As we neared Mt. Carmel Jct. we were careful to obey the speed limit since there seems to be a perpetual speed trap in the area. This time it was between Orderville and Mt Carmel; just north of Mt Carmel Jct. We took our right there onto Rt. 9 to head the final few miles into Zion. This was the first time we’d entered Zion from this direction and it was spectacular. We stopped frequently since we knew the cameras had plenty of memory left and our time was running shorter.
At one of these stops, we encountered a group of Japanese who, according to the logo on their van, were on a photo tour of the west. They were quite enthusiastic shooters and agog with the amazing scenery. I couldn’t resist clicking off a couple of shots myself. A couple of them even scooped up a film container of red sand as a memento. We departed the turn out just behind them and chuckled at the slow progress they made weaving along trying to figure out how and where to stop next. Finally they found another stop to their liking and we, and the line of cars behind us, passed them by as they tumbled out of the van in a jumble of arms, legs and tripods.
We made it through the tunnel and down the switchbacks and drove into the Zion Lodge. It was too early to check into our cabin but we got our new “red tag” to display on our windshield. Only lodge guests get them and no other cars are allowed into the park and lodge guests can go no further than the lodge. Beyond that, shuttle busses only.
We went into town to see if there was somewhere to print SW boarding passes but it seemed that all the internet access points had malfunctioning printers. We went to the Visitor’s Center and learned that they could do it right at the lodge DOH! We returned to the lodge and checked in. We dragged all the luggage inside so we could begin the final pack for our flight home the next day. Never a happy chore. We walked down to the lodge at 5 to see about the boarding passes. It went smoothly although we ended up in group B. Oh well.
We left the lodge again and went down and parked near the bridge where Rt. 9 crosses the Virgin River. Wandering down the trail with our cameras, we marveled at the scenery and admired the giant white flowers of the datura.
There were also interesting reflections of the canyon in the puddles of streams below the footbridges.
Sacred Datura aka Jimson Weed
As the light began to fade, we retraced our steps to the bridge for the view of The Watchman as the sun set.
This is a well known scene especially among photographers. It presents the challenge of a dim foreground and sunlit rock formation. We staked out a prime spot and lingered as the light faded. Soon others began to arrive. A van pulled into the parking area at one point and another group of Japanese photographers piled out. They ran onto the bridge and began to hastily set up. They were determined to be ready when the light was right. Again, I was impressed with their enthusiasm. At one point I realized that we were the only Americans among the 25 or so people on the bridge. I could hear French, Spanish, Japanese, Italian, Englandish, German and a Slavic language I couldn’t place. It was quite an international gathering! We got way more shots than necessary and gave our spot to the Japanese photographers to head into town for some dinner.