Ben and I ran into Muddy Bee Bakery and grabbed some items for breakfast: a raspberry lemon scone, a cinnamon roll, a loaf of sourdough, and breakfast sandwiches.
We were able to get afternoon passes for the shuttle and headed up. The Visitor Center parking lot was packed, but we managed to find a spot.
The shuttle is running a lower capacity (about 33 people per shuttle-which is made of two buses each) due to COVID. Our first driver was great and pointed out several of the scenes in Zion along the route. We saw a few deer along the drive as well.
There were a few trails I had on my list, but several were closed due to rock falls (stops 2, 3, 4, and 7). We decided to walk the Riverside Trail (stop 9, the final stop). It is completely paved and ends at the river where the Narrows trail begins. It is a pretty easy walk, about 2 miles. The trail goes through a swamp area (crazy in the middle of a desert) and gives you peeks at the river. Some of the rock walls along the trail were seeping water. Different plants and flowers were growing out of the rocks near these spots and made for some very pretty scenery.
There are signs everywhere saying not to feed the wildlife (in particular a lot of “don’t feed the squirrels”). These squirrels are ballsy. They come right up to you and beg for food. You know how Custer State Park had begging burros? Zion definitely has begging squirrels.
We had to wait a little bit for the shuttle back, but it wasn’t too long.
We were able to get passes for the next day in the early afternoon and decided to hike the Narrows. We rented equipment from Zion Guru. The store was in Springdale, which is right outside the gates to Zion. It was $25/person and you got a hiking pole, neoprene water socks, and water shoes/boots.
Note: The park does state to wear a mask, but it is not really well enforced. There were people who kind of had it on for the shuttle and once boarded took it off.
This was one of our more expensive outings so far. General admission included the gondola ride, bridge, and playground. ($29/ages 13+, $24/ages 6-12, 0-5 free. There is an online price as well, which is a couple dollars cheaper.) The zip line and Sky Coaster rides are extra. If you are even more adventurous, you can climb the gorge with Via Ferrata.
The gondola rides are conditional based on the weather (if it gets too windy they stop the ride). We didn’t want to miss the gondolas, so we headed over there first. There was a bit of a line, but with 6 cars (3 each way) it moved fairly quickly. They were putting each family group in their own gondola, so you weren’t riding with strangers. It was a smooth ride, no real bumps or jostling. It was crazy to see how deep the gorge was. We could also see the train moving along the bottom of the gorge next to the Arkansas river. Once on the other side, they disembarked passengers one car at a time for social distancing. (Sidenote: They claim the gondolas are the longest single span aerial gondolas in America, and the bridge is the highest suspension bridge in North America.)
On the other side of the gorge, we walked around for a little bit. There was a playground (we didn’t go on, too many little kids), some food options, and a stage where a band was getting ready to play. The only audience waiting for the show to start were the big horn sheep who were munching on the grass. We watched the gorge’s history video at the Plaza Theater and then walked the bridge. The original aerial tram and incline burned in a wild fire in 2013. The gondolas replaced the tram. There is no incline anymore, although the track is still there. It looked really cool, so I hope they bring it back.
We walked over the bridge to get back to the parking lot/Visitor Center side of the gorge. I had been here many years ago as a kid (maybe when I was 12?). There were definitely wind gusts still and some swaying, but not as bad as I remember. I think the kids enjoyed seeing it.
The boys and I went on a walk/hike today. I chose an easy one since my back has been giving me some problems the last couple of days.
The trail was nicely paved for parts and gravel for others, but all of it was nice and flat. There was not a lot of shade on the trail, so I am glad everyone put on sunscreen and wore their wide brim hats.
The trail wove across a few bridges, went near the lake, and through several prairie dog locations. We loved seeing them run around and call out to each other. They are so squeaky! (No wonder dogs loves squeaky toys.) I have a quick video up on the YouTube channel of them calling out to each other. The beginning of the path had a lot of bikers (bicycles not motorcycles) and even had a repair station with an air pump and some tools.
After hiking, we ran into Target to get Nick some new shoes. (This kid is rough on shoes!) We bought a few other things as well and headed to drop off some postcards. Once back in the campground, we did another load of laundry.
Ben wanted to run into Ikea when he was done with work, so off we went looking for couches. The couch in the RV is actually loveseat sized and not that comfortable long term. You can’t really lay down, the arm rests are too low to really give support but at the same time too high to use as a seat. Since we are going to be in here for a year, we thought we could replace the couch. It seemed fine when we bought the RV, but like anything you use daily, you quickly discover if it works well for you or not.
We found a couple of possibilities, but none that worked really well in the space. We’ll just keep looking.
I think the kids’ favorite part was when we were leaving. This store had an escalator ramp!
The boys and I woke up early, planning on going to see Old Faithful.
Well, we made it to Yellowstone, got 40 minutes into the 2+hour drive, and I made a wrong turn. Of course, many of you know I stink at directions and I had a 13 & 11 year old help read a map while I drove. I veered left instead of going straight. Whoops!
We realized we were going the wrong way too late in the day to start over, so we turned around and started back home.
Now, it wasn’t a wasted trip! (Although I was plenty angry with myself for not double checking the NPS Yellowstone app. I downloaded the app, but you have to also then download the map inside the app for it work offline! Not a lot of cell service in the park, so make sure you do it before you head to the park.)
We saw several more bison by the rivers, Soda Butte, a Petrified Tree, and got the customary picture next to the Yellowstone National Park sign. We saw the Roosevelt Arch as well. It was pretty neat, and there were also birds nesting in the rocks of the walls.
The boys and I chilled for a little bit and I watched some elk wander in the river. I also saw a hawk carrying a fish in it’s talons!
When Ben was done with work for the day, we headed back into the Park. This time we stopped at Mammoth Hot Springs and walked along the boardwalks. We saw several hot springs, the Liberty Cap, a landscape filled with white, oranges, browns, and a few greens and blues. Dead trees popped up here and there creating a unique look to the landscape. Some of the formations were like stalactites, some were more rounded, some formed pools and steps, some were holes in the ground. Some trickled, some flowed, and some steamed. It was beautiful in an almost stark kind of way.
I would definitely recommend doing this in the morning or on a cooler day. There are several sets of stairs along the way, no shade, and a fair amount of walking. It is totally worth it, but on a super hot day, it may not be as enjoyable.
SOAP BOX ALERT: At the petrified tree, we read the information plaque. There used to be 3 trees, but people started chipping pieces away for “souvenirs” and now only 1 is left and is fenced off. The park has numerous signs stating stay away/do not approach wildlife, and even their in-park radio station says the same message. At the Hot Springs, there are signs that say “Fragile. Stay On Path.” I saw footprints in the crust and even one lady was bending under the railing to touch it and try to get pieces of it. Seriously! What is wrong with people? As I tell my kids, “if it’s not yours, don’t touch it.” Or even “look with your eyes, not with your hands”. Ok. I’m done ranting. I’ll get off my box and get back to the post.
Next we parked to take Lava Creek Trail. Only problem was, there were several paths beaten out, of varying sizes. Looking back, we did take a wrong path. It ended up being quite the hike down to the river. I definitely don’t want to do that one again. It was hot, a little humid, and the pollen was up. Going down the steep hill was ok, slowing going due to loose rocks, but not horrible (Ben thinks it was about 40 degrees). The river was really neat to see. (Yes Mom, we did bring the bear spray!) We saw something swimming in the river that looked too small and didn’t have the right tail to be a beaver, but I’m not sure if could have been a river otter or a weasel. It was too fast to get a good look at.
The way back up was hard. Not going to lie, the I thought about just sitting down and staying there kind of hard. Had a hard time catching my breath and ended up having to use my inhaler once we got back to the truck. I haven’t had to use it for daily activities in years, normally just when I’m sick! The lady parked next to us gave me a nod and a wave when she saw my inhaler and held hers up. Asthmatics unite!
On our drive back home, we saw some more bison and a few sheep as well!
We were all sweaty and exhausted when we finally arrived back home. I looked at my phone’s Health app and it claimed only 10, 545 steps for the day. However, when I looked at the Flights Climbed, it showed 34 flights! No wonder we were all so tired.
I think we may just explore the town a little bit tomorrow. There is a bookstore/coffee shop I want to check out and the boys need something new to read for rainy days/travel days.