Day 181 – Zion Canyon Loop and Utah Byways , May 27, 2011
After taking advantage of free wi-fi at the local Starbucks, we began the last portion of our loop drive around Zion National Park. Highway 14 winds its way between high canyon walls streaked in delicate cascades, beneath sandstone cliffs, along stream filled meadows, past icy blue lakes, and over a 9,000 foot pass blanketed in snow covered lava.
We made a variety of stops along the way to simply take in the views. A trucker, hauling a huge fork-lift, that had ignored the warning sign for semis to use a different route, helped influence some of my stops as I repeatedly caught up to him and the line of cars trailing him at half the posted speed limit.
We paused on the side of the road to snap a photo of a magnificent sandstone cliff spattered in snow and later enjoyed a distant view of the Kolob Terrace and the towers of Zion from the Zion Overlook. While I would have liked to visit Cedar Breaks National Monument, my travel book advised that the road leading to the park tends to close from mid-October to late May, and given the winter storms this year I was not surprised to find the five mile stretch to the north blocked to traffic.
Upon reaching the pass, we arrived at a meadow of lava flows, 1,000 – 5,000 years old. The young flows were formed from vents, not a central volcano. In addition to the flows, a cinder cone stood nearby. I tend to associate lava rock with hot climates, so I found it somewhat intriguing to see the black rock poking up through snow.
As we descended down the pass, we arrived at an overlook to Navajo Lake. Originally, I had planned to take a short walk around the 3.5 mile lake. According to Reader’s Digest, the lake was formed by lava flows that sealed its eastern edge causing the water to drain through underwater sinkholes. If the weather has been dry, three of the sinkholes are visible. Sounding fascinating, I was quite anxious to investigate the shoreline until I saw that the lake was mostly frozen. The overhead view of sapphire blue water lined in ice was utterly marvelous; consequently, I savored the unexpected surprise.
We continued slightly further east to Duck Creek where we finally were able to stretch our legs on a short amble by a lake, across a bridge, and up a mucky, forest road. Areas of melting snow, sloppy mud, and a brisk wind kept us from venturing too far. Not to mention, the most appealing part of the forest was the aqua water swirling through the grassy meadow.
Before exiting onto Route 89, we tried taking a 9 mile dirt road to Strawberry Point for a rare glimpse of Zion from the northeast, but we threw in the towel after about six miles when we left Dixie National Forest and entered a remote neighborhood with countless “No Trespassing” signs nailed to surrounding aspen and pines. I don’t think I would have been trespassing, but the signs coupled with the appearance of a narrowing road with sizable mud puddles resulted in me just being grateful to have enjoyed the views of the surrounding forest, streams, and meadows.
We spent the next 90 miles headed north on Route 89 and Highway 62 until we finally chugged over another 9,000 foot pass to arrive at Fishlake National Forest. We found a campground situated next to Fish Lake and took a walk along a path that ran behind the campground and beneath the aspen before resting in a cool breeze during the late afternoon. ETB