19 May 2010

Hiking in Zion

On our first full day in Zion National Park we decided that we would tackle the Angel's Landing Hike. It was a beautiful morning and luckily for us we found that it was National Parks week so the fee was waived to enter the park. We hit the trail head just over the Virgin River.

When we first got to Zion we were interested in two hikes, Angel's and the Narrows. The Narrows was closed due to the water levels so it made our decision very easy. The hike has over 21 switchbacks but if you take it easy it's actually not that hard of climb.

Along the way we encountered some wildlife like this lizard and the White-tailed Antelope Squirrel seen below. This is also where I saw my first lifer bird of the trip, a group of White-throated Swifts. These swifts would be along the trail all the way to the summit. They gave some spectacular aerial displays near Scout's Overlook.

At Scout's Overlook I decided to hang out while Geraldine made the summit. I didn't really like the idea of one little slip and falling to my death. So I found a nice shady spot and settled in to soak up the views and look for some birds.

I'm really glad I stayed behind because less than 15 minutes later a California Condor perched on the ledge directly in front of me. I was so excited that I spent the next 30 minutes taking photos and soaking in my much-loved lifer bird. Condors hold a very special place in my heart and seeing this one was like a dream come true.

To make the trip even better, two more condors joined the perched one and they sailed high into the air. I probably spent a total of almost an hour with the Zion Condor show. It was really a day to remember. Shortly after Geraldine joined me and we chatted about the condors. She also saw them flying by her but she didn't get the perched views.

After the Condors there wasn't much that could make my day better but we decided after luch to take another small hike to Weeping Rocks. There were so many beautiful small flowers there and a small waterfall.

The water literally seeps out of the rock and trickles down the next layer. The top layer of this are is permeable and once the next layer of rock comes the water has to seep out horizontally. This provides a very unique ecosystem.

While waiting for the shuttle bus at the Weeping Rock trail we explored the river bed for more birds. I picked up a few new ones for my life list including Virginia's Warbler and Gray Vireo.

When I was preparing for the trip I made a list of birds I could potentially see and the California Condor was at the top of the list but I didn't realize how easy it would be to find it. Even without the condors this day was full of many fun memories and one I will never forget. I figured this would be the high point of the trip but I was pleasantly surprised to find that each day brought new gifts. Come back to share in the trip.

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