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Day One of our Colorado Trip 6/30/2021

by Chris Guenzler

This trip we decided to take because of our first anniversary. The day, July 5th, we planned to ride the Pikes Peak Cog Railway with its new equipment and track. Putting this trip together was easy and I wanted Elizabeth to visit Zion and Bryce National Parks. We would also photograph a few depots and then go to Arches National Park. A return to the Georgetown Loop Railroad would be made so we could ride behind their steam engine 111 since we both needed to, followed by Elizabeth's first visits to the Tiny Town Railroad and the Forney Museum. After that, we would go to the Colorado Model Railroad Museum in Greeley, a first for both of us, then on Independence Day, my wife would finally ride the Fort Collins Municipal Railway and then watch the fireworks at Castle Rock. Pike's Peak would be followed by driving to Chama for a two-night stay there and Elizabeth's first ride eastbound from Chama to Osier and back. Then we would return to Durango to take their shop tour and head to Ridgway for a private tour of the museum there before making our home.

We arose and after breakfast, checked our e-mail and other things on the Internet as usual then finalized packing and left our apartment at 8:40 AM. After getting petrol, we started the drive east and took CA-55 to CA-91 to CA-215 to Interstate 15 and Elizabeth drove to Afton Road where we switched drivers. I drove us through Las Vegas and stopped for the first train we could get a picture of.

Union Pacific 2659 East at Apex. We drove to the Subway at US 93 and had lunch then as we left, a westbound train was leaving Carp Siding.

Union Pacific 7509 West at Carp. We drove east to Mesquite and got petrol before driving through a corner of Arizona into Utah to Utah Highway 9 which would take us to Zion National Park.

Views along Utah Highway 9 on the way to Zion.

Zion National Park

Zion National Park is an American national park located in southwestern Utah near the town of Springdale. A prominent feature of the 229-square-mile park is Zion Canyon, which is 15 miles long and up to 2,640 foot deep. The canyon walls are reddish and tan-colored Navajo Sandstone eroded by the North Fork of the Virgin River. The lowest point in the park is 3,666 foot at Coalpits Wash and the highest peak is 8,726 foot at Horse Ranch Mountain. Located at the junction of the Colorado Plateau, Great Basin, and Mojave Desert regions, the park has a unique geography and a variety of life zones that allow for unusual plant and animal diversity. Numerous plant species as well as 289 species of birds, 75 mammals, and 32 reptiles inhabit the park's four life zones: desert, riparian, woodland, and coniferous forest. Zion National Park includes mountains, canyons, buttes, mesas, monoliths, rivers, slot canyons, and natural arches.

Human habitation of the area started about 8,000 years ago with small family groups of Native Americans, one of which was the semi-nomadic Basketmaker Anasazi (c. 300 CE). Subsequently, the Virgin Anasazi culture and the Parowan Fremont group developed as the Basketmakers settled in permanent communities.[4] Both groups moved away by 1300 and were replaced by the Parrusits and several other Southern Paiute subtribes. Mormons came into the area in 1858 and settled there in the early 1860s. In 1909, President William Howard Taft named the area Mukuntuweap National Monument in order to protect the canyon. In 1918, the acting director of the newly created National Park Service, Horace Albright, drafted a proposal to enlarge the existing monument and change the park's name to Zion National Monument, Zion being a term used by the Mormons. According to historian Hal Rothman: "The name change played to a prevalent bias of the time. Many believed that Spanish and Indian names would deter visitors who, if they could not pronounce the name of a place, might not bother to visit it. The new name, Zion, had greater appeal to an ethnocentric audience." On November 19, 1919, Congress redesignated the monument as Zion National Park, and the act was signed by President Woodrow Wilson. The Kolob section was proclaimed a separate Zion National Monument in 1937, but was incorporated into the national park in 1956.

The geology of the Zion and Kolob canyons area includes nine formations that together represent 150 million years of mostly Mesozoic-aged sedimentation. At various periods in that time warm, shallow seas, streams, ponds and lakes, vast deserts and dry near-shore environments covered the area. Uplift associated with the creation of the Colorado Plateau lifted the region 10,000 feet starting 13 million years ago.

Our Visit

We used my Lifetime Senior National Park Pass which enabled us to enter for free and were given a pamphlet that showed the shuttle bus route where my parents once drove me and my family. So we decided to forgoe seeing the actual canyon and would concentrate on travelling Highway 9 through the park.

The view of Zion Canyon before we started the climb to the tunnel.

The view from the lower level of the switchback.

The view from the second level of the switchback.

The view from Canyon Overlook.

The view looking back toward Zion Canyon.

Entering the first tunnel. There are cut-out openings where you once could stop but are not allowed to anymore.

Our journey through the Mount Carmel Tunnel.

The view after the first tunnel.

Mountain goats which were along the road on our journey through the park.

Entering the second and much shorter tunnel.

Exiting the shorter tunnel. As is our tradition, we kissed while driving through.

Views along Utah Highway 9 still in the park.

Views from the Checkerboard Mesa viewpoint. We then proceeded out of the park down Utah Highway 9.

On the way to Highway 89. Elizabeth managed to get service on her phone and found us a restaurant in Panguich for dinner and breakfast.

There was a brief rainbow near the road that leads to Bryce Canyon National Park which we will visit tomorrow. We drove into Panguich and dinner at Kenny Ray's Restaurant where I had a top sirloin steak and my lovely bride had chicken breast. We then checked into the Days Inn and wrote this story before calling it a night.