Thursday, April 16, 2009

Riverside Walk

Vehicles are not allowed to drive the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive, and the shuttle system makes an easy, eco solution to getting around to all the trailheads. On the way to hike the Riverside Walk, we stop at rock climbers paradise: Big Bend, towering walls of Navajo Sandstone that line the river. Two climbers scale the crack of sheer cliff. One slips and dangles (luckily) 100s of feet against the rocks and then methodically pulls himself up. Something about his fragility and minuteness reminds me once again of the power of nature. 

Onto a little geological history...

Navajo sandstone was formed from sand dunes 200 million years ago, shifting winds blew the sand one way, then another, leaving diagonal lines in their formation. Crazy monsoon rains compacted and moved the dunes every rainy season. A shallow sea covered the dunes, and then dried, leaving  shells behind. The lime from these shells seeped down into the sand, cementing the dunes into sandstone. Rivers cut through the sandstone, depositing iron, which stained the bottom layers red.  Whala! Beautiful, crimson rock faces and canyons. 

We stop to eat lunch under a big cottonwood along the river, and then hike back up to the shuttle and onto the last stop: Temple of Sinawava-- 2000-foot sheer rock walls. This easy hike follows the Virgin River, and we get a close up view of lush plant growth there. Springs seep through the porous Navajo sandstone walls, creating hanging gardens and swampy ecosystems. It's hot today, and the kids complain a bit, but I focus on how the light hits the sharp cuts of sandstone cliffs illuminating the warm colors. Orange. Rust. Pumpkin. Auburn. And against these fiery hues, contrast the pale green cottonwood leaves. A richness illuminates me.  And before we know it,  the kids have made it to the treasure. A sandy beach along the river where they cam romp and make mud pies!  Continuing on this trail is the Narrows--a narrow, slot canyon trail that IS the river. A few people attempt to go on, but we focus on a returning river hiker, dressed in full water-proof gear and shoes, warm, dry, and all smiles.  We know that we'll return someday (sans kids) to hike into the river of this gorgeous slot canyon (with gear,) over the slippery rocks, and past the lush growth, to be a part of it all. 

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