Whoa, that sucker’s huge!

Pretty stark to leave the Arizona and Utah deserts and head straight into Sequoia National Park!

Our visit…just for a day…coincided with rain, too. First rain we’ve experienced in weeks….

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We were up in the clouds….the park’s central area where the largest trees are found lies at 8,000 feet elevation.

During a lull in the rain, I found this scene…check out the three generations within an arm’s length of each other!

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A few basic Sequoia facts: they are the largest trees by volume on Earth (shorter than Redwoods, but wider), Sequoia bark is more red than a Redwood’s bark, both Sequoias and Redwoods are so tall that they are almost impossible for me to photograph the whole tree at once, Redwoods require a very wet environment and therefore proliferate like rabbits and clutter up the forest, while Sequoias just grow large and shade the forest…so they tend to stand out.

Given a choice between the two types of tree, I’d shoot Sequoias every time. Alas, they are scarce.

But I wasn’t going to risk the Nikon in the rain even for Sequoias!

With the lens down a little…not up to catch as much of the height as possible…I managed to avoid raindrops on this picture. The picture really needs something to show you the scale…that center tree is 8 feet in diameter!

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Bye bye, Zion

Wow, what a great time we’ve had at Zion!

It’s not enough that the place has massive walls of rock in stunning colors and textures.

It also has stuff and things right up close. I stood underneath this young waterfall in order to photograph the water coming from a section of wall they call Weeping Rock.

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And as I stood beside the road to shoot a landscape, up walked several of these Mule Deer.

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And around a corner was this small herd of Bighorn Sheep.

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Talk about accessible….I stood in the river to take this shot about 50 feet from our parked car!

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I put my toes in the sand for this picture not 20 feet from the car.

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This picture of almost a tree, high overhead between two towering walls of rock, I took while standing in the open door of the car.

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Ultimately, we enjoyed Zion Canyon soooo much more than almost any park we’ve visited, because it brings so much unspoiled nature right to you: terrific grandeur and amazing detail, large unmoving walls of rock and tiny drips of water, fall colors and Bighorn Sheep.

We’ll be back!

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Zion textures

It’s not enough that Zion mountains and boulders and mounds of rock have all these different colors, they also have all these different textures.

There’s the usual big, cracked walls of granite (I don’t actually know what the rock is, but it’s probably not granite because of its color…but then, I’m no geologist).

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Then there’s a dozen variations on the large-dripping-mudpie-look: some stack it, some push it to edges that are round, some push to edges that are broken, some run layers at angles to each other, some look like cow pies, and some look like checkerboards with cracks running horizontally and vertically.

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Ohhhh, some have colors that alternate like a cake, and some have layers that kind of flake off in lines. What a fascinating place!

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Hereabouts

We’re parked outside Hurricane, UT in Sand Hollow State Park. The photo below shows all seven of the trees in the park.

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It’s actually a lovely place to park, very convenient to stores and restaurants, and a scenic 20 mile drive to Zion Park. Along that drive…this barn:

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It seems everywhere around here is one type or another of incredible rock formation. This one is on the brow of the hill that overlooks the town of St George and its Mormon temple that was the first one constructed in Utah.

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The Colorado River, before it gets to Grand Canyon, goes through a convolution that has been named Horseshoe Bend, which draws people from far and even farther, in buses and cars and even a Unimog RV conversion by Global X (massive off-road rig). We stopped past….

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On our way back to the car (a 3/4 mi hike up a big hill then down steeply through sand and across terribly rutted rock…you should have seen our twin troupers doin all that!) we came upon this tumbleweed with its Technicolor shine from the setting sun.

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A Bryce interruption

As much as we are captivated by Zion, we know there are many other outstanding destinations around here…just gotta find the time to visit.

Bryce Canyon National Park was top of the list, although I had no idea what to expect.

It was a long day-trip. About 20 miles out we turned a corner to find this scene:

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This fairly dramatic change in the shape of rocks was just a foretaste! The road had been a steady climb from where we are parked at 4,000 feet elevation, to where Bryce sits at 8,000 feet. We watched our thermometer drop all the way there. Here’s the scene that greeted us in the park:

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DSC_4478_aOnce again it seemed we were back on the top looking down into huge chasms. Ahhh, not so fast…there are narrow paths that zig-zag waaaay down into these tremendous columns and canyons!

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I’m afraid you’ll not find any pictures from down there looking up…it was already afternoon, we were at 8,000 feet, and I needed to preserve my strength for 140 miles to get home that night….

And there were some fascinating scenes developing as the sun dipped lower….some of the rocks almost glow….

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DSC_4502_aIncluding a full moon coming up just moments after sundown!

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Marching to Zion

Have you heard of Zion National Park?

I had, but had no idea what its claim to fame was.

Fascinating to come here right after Grand Canyon….the two places are almost exactly opposite each other: one is a massive hole in the ground that you view from above, the other is massive rocks piled high that you view from below!

DSC_4637_aYou get up close here…with a walk further up this trail (and across the stream several times) you reach a point where the two mountains come together so close you can touch both sides at once!

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Although Ross & Ryan can be quite limiting for hikes in rough country, they have good stamina when the way is smooth. For me to get the photo above, they walked with Robyn, Grandpa Fell, and me for two hours up and two hours back! The path was paved, but it went up, down, and around, and many other people shared it with us.

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Very difficult place to shoot….the rocks are hugely different in color, the sun changes their colors, the shade can be nearly black, and many surfaces reflect widely differing tones and colors! I could come here for months and get so many different shots of the same scene!

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Nice to have access to the Virgin River that runs through the main canyon. Around the next corner, in the shade….

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Notice the people on the right (Ross was off-camera, waiting patiently for me at a railing on the trail). What fun to have the cottonwood trees changing color…we’ve already noticed some progression in them while we’ve been here.

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The scale of these mountains is hard to convey in a photo. I hope you click on some of these so they fill your screen. Here’s a clue: find the two climbers in the next photo:

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We took the boys on a steep and narrow paved path to see the Emerald Pools. It was 3/4 mile up into a canyon to reach the first pool. What a disappointment…no pool, because its waterfall was nearly dry. But the deciduous tree colors were some consolation!

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The park is surprisingly busy for November. We have the good fortune to use the handicapped placard, because no matter how small or full a parking lot might be, there’s nearly always a nice spot for handicapped open near the trailhead. We appreciate the extra space they provide, because staging a run with the boys takes some room: drinks, vests, bookbags, tripod…and one of them won’t stand still (Ryan). We can even discreetly change a diaper right next to the car!

As the sun begins to set…early now!…we can run across some of the most dramatic scenes of the day. This one was right at a parking lot.

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Bright sun or not, everywhere we look this place is a beautiful example of God’s handiwork.

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Dam!

That’s Hoover Dam to you, sir.

We were headed to Zion National Park, but wondered “why rush past Hoover & Las Vegas?” So we stopped for the night.

Good call.

DSC_4231_aIt’s so hard to really see the dam…partly because of traffic and pedestrians, but mostly because the thing is really wedged in between mountains on either side, and the downstream channel is narrow and turns back and forth.

I don’t know much about the dam and its lake, but water marks on the dam and around the lake show the water level to be quite a bit lower than in the past. Is the line on the banks in the photo below the historic water level?

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Wowser, did we get lucky to be there right at sundown? Click on the photo to make it fill your screen….and see details that are just gorgeous!

So we headed over to Las Vegas, or as one friend has called it, “Lost Wages”, to give Grandpa Fell a first-time look-see.

I had no way to take some nice pictures along the strip, so I opened the sunroof on the Lil Taxi, set my camera on the roof, and shot as we drove along!

These are pretty fair representations of what’s there, don’t you think?

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