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Utah National Parks

Zion National Park

sunny 65 °F

Today featured our adventure into Zion National Park, the last stop on this trip. A prominent feature of the 229-square-mile (590 km2) park is Zion Canyon, which is 15 miles (24 km) long and up to 2,640 ft (800 m) deep. The canyon walls are reddish and tan-colored Navajo Sandstone eroded by the North Fork of the Virgin River. The lowest point in the park is 3,666 ft (1,117 m) at Coalpits Wash and the highest peak is 8,726 ft (2,660 m) at Horse Ranch Mountain. Located at the junction of the Colorado Plateau, Great Basin, and Mojave Desert regions, the park has a unique geography and a variety of life zones that allow for unusual plant and animal diversity. Numerous plant species as well as 289 species of birds, 75 mammals (including 19 species of bat), and 32 reptiles inhabit the park's four life zones: desert, riparian, woodland, and coniferous forest. Zion National Park includes mountains, canyons, buttes, mesas, monoliths, rivers, slot canyons, and natural arches. Human habitation of the area started about 8,000 years ago with small family groups of Native Americans, one of which was the semi-nomadic Basketmaker Anasazi (c. 300 CE). Subsequently, the Virgin Anasazi culture (c. 500) and the Parowan Fremont group developed as the Basketmakers settled in permanent communities. Both groups moved away by 1300 and were replaced by the Parrusits and several other Southern Paiute subtribes.

Zion is unique in the Utah parks in that you have to use their shuttle system as parking within the park is very limited and the scenic drive can only be accessed by shuttle. If you stay in Springdale, which is ideal, you can take the town shuttle directly from your hotel to the Park Visitors Center, and from there, board the Park Shuttles to the nine stops within the park. This is what we did and it worked well. You end up talking to some very interesting people both on the bus and on the trail. Unless you intend on doing some intense hiking, you can cover the park in one day and thoroughly enjoy it! We boarded the town bus about 9:15am, which allows you to watch the sun penetrate the canyon,

The Utah National Parks are truly spectacular - worth every minute. Our country is geographically spectacular. These parks are a testament to that.


Posted by rpickett 16:50 Archived in USA Tagged park national zion Comments (0)

Utah National Parks

Capital Reef National Park

sunny 66 °F

Today we traveled the 210 miles from Kayenta, Arizona to Capital Reef National Park. We chose some back roads which provided some superb views and crossed the Colorado at the back waters of Lake Powell.


We then entered Capital Reef National Park. Partially in Wayne County, Utah, the area was originally named "Wayne Wonderland" in the 1920s by local boosters Ephraim P. Pectol and Joseph S. Hickman. Capitol Reef National Park was designated a national monument on August 2, 1937, by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to protect the area's colorful canyons, ridges, buttes, and monoliths; however, it was not until 1950 that the area officially opened to the public. Road access was improved in 1962 with the construction of State Route 24 through the Fremont River Canyon. After a sandwich, we took a nice 2 mile hike through Capital Canyon, which is at the end of the "Scenic Drive".


Posted by rpickett 16:16 Archived in USA Tagged park national capital reef Comments (0)

Utah National Parks

Canyonlands National Park

semi-overcast 70 °F

Today's sojourn was to Canyonlands National Park, about 40 minutes away from Moab. There are two entrances, one at Needles and one at Island in the Sky, which is where we went. It's a wonderful mesa at 6000 feet elevation.

The park preserves a colorful landscape eroded into numerous canyons, mesas, and buttes by the Colorado River, the Green River, and their respective tributaries. Legislation creating the park was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson on September 12, 1964. The park is divided into four districts: the Island in the Sky, the Needles, the Maze, and the combined rivers—the Green and Colorado—which carved two large canyons into the Colorado Plateau. While these areas share a primitive desert atmosphere, each retains its own character. Author Edward Abbey, a frequent visitor, described the Canyonlands as "the most weird, wonderful, magical place on earth—there is nothing else like it anywhere."

Unfortunately pictures can't come close to capturing its magnificence. You really do have to visit!


Posted by rpickett 16:20 Archived in USA Tagged park national canyonlands Comments (0)

Sydney to Auckland

Fjordland National Park

overcast 60 °F

Our adventure today was cruising Fjordland National Park. The fourteen fiords that fringe this south-west corner of the South Island were 100,000 years in the making, with the final details added during the most recent ice age just 10,000 years ago. The Maori attributed the creation of the fiords to a giant stonemason called Tute Rakiwhanoa, who hued out the steep sided valleys with his adzes. On all sides of the fiords, spectacular waterfalls tumble incessantly as the region's plentiful rainfall finds its way to the sea. Described by Rudyard Kipling as the ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’, Milford Sound is always spectacular - daily scenic flights and cruises reveal its beauty to visitors. At 421 metres, Doubtful Sound is the deepest of New Zealand’s fiords. It’s a haven for nature, with resident bottlenose dolphins, fur seals and penguins. The remaining two-thirds of Fiordland National Park are covered by virgin beech and pod carp forest. A 500 kilometre network of walking tracks allows visitors to explore the primeval world of mountain peaks, alpine lakes and moss-carpeted valleys. In 1990 Fiordland was listed as a United Nations World Heritage site and given the name Te Wahipounamu - 'the place of greenstone', after the area's most treasured mineral resource.
The interesting part of the day, in addition to the wonderful narration by a retired park ranger was passing two ships in the Fjords, Royal Caribbbean's Ovation of the Seas and Ponant's L'Austral. Although cloudy and misty at times, the scenery was spectacular.


Posted by rpickett 19:13 Archived in New Zealand Tagged park national fjordland Comments (0)

Sapphire Princess

Glacier Bay National Park

sunny 55 °F

The highlight of any Alaska Cruise is the visit to Glacier Bay. I usually push all my clients to pick a cruise which includes Glacier Bay, because you haven't seen the full Alaska unless you have seen this remarkable National Park - highlighted today, because the weather was perfect and it was Independence Day. You couldn't ask for anything better. Princess boards a Park Ranger at about 0745 to narrate the trip. Our's was in her third season - a glacial geologist from Wisconsin. She was obviously passionate about her "job" given the emotion and feeling that she placed in her discussion. We debarked her at 1500 this afternoon, and headed to sea for the 500 mile trip to College Fjord.

Johns Hopkins Glacier


Marjorie Glacier


Posted by rpickett 16:46 Archived in USA Tagged park glacier national bay Comments (0)

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