(Originally Published 28 Feb 2013)
I decided it was time to go see Zion National Park while I was still in Southern Utah. I’d heard some great things about it, and figured I better do it before I moved on to my next adventure. After doing the morning chores, I grabbed my Aarn backpack, camera, ipad and notebook and headed out. I wasn’t sure how long I would be there for, but I knew I could get lunch in the small town of Springdale and that there were several interesting things to check out in the park itself.
The road inside the park was twisty and wound its way in and out of bright sun and shadow areas. There were several hairpin curves and two tunnels, one being over a mile long. Out on the road, the towering rock formations were layered with reds and browns, tans and greys and seemed to be topped by random spires and plateaus. I worked my way along, stopping now and then to take a shot from the road, as there were not enough places to pull off the road. It was chilly out, but the sun was beaming do took take some sweeping shots of the massive rock formations.
After a few hours trekking around the first leg of the park, I decided it was time for lunch. I found A small diner in Springdale called Blondie’s, which was one of the few restaurants open at this time of the year. I had a wonderful chicken sandwich and spoke with the server about my adventures. After dessert, (Turtle Pie – cookie crumb base, cream cheese and ice cream filling with caramel inside, drizzled with chocolate and caramel and topped with almonds), I set out for the Emerald Pools.
I parked and started up the trail, one side of which was closed due to ice. I continued up the second, snapping shots here and there. After about 20 minutes of lazily walking along, I heard something in the brush to the right of the trail, the downhill side of the trail. I slowed down, just in time to see a large dark shape bristle back into the brush. My first thought was a big dog by someone further up the trail, coming back down. Then I thought it could be a wild animal. For a fleeting second my thoughts turned to visions of a large wolf emerging from the thicket. I shook that away and began whistling. The last thing I wanted was to startle and animal, no matter what it was. That’s a sure fire way to get yourself hurt. I slowly, while focusing on the area to my right, made my way up the trail. I rounded the thicket and noticed movement in the brush. It was dimmer here, much more so than I’d realized, until I wanted to peer down into these bushes.
I heard the sound of brush being moved, branches shuffling and twigs being snapped. It was coming from three separate locations, though all generally down to my right. After a moment I realized what was making the sounds and let out a short sigh of relief. It was three deer! Smaller does, all walking along, stopping to nibble on leaves. I tried a few shots, but the light was failing fast in these canyons. I talked softly to them, trying not to spook them. After a few minutes of watching them, I headed back up the trail. I ran into a couple that was returning from their hike. They let me know that the trail was closed off further up because of falling ice. I let them know, in return, that there were some deer back on the side of the trail. We parted ways and I continued up to the trail closure. There were icicles hanging down as the trail took a steep turn up, along a cliff wall that was also a waterfall during the summer, when there was more water flowing.
After a few minutes I continued back down towards the car. The sun was starting to lower now, and the canyon was bathed in a dim shadow. As I got to the same area as the deer had been before I heard them down in the brush a bit further down. I made my way quietly down the trail and found the original 3 deer I had seen plus at least 3 more, including a couple of young ones, half the size and staying near the mothers. I took a few more pictures, then a short video or two then made my down the trail. As I walked, the deer came up on the cement trail behind me. I took a few pictures then continued, signalling two people coming up the trail to be quiet, and pointing out the deer for them. I left them standing there in awe at these two deer standing 15 feet away from them.
I made my way back to the car, letting three more groups of people know about the deer ahead and the trail closure. I got in the car and began the drive back home. As I was driving towards the park exit, I was thinking to myself that I would need to spend another day in the park to really see some more of it. As I was making a turn on to the main park road I noticed a large animal on the right hand side, standing on a big boulder next to the road. I stopped to get a better look at it. It was a big horn ram sheep! Large and majestic in the fading sun and perched there posing for me! I grabbed the camera out of the passenger seat and rolled the window down and started snapping away. He looked at me a few times then posed again. I adjusted the exposure a bit more and snapped a few more images.
I pulled off the road really quick a few feet ahead and jumped out. I wanted to be careful in this case, as rams have been known to charge people and that’s not something I wanted to have to write about. I cautiously made my way near where he had been and heard a scuffling sound to my left. I looked down the gulley a ways and saw two rams! No, four! I snapped a few pictures, then a fifth one walked into frame, leading the others away from me. I snapped a few more pictures but they were leaving the area now, climbing up the jagged rock ledges on the other side of the gulley. I wanted to follow, but the sun was starting to fade and I had chores to get to back in Kanab, so I headed back to my car and continued on the road towards town.
I really could have spent several days exploring the park, but timing would have it that I didn’t think to get over there till I was nearing the end of my trip. I learned a valuable lesson in this outing, and that is to take advantage of things sooner than you think to. You never can know what a place will hold, and it’s usually better to go and experience it sooner, while time is available than wait till the last minute and be rushed. Lesson learned, now to put that lesson to work on the rest of my adventure.