Monday, May 15, 2006, Zion National Park, Utah
With the problems of leaving Las Vegas on Sunday behind us we decided to drive to Lake Mead and find a campground and drive on to Zion today. Lake Mead is a National Recreation Area which encompasses Lakes Mead and Mohave and the enormous Hoover Dam. We drove along the Northern shore of the lake and checked out a couple of campgrounds, but it was about 39°C and not inviting to stop, with little shade to be had.
We decided to take a recommended detour into the Valley of Fire State Park, and were extremely pleased we did. We had both been impressed by Red Rock Canyon on our way into Las Vegas, and this out-did that very quickly. It has huge structures of eroded red sandstone which go on for miles. The campsite was in the shade of one of these giants and had the peace and quiet we were looking for - or so we hoped. It was still incredibly hot and didn't cool down as evening came. We were tired and went to bed early, keen to sleep on our rather good mattress after the saggy one in Las Vegas. But the heat made it difficult to sleep well, and there were disturbances from late arrivals and also someone who decided to start his generator to run his air conditioner - a big no-no after 10.00!
We woke early this morning - afternoon shade meant morning sun and at 6.00 am it already had some heat in it. We left by 8.00 and drove around the park a little. We walked the ½mile trail to 'Mouse's Tank', which is a natural basin in the rock where water collects after rainfall and may remain for some months. Along the trail are numerous prehistoric Indian petroglyphs. After this trail, we decided it was too hot to do any walking. But a lot of the scenery is every bit as impressive from inside the air-conditioned truck! We did manage to leave the truck to have a look at some cabins, built in the 1930's with local sandstone by the Civilian Conservation Corps as a shelter for passing travellers. They have been well preserved and look inviting even today for an overnight sojourn.
We left the park and drove back towards Lake Mead en route to the I-15 which would eventually bring us to Zion NP. That trip took us through 3 states - out of Nevada through the north-western corner of Arizona and into Utah. The drive through Arizona is particularly stunning. The road roughly follows the Virgin River and some of the cuts made for the highway are breath-taking. As we left the highway to drive into Zion NP, we continued to follow the canyon of the Virgin River and the scenery was awesome.
We arrived here at Zion at about 3.00 and realised it was actually 4.00 since coming into Utah means a time change. A very welcome cloud cover came over as we drove in and for a while it almost looked like it might rain. It is at least a lot cooler than we've had for quite a while - only about 31° at 6.30 in the evening, and we are grateful.
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