Monday, May 15, 2017

Zion National Park

     As part of our Grand Canyon trip, we visited Zion National Park.  We stayed less than an hour away at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary the night before.  We have donated to the sanctuary for years and I had wanted to visit.  We stayed overnight in one of their pet friendly cottages, which was truly dog friendly!  It had a dog door and small attached kennel, and was well designed for travel with pets.  In the morning, we did a two hour tour of the sanctuary.  This is a bit harder when you have your own dogs in tow, but you follow the tour van and listen to a CD and get out at a couple of stops (though someone has to stay in the car with the dogs).  It was interesting, and by 10am we were on the road to Zion.
      March was a great time to visit.  The weather was really nice - warm but overcast, and the park was vibrant with green growth and red rock.  Generally it wasn't too crowded, despite Spring Break, though there was a short wait to go through the tunnel both times.  Apparently you can wait up to an hour to even get into the park, and there is really one main road, so I would not want to visit during peak times.  Part of the park is only accessible via shuttle, and therefore off limits with dogs in town.  However, we spent the bulk of the day here, stopping wherever we wanted.  There is one trail that allows dogs, near the visitor center. 
     We stopped for a picnic lunch on a rock by the side of the road.  As usual, Dylan got a lot of attention from drivers going by.  Entire busloads of people took his photo.  He cared only about being with us and getting a little cheese.  Maisey was content to watch everyone going by staring at her brother.
      There were a lot of interesting shapes and rock formations.  One that seemed recurring was almost like an Aztec pattern.  I wondered if there was any relationship between the patterns of early peoples and these natural formations in the rock.
     We kept a look out for wildlife.  Supposedly it is possible to see desert bighorn sheep, particularly near the east entrance to the park.  We were in luck and found a small group climbing on some terraced red rock.  We kept the dogs in the car, of course, and took some photos as the group moved across the rock, slowly.

     Other tourists were watching as well, and unfortunately, one couple walked towards and too close to the sheep, clearly impacting their flight distance and causing them to all run off.  It's just sad how clueless and inconsiderate people can be about wildlife - even in protected areas - even with ample literature asking for respect.  It's just maddening.  Going back to the car, a sheep narrowly avoided being hit on the road. 
     It was the right time of year for young babies.  The lambs were adorable, and very fast.
     A sheep that very nearly was hit by a car, but luckily wasn't.
     At another point, we came across a small herd of sheep and sat and watched them for a little over an hour.  They made their way down from the side of the road ahead of us into a gully, across rock, through a bunch of bushes with fresh green leaves, and then up to and across the road beside us.  The dogs slept in the car as we watched the sheep.  One other couple was also there for about an hour and very respectful, but many others came and went, slamming car doors, taking selfies, and generally appearing to be more interested in the idea of being able to say they had seen a sheep than in actually watching the sheep.  One very young baby, who was quite shy, was part of the herd.  After such a harsh winter, it was nice to see that the animals appeared healthy and were breeding.
     Right before we left the park there was yet a third small group of sheep, again with babies. 
     It was a great final wildlife sighting and the end of a lovely day.  I didn't know much about Zion before visiting, but it is really a beautiful and interesting place.  Before the end of the day we were near our next destination: Bryce Canyon National Park.  I didn't realize there was a significant change in elevation between the two and we hit a rainstorm that became a snowstorm traveling between parks.  While Zion was T-shirt weather, Bryce Canyon was parka weather!!  If you visit both, pack accordingly.

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