December 18 and 19 were essentially travel days as Dennis and I made our way from West Yellowstone to Salt Lake City, stopping off with Karl and Caroline once more, and then on to Zion National Park. We did manage to take some pictures and see some sights along the way though.
On the morning of the 18th we visited the Grizzly and Wolf discovery center they have located in West Yellowstone, complete with 2 packs of wolves and around 8 grizzly bears. Its an excellent resource on these animals and the immediate area and I got a couple of fun pictures there. After a couple of hours there we hit the road and headed down to Salt Lake City to Karl and Caroline’s. We all headed out to a Beni Hana type restaurant for an evening of food theatre and then it was bed time. On the 19th we headed further south, with the vague plan of hitting Cedar Breaks National Monument and Bryce Canyon if there was time after that before heading into Zion. Well, about 2/3 of the way down we headed off the highway onto the side roads to find another way to Cedar Breaks. This worked well and we arrived at the north entrance to the monument only to find it was closed for the winter. Not to be deterred we threw on the snowshoes and hiked on in to the rim of the large hole in the ground that composes Cedar Breaks. The sun was brilliant white, the temperature was relatively warm (for 10000 feet elevation in the middle of the winter) and the view was gorgeous. I have to say I didn’t get any pictures that truly did it justice so I’ll have to head back another time to try to get it right. Anyhow, after hiking in we really didn’t have enough time or energy to head to Bryce so we decided to make, more or less, directly for Zion. We kept to the backroads, exploring territory I hadn’t seen before and came into Zion by the back entrance. The park was gorgeous as usual, and we stopped off to take in the sunset on the valley floor. You obviously can’t see the sun itself with 3000 foot cliffs in the way, but the warm light on the eastern canyon walls was spectacular. This was where I made my most egregious photographic error of the trip by not getting my tripod out. The light was low so I had to crank up the iso on my camera to hand hold it and all the pictures were much softer then I would have preferred because of it. Iso 200 and a tripod next time! Anyhow, we headed in to Springdale and found a room at the Desert Pearl Inn, found a nice restaurant for dinner and rested up for our first day in the park.