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After our experience on Sunday with the heat of the hike to the Emerald Pools and Pa'rus Trail, we decided to get an earlier start on our hike for today. We got up early and made our way into the park by about 7:30. We selected the Watchman Overlook trail, a four-mile round trip hike that climbs about 368 feet to provide a view over Springdale and the canyon to the south and north, respectively. The hike up was wonderful. The trail rises up the eastern side of the canyon, so the rising sun shines first on the opposite slope, casting greater portions of the cliffs into light.
We were in the shade until the last part of our descent, which made the temperature about 20 degrees cooler. The view from the overlook was splendid, improved greatly by our being the only people up there. We met two individual hikers on their descent on our way up, and did not meet another group on the way up until we were halfway down. While this wasn't a difficult or long hike, it gave us a wonderful sense of isolation and independence.
After a late breakfast at the Bumbleberry Cafe, a too-cute-for-words diner that specializes in all sorts of "Bumbleberry" (blueberry? huckleberry?) offerings, we went for a swim in the hotel pool and went shopping in town. Like most tourist towns, Springdale has a plethora of small shops and galleries. To end the evening in town, we had dinner at Oscar's Café, a Mexican-inspired restaurant just off the main road. We especially enjoyed watching the numerous hummingbirds zooming in to drink from the feeders hanging around Oscar's outdoor seating area. Hummingbirds are plentiful out here--a real treat for us midwesterners!
We ended the day with a return to the park to experience sunset in the canyon and to see the stars. We headed up canyon to Big Bend. Since there was no automobile traffic, and only the occasional bus (by this point in the evening, they were running every 10-15 minutes), we walked up the road toward the Temple of Sinawava. The sun's fading light on the canyon walls changed minute by minute, ultimately leaving only the clouds illuminated above the canyon rim.
By the time we reached this point, the penultimate stop on the shuttle route, we were just about the last ones on the bus. We watched bats fly overhead as the sun's light faded from the eastern cliffs and the western cliffs turned first deep shades of red and brown, and then faded into grays. It was now all but completely dark. We rode the shuttle back down the hill to the exit, stopping at the museum (the next-to-last stop on the downhill ride) to do a bit of stargazing. The sky was partly cloudy, but there were no lights to compete with the stars, which were brilliant. Having the park virtually to ourselves in the evening and early night was the perfect way to end our two days at Zion.
More pictures from today