Zion Here We Come!
“The Navigators” had an early morning coffee meeting – and discussed the best route to Zion, which would be around a 5-hour tour. We decided to Jump onto I-40 from 191 N, and head west – take I-15 south, leading to UT-17 ( exit 27 ) to Hurricane / Toquernille, then make a left onto UT- 9 (a.k.a. the Zion Park Scenic Byway).
Zion River RV Resort, our home for the next 3 nights, is just off UT- 9 and minutes from the entrance to Zion National Park.
This was not a boring drive, more spectacular views all around and nice large truck stops to fill up diesel tanks.
Upon arrival into Zion River RV Resort, we noticed police cars and traffic stopped – thankfully in the other direction. We made the right into the resort with no issue, and later found out that the town of Springdale where Zion National entrance is located had just suffered a severe flash flood, which shut down the national park and the town. How luck we were that the road closure was literally right before the RV park we selected to stay for the next three nights.
Temperatures were near 100 again, and we did have issues with the power pedestal and parking spot we were assigned. Skinner, being the engineer and mechanic he is, quickly diagnosed the issue and the park staff came to insert a new breaker in the pedestal. We would then limit our use of air conditioning in the bus, and skip using the washer or dryer, just to be safe. It was nearly happy hour for the weary travelers, and we saw a great restaurant en route into Zion River RV. Balcony One did NOT disappoint – it was soooo good. I mean, REALLY good food. Greek Salads, giant dino beef ribs, roasted chicken. We unanimously decided we would try no other restaurant while in Zion because we needed to sample the entire menu while in town!
After such a large satisfying meal the night before, we elected to find a local picklepall park to sweat out the wine and unwanted pounds we were picking up from all the good eating!
The next morning, after a couple hours of play, a car wash and pit stop at the local supermarket - Oh…we did stop in at Balcony One for the BEST lunch ever of fresh ground beef sliders and a cold beer. We returned to our bus with temperatures inside near 90. The power source was not keeping up with our buses. Many of the parks in Zion are not geared up for 50 amp buses. The staff at the park really worked hard to get our voltages up to where they needed to be, but I stayed worried about my dogs in a hot bus and was too concerned to leave them again unless Tom and Laura were nearby. We closed all the blinds in the bus which cooled it off significantly and again, went down to 2 air conditioners.
The following morning, Mike and I decided to drive toward Zion National and purchase his annual pass for all the national parks. We also wanted to scout out the situation after the flash floods, since many warned us that the park could still be closed.
The little town of Springdale which takes you into the entrance of Zion was charming and full of amazing restaurants and shops, but there was mud everywhere from the floods. We didn’t realize how extreme the floods had been!
I had also read that it’s near impossible to get into Zion unless you enter the park at sunrise, and you would still have major crowds. I had also read that you can’t drive in the park and must jump onto a shuttle bus to get to any hiking areas, etc. This is NOT true. It is true for a section of the park – but to be honest… if you want to see the amazing vistas, valleys, mountains…. You can drive right in and take the challenging switchbacks all the way up the tunnel. You can stop and take pictures and take in some of the most inspiring views you may ever see. Now, because I had read all the hype about NO driving at all and how crowded the park is, you can’t find parking, etc - Mike and I found ourself able to enter the park with no issue when we entered around 3pm. He drove me to the visitors station to grab a map and we started driving thru the park with no issue. I saw a near empty campground and parking within a mile from the visitors station.
In an unplanned minute, we looked at one another and said…. Why should we wait til the morning to check out Zion? The bikes are in the back of the car now – let's ride!
Since we were not prepared for our adventure in Zion, I had very limited water in the car. We grabbed what we had and took off on our bikes. The ride was simply amazing. We kept looking for the Emerald Pools trailhead as the ranger advised we could park our bikes there and hike to check out the pools that were running with water from all the rain the day prior. We kept riding, and riding, and riding…. All the way up to the tunnel where another ranger came out and said – you can’t ride in there! He laughed and asked if we were looking for the Emerald Pools trailhead. Yep. This is when he chuckled and said, well you need to ride all the way back down those switchbacks and advised us to the left turn we should had made. Oops. But to be honest riding those switchbacks was probably the best mistake we ever made. It was glorious. We did manage to find the correct turn off toward the trails, and this is the area you cannot drive your car, but you CAN ride your bikes. The rushing river along the side and the Zion canyons all around could not have been prettier.
We did find the Emerald Pools trailhead and the Zion Lodge just across the street. Parked the bikes and hiked to the lower pools. The trail was easy and very clear with more gorgeous views of Zion. We even stopped to spy on a mule deer mama and her spotted baby sipping water from the river. The pools were not exactly “emerald green” – rather muddy, from the mud slides we assumed – but it was a decent hike and fulfilled our desire to see Zion National.
For dinner, I had planned to cook some of the homemade spaghetti I made at Chimney Rock in Arkansas – so Laura prepared a gorgeous cheese board. With a bottle of wine opened and water boiling, we elected to have dinner inside the bus. It was just too hot for the picnic outside we had planned.
During dinner we decided to change up our plans a bit. The worry about the park power and leaving our dogs in hot buses forced us to depart Zion River RV one day early and drive over to Las Vegas. The change would also shorten our long drive toward Paso Robles the following day. We also had potential new Featherlite owners really wanting to personally see our 2020 Featherlite St Germain, so I made a couple quick phone calls... The first, to secure a parking spot at LVM – a luxury RV resort just outside the Las Vegas strip. The second, to secure reservations at Mike’s all-time favorite restaurant, Michaels in the South Point Casino.
Done and Done.