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Through the Grand Staircase - Escalante
First Stop - Zion!
Already it's May 2014. Time just flies.
Now we're taking a bit of a round trip in the Southwest - landing in Vegas, we'll do a hike in Zion National Park, then up to Bryce Canyon for more hiking, over to the Grand Canyon for a hike (we hope for a walk-up permit), and then down to camp outside Flagstaff Arizona before heading back to Vegas for a last couple of days.

Things often change a bit due to unexpected events, and this trip had some of that, and the good news is that it worked out rather well. More on that later...
After a good set of flights from Ottawa to Vegas, we get a rental car, stay in a hotel and get supplies from REI that afternoon, and head out the next morning. Travelling the I-15 and then turning off to Springdale it's soon enough into rock cuts following the Virgin River through the landscape.
And then it's out onto the higher elevations and views for miles.
We got a good site in the Watchman Campground and the weather was good.
Now there's a couple of well equipped visitors. Note how the tent floor is leveled by creative use of local topographical contours, in this case man-made.
Our hike this time is up to Observation Point, another point of view from the far end of the valley, up above the Temple of Sinawava with a general view somewhat akin to that from Angel's Landing.

This hike takes us through some new steep side canyons. The picture below is a stereo pair, and many people can see the 3-D effect: you have to cross your eyes so that the right eye is looking at the left picture. Once they're crossed, give it a few seconds and you should see a third image floating in the middle of the opther two on the page. Then let your eyes just wait until it springs into 3-D. You can't really force it.

Going in, with a steep and narrow drop along the side of the trail down to a stream bed.
...and coming out back into the sunshine...

From Observation Point,
look how flat the landscape is in the photo below left, as far as your eye can see.
All that erosion from rivers and streams...
Can you see any hikers on the switchbacks, or vehicles on the roads?
So after a rest and a lot of enjoying the scenery and vista, we start the hike down.
These trails aren't just for people, and it's pretty clear that sheep intend to use them, and not just when there isn't anybody around.

Partway down the first section, we come across this fellow, who just trotted off the trail a little bit in to the brush and started grazing and then just sitting and watching.

After a little while, he just ambled back down onto the trail about 30 feet from us and continued up to the top. Just walking not running.
Given how many people are out, this will happen to him every few minutes on his travels,
so there will be lots of people presented with an unexpected photo op.
After a day of relaxation and visiting the little shops in Springdale, right outside the park boundary, we headed out the few miles up to Bryce Canyon.

The Sunrise campground was under reconstruction so there was a bit of confusion about the numbering of substitute sites. but it turned out well, although a bit chilly in the morning, almost with frost!
The next morning we decided to go down into the hoodoos for a full day of hiking.
Leaving from Sunrise Point, take the Queen's Garden trail and then take a little connector path to the Pakaboo Loop going clockwise. After the Wall of Windows and the Cathedral we crossed back to take the Wall Street ascent, but had to go up via the trail to Thor's Hammer, coming out at Sunset Point.
A rockfall had closed the Wall Street trail, and while I was taking pictures at the chain, some more came down. I got out of there pretty damn quick. When the noise is loud and the ground vibrates don't be standin' near tall unstable walls....
so we came back up past Thor's Hammer to the top.
Gord taking a break in the warm sun. I like to put my feet up. Even at home, my favorite chair is a Stickley full recliner that lets me doze flat out in the sun shining through the living room window.
The next morning as we were packing up camp, I saw this little bus pulling out, and grabbed a shot.

What a great idea for engaging young people- "The Bush School"

Taking kids out camping (probably) for their first forest time, in a beautiful National Park no less.
So now we're heading out toward the Grand Canyon and hopes of a downtrail overnight hike there!