the narrowest. But it looks over some of the most scenic 3000’ of canyon cliffs, the river far below, some of the other hiker destination sites including Angel’s Landing about 800’ lower in elevation but across the canyon. I talked with a number of folks including a bunch of 70-yr olds from Phoenix and some older ladies from Las Vegas. Everyone just wanted to sit and be mesmerized by the beauty of the canyon and the vistas. Of course the low-70’s temperatures were equally helpful. In the summer, this place “cooks” with average daytime temps in the 100-110 f. range! ( See my public album of pictures at: http://picasaweb.google.com/Hamblen9 )

I hiked in with my K1 and dipole antenna. I was looking for the “just right” tree to string an antenna and make a few 20m contacts from the “top of Zion park!” Unfortunately, I had to hike a bit off the main trail on the canyon rim at 7,000’ to find a Ponderosa tree that would work. Twenty minutes later with the dipole up about 20’, I leaned up against the tree and tuned in 14.060 only to find the PA QSO Party and the FISTS guys going gang-busters! I made a few PA QP contacts then went down to 14.030 to call CQ. I got KF5LC from Texas and we had a long chat. It’s always great fun to tell people where you are and listen to their amazement! It was starting to get hot and I wanted to get back so I could drive the 3 hours to a town near the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, my Sunday planned area to visit. I quickly hiked out to the shuttle then to my parked car and then the drive out through the East entrance of the Park. What an amazing drive and spectacular views including the half-mile tunnel climb up to the rim and then east.

I drove the 160 miles into Jacobs Lake in northern Arizona, arriving about 8 pm. Fortunately I got the last room at the Lodge, had dinner, and then crashed for the night. I wanted to get up early and catch the 6:15 am sunrise at the Point Imperial Overlook of the canyon. This is a drive up to an overlook at 8,900’ with vistas south and east of the Grand Canyon from the north rim. I left at 5 am for the 45 minute night drive. It was in the low 30’s and there was a 20 mph north wind. Cold but crystal clear and the sunrise on the canyon walls was spectacular as the different colored rocks lit up like fireworks as the first light hit them. This would be a great site to have some QRP fun but I was 5 hrs from Las Vegas. Since my planned departure was 3:30pm, I left the North Rim about 8:30 am after a few short hikes in the area.

Every little town is a speed trap and I had a few close calls but got back to Vegas in plenty of time. I’d certainly recommend this area regardless of your hiking ability. Zion is incredible and I go back there in a minute particularly at this time of the year when it’s not too hot. Also many folks I spoke with also recommended highly Bryce Canyon Park as having some great hiking with incredible beauty. Another day…..

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