Doug came to the Zion National Park area with a tick list of rides and a hike that he wished he could do when we were here last year, but his knee wouldn’t let him.
First up, was riding the JEM trail. If you were following our blog last year, that’s the trail that Wendy rode and Doug followed in the truck on nearby roads. The day we chose to ride, started off with a few rain sprinkles, so we waited until any sign of precipitation passed and the trails were dry. It’s not that we’re afraid of getting wet, it’s just that a bike can ruin the muddy trails and the clay trail surface turns to mud with just a bit of rain. So after lunch, we headed out to the trailhead, a short drive from the RV park. Dozens of runners were coming up the road as we neared the parking spot. They looked like they had been running a long time. Turns out, some of them were in a 100 km race that had started the day before. Others were doing marathons or half marathons. And part of their race was on the same trail that we planned to ride up. Doug was pretty committed to this ride, so we hoped that they wouldn’t be running our whole route and started up the trail. In the first half hour, we didn’t ride for more than a few minutes before stopping to let the runners past. The trail at this point was narrow along the edge of a canyon. Luckily, the race route varied from our chosen track and we had an enjoyable hour of riding gradually upwards with some nice loopy bits before heading down. We only encountered a few runners on our way down and we were able to pass them easily.
Next was a longer hike in Zion National Park: to Observation Point. It’s eight miles return and 2000 feet elevation gain. It starts off going steadily up and up and up with a little bit of gradual up, followed by more up and up. There’s a mile or so of almost flat walking once you reach the elevation of the point. It took us about two hours to reach our early lunch spot at Observation Point. There are great views all the way down the canyon (which might be obvious from its name). And then the down… and down… and down, which seemed to our old joints to be harder than the up. But it was well worth it. We started out early enough to have lots of room to ourselves on the way up in the shade and had a silent chuckle at the crowds climbing up in the full sun.
After those two days, we needed a rest day, so decided to stroll the Riverside Walk and look for birds. It was a chilly morning; Wendy had on five layers and a hat and gloves. The birding was slow; we saw a very loud house wren at the start of the trail, a few American Dippers along the water’s edge and some American Robins. We walked the entire trail to the end of the pavement to where, in lower water, people could continue up the canyon, mostly walking in the water.
We felt like we’d seen everything there was to see and were heading back when Wendy heard a small chirp and looking up, saw a flash of red. Could it be a Painted Redstart? We had heard that they had been seen on this path a couple of times this year, but they’re pretty rare. The mainly black bird with a bright red belly stopped long enough for us make a positive ID and take a few photos before it disappeared. A few minutes later, three Painted Redstarts were flitting and chasing each other before one perched even closer this time. And then they were gone. While we were watching them we stood off the trail and dozens of people walked by us. No one seemed to care what we were looking at or how lucky we were to have seen these beautiful (and pretty rare) birds.
Now we headed back thinking about where we might have lunch, when another call stopped us and made us look across the river. Oh a Black Phoebe! (A bird that we didn’t know existed until we saw it last week in Nevada) We enjoyed another few minutes of viewing and picture taking before it flew away. Now are birding excursion was truly complete.
The last thing on Doug’s list was to ride at Gooseberry Mesa, a mesa we could see from the RV park. To get there, we drove through Hurricane, up the road past the top of the JEM trails and into the Apple Valley, then up a dirt road to the mesa.
We rode along slick rock as well as dirt roads to get to the point, then came along the north rim for the return journey. Wendy is looking towards our RV site with Zion National Park in the distance.