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Old 09-17-2013, 04:21 PM   #1
NLD
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Driving through the Desert: Our Utah and Arizona Trip

Introduction

Welcome! This is a quick trip report on our recent road trip through Utah and Arizona.

We are a family of three. This is us:


smaller_AZ_UT_2013_-6639 by nicole_lynn_, on Flickr

That's me (Nicole), my husband (Matt), and our daughter (Sunshine). (Ummm, excuse our wardrobe choices in that picture--this was our last night of the trip, in Sedona, and we had been wading through the creek! I forgot to unroll my jeans! )

Some quick background...

Our trip happened August 4-13, 2013, so we had nine nights. We flew into Vegas and out of Phoenix, but we didn't spend any time in the cities. Our itinerary went like this:

3 nights in Springdale, Utah (Zion National Park)
1 night in Bryce Canyon, Utah
2 nights in Kanab, Utah (used as a base to explore Page, Arizona)
1 night in Grand Canyon South Rim
2 nights in Sedona, Arizona

Okay, that's it for the basics! Time to get the trip report started!
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Trip reports

Driving through the Desert: Our Utah and Arizona Trip

Breaking All the Rules! Pirates, Pixie Dust, and Pictures... a January 2012 WDW Trip Report


First family trip: September 2009 POR
Sisters trip: September 2010 AKL
MNSSHP only: October 27, 2011
Birthday trip for daughter: January 2012 WL

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Old 09-17-2013, 04:48 PM   #2
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Loved Red Rock Crossing! Looking forward to see you pictures. We did a tirp through Utah and northern Arizona a couple of years ago.
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Old 09-17-2013, 04:54 PM   #3
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Day 1: Sunday, August 4

The first day of our trip was a lot of driving, flying, and more driving. We live in southern Pennsylvania, so it's a long flight out west.

As luck would have it, a terrorism alert was issued for this exact day. I mention this because it (sort of) comes into play later.

Anyway, we drove to BWI, got on our nonstop flight (which took off promptly at 1:00 p.m.), and had a relatively uneventful flight. We flew right over the Grand Canyon, and when it came into view, we were so excited to see it!

The only hiccup on the flight was that as we approached McCarran International Airport, we flew down, down, down, and then... we were flying back up and east. Ummm?

It turns out the pilot just decided the wind was tossing us around too much and he wanted to recircle and approach again. That's sort of what we all figured, but we climbed so high again and went so far east, that there were a few minutes where all of us on the plane were exchanging glances, trying to decide if we should be concerned that Las Vegas had just appeared and then disappeared from view. Just as the mood in the cabin was getting really tense, the pilot came on and explained, so it was fine. But I am sure I wasn't the only person whose mind was going to a worst-case scenario, given that terrorism alert!

We landed in Las Vegas about 3:30 p.m. We picked up our rental car from National. It was a ridiculously long wait, but they gave us a discount because of the wait. And we ended up with an awesome SUV, a beautiful Dodge Durango with satellite radio, heated leather seats... just totally beautiful and extremely comfortable. Sunshine was thrilled (she's used to our old clunkers at home!)

Because of the delay getting the rental car, we hit the road later than I'd expected, so we nixed the idea of stopping at Walmart for picnic supplies. We did stop for dinner (McD's), near the Nevada-Utah border, and then we were on our way again.

As luck would have it, we drove through the Virgin River Gorge in some gorgeous early evening light. Matt was stuck driving, but Sunshine and I got our cameras out and started snapping pictures from the window.


smaller_AZ_UT_2013_-4179 by nicole_lynn_, on Flickr


smaller_AZ_UT_2013_-4207 by nicole_lynn_, on Flickr



smaller_AZ_UT_2013_-4214 by nicole_lynn_, on Flickr



smaller_AZ_UT_2013_-4204 by nicole_lynn_, on Flickr


The entire drive, Matt and I couldn't stop exclaiming over the scenery. Even though we were exhausted, we were so, so happy to be out west.

By the time we reached Springdale, it had just gotten dark, and we were exhausted. We checked into the La Quinta, unloaded our suitcases, and collapsed into bed... excited to explore our surroundings in the morning!
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Trip reports

Driving through the Desert: Our Utah and Arizona Trip

Breaking All the Rules! Pirates, Pixie Dust, and Pictures... a January 2012 WDW Trip Report


First family trip: September 2009 POR
Sisters trip: September 2010 AKL
MNSSHP only: October 27, 2011
Birthday trip for daughter: January 2012 WL

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Old 09-17-2013, 04:56 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by disneyfaninaz View Post
Loved Red Rock Crossing! Looking forward to see you pictures. We did a tirp through Utah and northern Arizona a couple of years ago.
Hi Wendy! Cross-posted with you! It's your trip reports that inspired me to write one. Yours have been such a joy (and help) to read, I'm hoping mine might help someone out, too.

Do you have any new national parks trips planned? We are hooked now.
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Trip reports

Driving through the Desert: Our Utah and Arizona Trip

Breaking All the Rules! Pirates, Pixie Dust, and Pictures... a January 2012 WDW Trip Report


First family trip: September 2009 POR
Sisters trip: September 2010 AKL
MNSSHP only: October 27, 2011
Birthday trip for daughter: January 2012 WL

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Old 09-17-2013, 06:05 PM   #5
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Day 2: Monday, August 5

Our first morning in Utah!

I woke up early to see the sun rise. However, it wasn't much of an event from the hotel... the sun just didn't clear the cliffs towering around us. Still, I wasn't complaining, waking up to those beautiful towers of rock!

This was our building at the La Quinta, all lit up in the pre-dawn light:


smaller_AZ_UT_2013_-4244 by nicole_lynn_, on Flickr

And this was what was directly outside our room door... not a bad setting to sleep for a few nights.


smaller_AZ_UT_2013_-4245 by nicole_lynn_, on Flickr


smaller_AZ_UT_2013_-4282 by nicole_lynn_, on Flickr

Eventually I went back inside, showered and dressed, and took Sunshine to get some free breakfast. The breakfast room was crowded, which Matt didn't like, so he just grabbed some coffee and we brought him some food back to the room.

After breakfast, it was time to enter the park! We debated about riding the town shuttle or driving in and parking. We settled on driving, figuring it was early enough to get a spot. (And it was, plenty of parking available!)

We stopped at the entrance gate...


smaller_AZ_UT_2013_-4284 by nicole_lynn_, on Flickr

...bought our America the Beautiful pass, and then we were in the park!


smaller_AZ_UT_2013_-4286 by nicole_lynn_, on Flickr

I can't even explain what it felt like, seeing those pink cliffs rise from the earth. Like those towers of stone were healing something inside me that I didn't even know needed to be healed.

We parked at the Visitor Center, visited the bathrooms, filled up our water bottles, and then hopped the canyon shuttle. We had somewhere important to get to...!
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Trip reports

Driving through the Desert: Our Utah and Arizona Trip

Breaking All the Rules! Pirates, Pixie Dust, and Pictures... a January 2012 WDW Trip Report


First family trip: September 2009 POR
Sisters trip: September 2010 AKL
MNSSHP only: October 27, 2011
Birthday trip for daughter: January 2012 WL

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Old 09-17-2013, 07:06 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NLD View Post
Hi Wendy! Cross-posted with you! It's your trip reports that inspired me to write one. Yours have been such a joy (and help) to read, I'm hoping mine might help someone out, too.
Hi Nicole and thank you! Great start to your report! Zion was indeed inspiring.

Quote:
Originally Posted by NLD View Post
Do you have any new national parks trips planned? We are hooked now.
As a matter of fact, I do. We are taking a short road trip to Indian Country in the four corners area of Arizona in a few weeks for fall break. We will be visiting the Petrified Forest, Canyon de Chelly and Mesa Verde. I am definitely planning a trip report upon our return!
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Old 09-17-2013, 07:55 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by disneyfaninaz View Post
We are taking a short road trip to Indian Country in the four corners area of Arizona in a few weeks for fall break. We will be visiting the Petrified Forest, Canyon de Chelly and Mesa Verde. I am definitely planning a trip report upon our return!
So fun! Can't wait to read your report. Mesa Verde is on my bucket list. Hope you guys have a great time!
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Trip reports

Driving through the Desert: Our Utah and Arizona Trip

Breaking All the Rules! Pirates, Pixie Dust, and Pictures... a January 2012 WDW Trip Report


First family trip: September 2009 POR
Sisters trip: September 2010 AKL
MNSSHP only: October 27, 2011
Birthday trip for daughter: January 2012 WL

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Old 09-22-2013, 10:13 PM   #8
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Day 2: Monday, August 5 (part two)

Once on the Canyon Shuttle, we rode to the Zion Lodge stop and got off. Then crossed the street to... the horse corral. I had booked the one-hour Virgin River ride for us. This was especially for Sunshine--she has wanted to try horseback riding forever.

We were super early checking in, though, so we stood around and took in the scenery while we waited.


smaller_AZ_UT_2013_-4301 by nicole_lynn_, on Flickr

Matt just soaked in the scenery (the whole trip). He was so happy surrounded by all that rock and desert.


smaller_AZ_UT_2013_-4325 by nicole_lynn_, on Flickr

Sunshine spotted a wild turkey, and we had fun stalking him while we waited....


smaller_AZ_UT_2013_-4338 by nicole_lynn_, on Flickr


smaller_AZ_UT_2013_-4340 by nicole_lynn_, on Flickr

Finally it was our turn to ride!


smaller_AZ_UT_2013_-4317 by nicole_lynn_, on Flickr

It was just a one hour ride. I had heard prior to our trip that if you pick one place to horseback ride between Bryce and Zion, you should pick Bryce. It's supposed to be fantastic riding right down into the hoodoos at Bryce. However, Elise and Matt had never been on horses before (and I only had as a kid), so I was a bit worried about putting us all on horses for the first time with steep drop-offs for a 2.5 hour ride. Thus, I picked the short, one-hour ride at Zion.

It was a sedate ride, with all the horses walking single file in a line. They clearly knew the trail and were conditioned with what to do. The guide was good. He talked with us and made jokes along the way. He put Sunshine right behind him, at the front of the line, and then me right behind Sunshine (and Matt behind me). That way Sunshine was nice and safe between the guide and her momma.

While I'm sure the experts are right, and Bryce must be a better ride, we still enjoyed our ride at Zion. The scenery was beautiful, even without being among hoodoos.


smaller_AZ_UT_2013_-4348 by nicole_lynn_, on Flickr


smaller_AZ_UT_2013_-4353 by nicole_lynn_, on Flickr


smaller_AZ_UT_2013_-4351 by nicole_lynn_, on Flickr


At the end of the ride, we dismounted our horses and checked out the photos they'd taken of us at the beginning, crossing the stream. We bought Matt and Sunshine's photos. (Hmmmm.... haven't seen those since we got home, come to think of it... will have to ask Matt if they made it home.)

All in all, it was a great experience. (Sunshine enjoyed the ride so much, we're now looking into regular lessons for her.) Definitely a great way to get a kid involved in the national parks, an actual activity to break up the endless sight-seeing. And something we won't ever forget--a family horseback ride through Zion.
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Trip reports

Driving through the Desert: Our Utah and Arizona Trip

Breaking All the Rules! Pirates, Pixie Dust, and Pictures... a January 2012 WDW Trip Report


First family trip: September 2009 POR
Sisters trip: September 2010 AKL
MNSSHP only: October 27, 2011
Birthday trip for daughter: January 2012 WL

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Old 09-23-2013, 10:07 PM   #9
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Day 2: Monday, August 5 (part three)

After our horseback ride along the Virgin River, we debated what to do. Matt wanted to hike the Emerald Pools trails, but he got out-voted. We headed back to Zion Lodge instead, where we ate a light lunch on the lawn and then headed inside to check out the gift shop.

We bought a few things at the gift shop, including a stuffed animal raccoon for Sunshine, which she promptly named Brown Sugar. Then we got some ice creams and cokes, and ate them outside.

By now it was afternoon. The sun was high, the crowds were rolling in, and Sunshine was getting cranky. We decided to head back to the Visitor Center. Matt wanted to check out the Virgin River, so we walked down to the river from there.

We walked along the river for a while, and then eventually Sunshine and I splashed our way right into it. We played in the river a while, looking for interesting stones and sticks.


smaller_AZ_UT_2013_-4362 by nicole_lynn_, on Flickr

Eventually we decided it was time to head back into town. I had promised Sunshine we could go swimming at the La Quinta's pool, so while we did that, Matt took a nap. Afterwards, we found our way to Oscar's for dinner. (Highly recommended!) Oscar's turned out to be the best meal of the trip... we left happy and refreshed.

After dinner, we poked around the shop immediately across from the La Quinta, looking at the pottery. And I snapped a few shots in the evening light.


smaller_AZ_UT_2013_-4384 by nicole_lynn_, on Flickr



smaller_AZ_UT_2013_-4387 by nicole_lynn_, on Flickr


(Location, location, location...)


smaller_AZ_UT_2013_-4386 by nicole_lynn_, on Flickr

Soon it was dark, and we all turned into the room. But I wasn't sleepy yet, so while Matt and Sunshine chilled, I took the car and went to the grocery store in town. Picked up a few food items (waaaay more expensive than Walmart en route would have been, but oh well!) and made it back to the motel safely. Eventually we all drifted off to sleep.
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Trip reports

Driving through the Desert: Our Utah and Arizona Trip

Breaking All the Rules! Pirates, Pixie Dust, and Pictures... a January 2012 WDW Trip Report


First family trip: September 2009 POR
Sisters trip: September 2010 AKL
MNSSHP only: October 27, 2011
Birthday trip for daughter: January 2012 WL

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Old 09-23-2013, 10:32 PM   #10
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Day 3: Tuesday, August 6

We got another early start for our second full day in Zion. After some free breakfast, we packed up our bags and equipment for the day, and drove into the park.

This was the day I'd been looking forward to most out of the whole trip... because this was the day we planned to hike the Narrows. BUT... there were thunderstorms in the forecast.

The Narrows is a hike right in the Virgin River, as it winds its way between the cliffs as they narrow into a slot canyon. Hiking slot canyons in thunderstorms is a BAD idea.

I didn't know what to do. It was heartbreaking to think of missing it, but we didn't want to take chances with Sunshine. So we stopped at the Visitor Center and talked with a ranger there. She told us we'd be taking a risk.

We talked. Matt wanted to hike the Emerald Pools trails, and with the thunderstorms forecasted, we decided to hike that instead, and see how the weather played out in the afternoon. We walked to the car and switched out some of our gear... I sadly left my water shoes, a couple lenses and tripod behind... and we caught the canyon shuttle to get off at Zion Lodge again.


Once we disembarked at the Lodge, we headed off to the trailhead, crossed the river via the bridge, and quickly started a gradual ascent up the trail.


smaller_AZ_UT_2013_-4402 by nicole_lynn_, on Flickr

Eventually we reached Lower Emerald Pools, and were rewarded with a trickle of water falling from above. Such a small little mist of water, but so refreshing to walk through it on a hot August day in Utah! A beautiful oasis.


smaller_AZ_UT_2013_-4415 by nicole_lynn_, on Flickr


smaller_AZ_UT_2013_-4419 by nicole_lynn_, on Flickr

Matt wanted to keep going, so we pushed onto Middle Emerald Pools. Another small and shady oasis. Sunshine and I wimped out though, and told Matt we'd wait for him there while he continued to Upper.

After a while, we heard a boom-boom-boomboomboom. Then a few seconds later, more booming. At the second set of booming sounds, I was fairly sure that what we were hearing was a rock slide. Sure enough, once Matt got back to us, he said he had just reached the Upper Pools when the booming started. He looked at some other hikers, whom he described as obviously more experienced than him (meaning they had bigger backpacks!)... and they looked at each other and said, "Let's get out of here." So Matt figured, with their bigger backpacks and all, he should follow their lead... and he got out too, and hiked right back down to us. So he barely got to enjoy the Upper Pools--a shame, because he said they were the best--but at least he got to see them!

Anyway, once Matt had returned to us, we gathered ourselves out of our shady spot on the rocks and headed back down the trail, taking in some terrific views along the way.


smaller_AZ_UT_2013_-4425 by nicole_lynn_, on Flickr


smaller_AZ_UT_2013_-4431 by nicole_lynn_, on Flickr


smaller_AZ_UT_2013_-4456 by nicole_lynn_, on Flickr


smaller_AZ_UT_2013_-4462 by nicole_lynn_, on Flickr

Finally we reached the bridge that would bring us back across the river...


smaller_AZ_UT_2013_-4464 by nicole_lynn_, on Flickr

We once again headed straight for the Zion Lodge lawn, where we enjoyed a picnic lunch of sandwiches and fruit from our packs, plus more ice cream for dessert.
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Trip reports

Driving through the Desert: Our Utah and Arizona Trip

Breaking All the Rules! Pirates, Pixie Dust, and Pictures... a January 2012 WDW Trip Report


First family trip: September 2009 POR
Sisters trip: September 2010 AKL
MNSSHP only: October 27, 2011
Birthday trip for daughter: January 2012 WL

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Old 09-25-2013, 09:36 AM   #11
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Not that we were that ambitious, but the Narrows was closed because of high water when we were there too. We did hike to the Upper Emerald pool and it was a very nice hike.

Didn't you just love the ice cream at the Zion Lodge? Yum! I really liked the water refill stations as well.

Can't wait to read more!
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Old 09-25-2013, 09:48 AM   #12
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Great pics! Following along!
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Old 10-02-2013, 07:17 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by disneyfaninaz View Post
:As a matter of fact, I do. We are taking a short road trip to Indian Country in the four corners area of Arizona in a few weeks for fall break. We will be visiting the Petrified Forest, Canyon de Chelly and Mesa Verde. I am definitely planning a trip report upon our return!
Well, I'm anxious to read more of your report, because it looks more and more like mine won't be able to be written this year!
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Old 10-03-2013, 10:04 AM   #14
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Hi wiigirl, glad to have you on board!

Hi Wendy. Uggghhhhh on the government shutdown. I'm so sorry about your trip.

Sorry for the delay in posting more, hope to get another installment up soon. Might need to speed this thing up with fewer details.
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Trip reports

Driving through the Desert: Our Utah and Arizona Trip

Breaking All the Rules! Pirates, Pixie Dust, and Pictures... a January 2012 WDW Trip Report


First family trip: September 2009 POR
Sisters trip: September 2010 AKL
MNSSHP only: October 27, 2011
Birthday trip for daughter: January 2012 WL

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Old 10-07-2013, 10:49 AM   #15
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Day 3: Tuesday, August 6 (part two)

After lunching and lounging outside Zion Lodge, and then refilling our water packs, we decided on what to do next. It was now afternoon, and despite the weather reports, not a drop of rain or clap of thunder yet. We decided to take the shuttle to the end of the canyon and at least do the Riverwalk and assess the Narrows situation for ourselves.



smaller_AZ_UT_2013_-4473 by nicole_lynn_, on Flickr


The Temple of Sinawava shuttle stop was hopping. Lots of people everywhere. Most of them quite wet, having obviously spent all day in the Narrows. Apparently we were the only ones in the park worried.

I looked at the board near the trailhead that rated the risk for the day. It said flash flooding "possible," just like it had at the visitor center. Only this board gave me another bit of info--it showed that "possible" was, in actuality, the second lowest risk warning available. The rating system went from no risk of flash floods, to flash floods possible, to flash floods probable, to you are idiot for even contemplating going into a slot canyon right now, and if you go in you must have a death wish.

...In other words, we'd been avoiding the Narrows all day for very little reason.

Oh well, we could get a little bit of time in the river, anyway.

So we walked along the Riverwalk, stopping to look at the squirrels (scarily tame) along the way, until we reached the river. Matt was still a little tentative about going up the river, but there were so many people everywhere, the sky was blue, no thunder, and as far as I could tell from my phone, nothing to be concerned about in surrounding areas, either.

So into the river we went....


smaller_AZ_UT_2013_-4528 by nicole_lynn_, on Flickr

Immediately I regretted not heading straight to the Narrows in the morning. The water was soooo cool and felt sooooo good. Even Sunshine, who had been lagging after lunch and did NOT want to hike anymore, perked up. No, she didn't just perk up actually, she came alive.... she loved being in that river.



smaller_AZ_UT_2013_- by nicole_lynn_, on Flickr


smaller_AZ_UT_2013_-4546 by nicole_lynn_, on Flickr

Right from the get-go, I missed my tripod. Alas, it was back in the rental car at the visitor center....


smaller_AZ_UT_2013_-4554 by nicole_lynn_, on Flickr

The Narrows was magical. Cool rushing water, towering red cliffs--sometimes brown, sometimes orange, depending on the light--small green trees clinging from the rock or growing right in the river. Surrounded by beauty, immersed in it, soaking in it.


smaller_AZ_UT_2013_--2 by nicole_lynn_, on Flickr

One of the most magical things about Zion was the color of the water. In the right light, the river reflected pink light from the cliffs off its surface, making the water itself seem to glow pink. It was a softly quiet kind of beauty, and every time I saw it, it made me feel like we had stepped into the pages of a beautiful book, a fantasy world... like Tolkien's Middle Earth.


smaller_AZ_UT_2013_-4567 by nicole_lynn_, on Flickr



smaller_AZ_UT_2013_-4580 by nicole_lynn_, on Flickr



smaller_AZ_UT_2013_-4596 by nicole_lynn_, on Flickr



smaller_AZ_UT_2013_-4619 by nicole_lynn_, on Flickr

We took our time, exploring and splashing and (me) taking photos. We didn't get very far in... enough to lose the crowds and come around a bend and have no one in sight, so late in the day... enough to where the walls were closing in just a bit. But not to where the walls really felt very narrow.

I could have kept going, I wish we could have kept going!, but then, then, at last... we heard what sounded like thunder. A rolling sound, and something in the air seemed to shift, some wind current.

Matt was adamant that we needed to turn around. He and Sunshine started back immediately. I couldn't help myself and kept dawdling along the way back, taking more pictures. Matt took Sunshine ahead, to the beginning of the trailhead, and they ended up waiting a while for me



smaller_AZ_UT_2013_-4631 by nicole_lynn_, on Flickr


smaller_AZ_UT_2013_-4661 by nicole_lynn_, on Flickr


smaller_AZ_UT_2013_-4686 by nicole_lynn_, on Flickr



smaller_AZ_UT_2013_-4695 by nicole_lynn_, on Flickr


smaller_AZ_UT_2013_-4694 by nicole_lynn_, on Flickr

But at long last (and after a dunk in the river--slipping on some stone and falling smack on my butt, holding the camera high in the air to save it!)... I rejoined Matt and Sunshine at the trailhead.

We made our way back down the Riverwalk, to the shuttle stop...


smaller_AZ_UT_2013_-4727 by nicole_lynn_, on Flickr


smaller_AZ_UT_2013_-4731 by nicole_lynn_, on Flickr

After riding the shuttle back to the visitor center, we clambered into the car, soaking, tired, but happy. It had been a long but lovely day. I didn't want to leave the park, really, but it was dinner time... so we drove back into town, back to the La Quinta.

We spent our evening eating some pizzas from Zion Pizza & Noodle in the room, and then exploring shops again. There was a photo gallery across the street from us, and I wanted to go in and see the photographer's work, but he had a sign on the door: "Gone Chasing the Light."

So instead I settled for shooting a few pictures of my own as the setting sun hit the cliffs.


smaller_AZ_UT_2013_-4816 by nicole_lynn_, on Flickr


smaller_AZ_UT_2013_-4836 by nicole_lynn_, on Flickr


smaller_AZ_UT_2013_-4847 by nicole_lynn_, on Flickr

Our last night in Springdale, in Zion... paradise on earth.
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Trip reports

Driving through the Desert: Our Utah and Arizona Trip

Breaking All the Rules! Pirates, Pixie Dust, and Pictures... a January 2012 WDW Trip Report


First family trip: September 2009 POR
Sisters trip: September 2010 AKL
MNSSHP only: October 27, 2011
Birthday trip for daughter: January 2012 WL

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