Friday, September 12, 2014

The Dreaded "D" Word - Detour

To save time this morning, we did something we rarely do - ate breakfast at the "free Continental breakfast." The Super 8 in Las Vegas put out a decent spread, including rolls, sausage patties and scrambled egg rounds - perfect for breakfast sandwiches. Then, we rolled on Interstate 15.

Unfortunately, of the three routes we could have taken, we picked the route that was actually washed away by Norbert. There were still no lanes getting through. Trucks and traffic to Salt Lake City was detoured north, coming into Salt Lake City from the west. Other traffic took the detour through Valley of Fire State Park and Lake Powell Recreation Area.

Valley of Fire State Park gets its name from the brillant red sandstone found in the valley. The detour wound through the park on the main road in a pair of endless Conga-Lines of cars, motorcycles, RVs and small trucks: one northbound and one southbound. We pulled off a number of times to admire the rock formations and other scenery.

Eventually, we got back on I-15. Almost immediately, we reached our exit for Utah State ighway 9, toward Hurricane and Zion National Park. At Huricane, UT, we had the choice of staying on State Highway 9 and going to Zion National Park or switching to State Highway 59 and bypassing the park. Guess which route we chose... You got it right - we headed for Zion National Park.

State Highway 9 took us to Springdale, UT, right before the park entrance. When we arrived, traffic was backed up - there was a big music event going on in the park. Many of the concert goers left their cars in town and took the park bus. As we were going through, we had to wait and pass the gatehouse. (Thank God for the "old fogey" pass, again!!) Time pressure forbade us from exploring the museum and vistior's center.

Zion National Park is a collection of narrow canyons and mesas. Once clear of the entrance, we took Zion Park Boulevard which started to climb and entered a group of switchbacks climbing the south wall of Pine Creek Canyon. Of course, we took a few photographs. This first one is, I beleive, The East Temple.

The road did not quite make it to the top of the mesa. Instead, it entered a set of rather narrow tunnels. On the other side, we pulled over in the overlook for Checkerboard Mesa. This feature gets its name from the vertical and horizontal lines that make it look somewhat like a huge checkerboard.

On the other side of the overlook was this view of a stepped mesa.

We had only a short time in the park. All we saw was a small part of the sourthern section. If we had more time, we could have taken the bus up the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive or gone to the western and northern parts of the park. There is also an extensive network of hiking trails. Tis is definately a place we would like to come back to and spend more time.

After leaving the park, we stayed on State Highway 9 as it crossed some beautiful and unpopulated country. After we turned south on US 89, we started looking for accomidations. Because of the music event, every hotel and motel we passed said "No Vacency." We talked to one hotelier and were told that not only is everyone booked, but room rates are almost doubled for this weekend. We followed US-89 to Kanab, UT where we switched to US 89A. Still, no vacancies. The road took us into Kaibab National Forest. At this point, we began to think we would go hungry and sleep in the car. We turned south on State Highway 67 and headed for the north rim of the Grand Canyon, hoping that we would find something along the way.

When we reached Jacob Lake, we found a lodge, the Jacob Lake Inn, with one room left and a dining room. The best news - the prices were reasonable! Time to eat and call it a night...

Postscript

On September 29, Fox News posted the following:

Hiker found dead in Zion National Park

SALT LAKE CITY – A 34-year-old Southern California man was found dead over the weekend in Zion National Park after rising floodwaters trapped him in a narrow canyon that is home to one of the park's best-known hiking trails.

Douglas Yoshi Vo's body was found Sunday afternoon in the "Narrows," a popular hike that entails walking in shallow water through a winding canyon with steep walls, National Park Service spokesman David Eaker said.

Vo, of Westminster, California, and his friend began hiking early Saturday when rains came and the river began rising rapidly, forcing them to take refuge on high ground. They ended up on opposite sides of the raging river and could not talk to one another because of the noise of the water, Eaker said.

The two waited until the afternoon, hoping the water level would lower and allow them to hike out.

Vo's friend swam the flooding river to safety, while Vo remained where he was, Eaker said. The friend's name wasn't made public.

He alerted park rangers Saturday evening about Vo, but rescuers determined the river was running too high to safely enter at night. Officials also thought Vo was in a safe place.

When rangers hiked into the canyon Sunday morning, Vo wasn't where he was the day before. His body was found about a quarter-mile downriver on a bank around 2 p.m. Sunday.

Authorities have not yet determined a cause of death.

"We don't know if decided to swim as well or if he fell in," Eaker said.

Several people have died in the Narrows over the years, Eaker said, with the latest coming in 2010 when two people tried to build a makeshift raft and float down the river.

On Saturday, when Vo and his friend began their hike, there were flash flood warnings for the area surrounding the canyon. But, it's believed that rangers didn't put up warning signs at the trailhead until after the men started the hike.

It doesn't appear anybody else was in the canyon when the flooding started, Eaker said. It is unknown if the men were aware of the weather forecast, he said.

The water was flowing at about 46 cubic feet per second when the men started the hike. At the peak of the flooding, it was roaring at 4,000 cubic feet per second, Eaker said. The death highlights the dangers of hiking in canyons when storms are forecast, he said.

Zion National Park, in the southwest corner of Utah, is the state's most popular national park. Earlier this month, it was closed for several hours when heavy rain and a surging river made park routes impassable.

Heavy rain swamped much of Utah over the weekend, shutting down a sewage treatment plant, damaging homes and causing a moving car to plunge into a river.

In southern Utah, a man and woman from Italy were returning to their campsite at when the ground under the pavement gave way due to heavy flooding and sent their car into a river in Garfield County. They suffered extreme hypothermia and were taken to the hospital, where they are expected to make a full recovery, said sheriff's spokeswoman Cheryl Church said.

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