Before I blog more about the trip, can I just comment on the weather? This past week we had the most beautiful weather and the temperatures were in the 80s and 90s.  I was able to sit outside by the library at the tables and do some work, as well as by the grassy spot right by Kaufman (the closest academic building that I live by).  Girls were tanning in their bikinis and guys were skateboarding around, playing Frisbee, and playing at the volleyball court (the net has been reinstalled for the season).  I got to break out the flip flops and the skirts and summer dresses.
However on Thursday night, there were thunderstorms in parts of PA but they somehow missed Cumberland County.  There was some heavy rainfall and the temperatures have now dropped.  After so much cold weather, the unseasonably warm weather was definitely welcome on my part.  However it seemed like everybody was complaining about the heat.  I don’t get it, yeah it’s weird for April but I didn’t mind at all.  Sure, I had to turn on the fan for 2 days since I don’t think the maintenance guys reinstall the AC units that were in the apartment when I first moved in back in August  (they were removed sometime in October).  Now I can’t stand the cold and I’ve turned the heat on full blast in our common room.

Ok second day in Zion.

We woke up the next morning in our cabin and drove back through Zion to Springdale, the town on the other side of the park in order to get some breakfast.  We got to see the park in the morning but we didn’t stop at any scenic spots since we were on the hunt for food.  We ate at the Bumbleberry Cafe and learned that bumbleberries are some kind of local delicacy.  And then after some pancakes and french toast, we headed back towards the park and decided to do the Riverside Walk first.

As the name suggests, the Riverside Walk trail follows a portion of the Virgin River which runs right through Zion.  The trail is mostly flat and is one of the easiest trails since it is mostly paved.  We decided this was the perfect way to ease into the day.  It was pretty cool since it was still morning.  I had my windbreaker and my Columbia sweater on and a lot of the trail was in the shade.

The trail was a pleasant walk, taking us along part of the river and allowing us to admire the canyon walls from below.  The trail eventually ended but at the very end, some stairs allowed us to get closer to the water.  There was a guy further down from the end of the trail taking pictures on a mini-island out in the middle of the river (the river was not very wide or very deep at this section). He eventually packed up his camera and approached our end.   We discovered he was wearing waterproof pants and special boots that allowed him to walk in the river.  When we asked him whether it was deep, he told us at some parts the water came up to his chest.

At this point, it was starting to get hotter.  On the way back to the trail head, I was able to snap a picture of a butterfly.  It was mid-March so I’m wondering if it wasn’t kind of early for them to be popping up?

After the refreshing Riverside Walk, we decided to pick a harder trail. We went with the Watchman Trail, describe as “moderate” on our trail guide.  This trail also started by the river, or well some kind of stream… I’m not sure if it was the Virgin River which is the one the Riverside Trail runs along.  The trail was mostly flat in the beginning and eventually headed up into the mountain towards the mesa that would be our final destination.  The trail was very narrow in certain areas and the sheer drops made Mom nervous.  Some of the trail was very muddy so we had to be careful as we picked our way upwards.

During most of this time, we weren’t getting much cell service.  However, Mom’s cell phone started ringing at one point while we were on this trail so we had to stop for about 15 minutes while she dealt with colleagues.  While cell phones are a useful invention, it’s a little annoying that now when people go on vacation, their workplace can still harass them thanks to Blackberries, Iphones, and the like.  It’s called a vacation for a reason you evil companies! Ugh.

It took us about an hour and a half to reach the mesa ledge.  We didn’t run into many people while on this trail which was nice since there had been a lot of people the previous day on the Emerald Pools trail.  When we finally got to the end, we were able to look out on the valley below us and the higher mountains surrounding the mesa.  The view was incredible and I did the full loop around the mesa while Mom and Papa stayed behind on the higher part. From here we could fully admire the different shades of the red, black, and white mountains with all the foliage.  I had seen a few lizards and I managed to get a picture of one.  However, after this I saw many scurrying around so I didn’t feel so special anymore for getting a picture.  After about twenty minutes at the top, we made our way back down the trail.  In all, I think it took us about 2 hours and a half.  On the way down, we were going a lot faster.

The last bit of sightseeing we did in Zion was Weeping Rock, a short but strenuous walk up to a rock face with water continually cascading down it.  I forget exactly where the water comes from, something to do with limestone and porous water from rain/melting snow, I’m not too sure.  Anyways, the steep walk takes you right underneath the rock and the “veil” of falling water.  It’s not really like a veil, more like some disconnected trickles of dripping water with one central waterfall off to the side.  It gives off some kind of mystical feeling, which may be related to the name “Weeping Rock.” I don’t know, but it feels like the name of a place you would find in some Disney princess movie or a fairytale involving princesses and fairies.

After this last stop, we got in the car and drove out of Zion, briefly stopping before the end when we spotted a few wild mountain goats and some BABIES!! Well, we didn’t really spot them so much as spot the other tourists on the side of the road looking up at them which gave away the animals’ presence.  They weren’t really hiding from view, they were literally on the side of the road a bit higher up on a bunch of rocks minding their own business and busily chewing leaves off some bushes, totally oblivious to the humans gawking up at them.  The baby goats, which looked a lot like lambs, must have just been born a few days prior, they were pretty small.  They were happily running around and butting heads, engaging in some cutesy playful behavior.  These were also some of the biggest animals we saw in Zion while we were there.  We didn’t see any coyotes, bears, or mountain lions so that’s why Mom and I got so excited.  (We had seen deer earlier in the day somewhere along the river)

So we finally drove out of Zion for the last time and enjoyed the magnificent views as Dad maneuvered our car around the hairpin turns and the tunnel towards our resort/hotel.  We had dinner at the Thunderbird Restaurant, this old fashioned diner, in Mt. Carmel Junction, a few miles away from our hotel.  In this town, there were 2 restaurants, a gas station, one or two motels, and some kind of convenience store… and a golf course! Apparently the lady who owned the place awhile back wanted to keep her land from being developed so she had a golf course put in to protect the river running through her property.  In fact, this town is so small I couldn’t find it on google maps.  The diner we ate at was like a lot of the places we ate at during this trip–in the middle of nowhere with foreign waitresses or waitresses with thick mid-western accents and country music blasting on the radio.  Now I like a good country song now and again but seriously, do country singers always have to sing about heartbreak and their hard life on the range? It gets a little monotonous.

Oh and I found an entry on Wikipedia about Mt. Carmel Junction.  It’s not that interesting in my opinion, but it does talk about how the Utah land was hard to settle because it was so wild and untamed, which I totally believe since I saw the land firsthand:,_Utah

On the way back to our hotel for the night, I managed to get some pictures of a few mule deer and then Mom and I watched Lost much to dad’s dismay who doesn’t understand why we like this show so much.

And now on to March 17th–St. Patrick’s Day which we didn’t celebrate even though Mom is Irish-American.

We left our hotel, had breakfast at the Thunderbird Restaurant again, and went off in the direction of Bryce Canyon.  We decided that we would first stop at Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park.  Dad had spotted it on the map and we thought it might be worth seeing.  It wasn’t too out of the way so we decided to go for it.

About the dunes:
Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park is a Utah state park located between Mount Carmel Junction and Kanab, Utah, south and west of U.S. Highway 89 in Southwestern Utah. The park features coral-hued sand dunes located beside red sandstone cliffs.  The Dunes are formed from the erosion of pink-colored Navajo Sandstone surrounding the park. High winds passing through the notch between the Moquith and Moccasin mountains pick up loose sand particles and then drop them onto the dunes because of the Venturi effect. The Dunes are estimated to be between 10,000 and 15,000 years old.[1]

And that explains why there are a bunch of random sand dunes in the middle of nowhere in Utah.

At first I didn’t think we would be able to walk out on the dunes because when we entered the park and began to see the sand, a lot of it was covered by snow.  It was a strange sight–coral sand peeking out from under white snow.  However when we got to the main parking lot, we saw that the two main dunes were untouched by snow in the middle of a wide snow-less area.  Lucky for us!

So off we went around the “nature trail” in the part of the dunes where vegetation was still able to grow.  We began by following the signs explaining the various plants and geological phenomena of the dunes.  We eventually left the nature trail and headed out into the open space between the sand dunes and climbed up the tallest dune.  Now, I have walked up sand dunes before and walking on sand in general is quite the workout.  To be honest I think these particular sand dunes might be wider/longer than the Dune du Pyla sand dune in France next to the Bassin d’Arcachon.  So we made our way to the top and after a few minutes I then ran down the dune, followed by Mom, and Papa halfheartedly.

We went back to the nature trail and realized the best time to visit the sand dunes were early morning/early evening because that’s when all the animals who live in the plants on the fringe of the dunes come out to play.  We saw a lot of animal tracks, including what we think might have been snake tracks.  We also saw a lot of ATV/dirt bike tracks out on the “main concourse” of the dunes.  While we were there, we did see an ATV and a dirt bike zooming around.

I absolutely loved the dunes because it made me feel like a little kid when I ran down.  I also took off my shoes because there didn’t seem to be much point to tire myself out with my heavy hiking boots on.  I think we were all glad we took time out to see the dunes.  I have never actually seen sand dunes before in North America so it was a first for me.

And I think I will stop here because next is Bryce Canyon.

I think that maybe the next time I blog, I might have some good news to share!! As in where I will be and what I will be doing after graduation.  I haven’t mentioned it in the last few posts because it’s something I’ve been working on but since things have been up in the air for awhile, I didn’t talk about it since there was nothing to talk about.  But once I know for sure, I will definitely post it here because I can’t keep good news to myself.

Oh and my thoughts go out to the Polish people and members of the Polish families who lost their loved ones in that plane crash in Russia.  I still can’t believe that happened.  😦