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One benefit of working as a forester in different regions of the country is being able to travel the back roads and see this country's natural wonders. I prefer the unheralded places that most tourists never see. But some of the popular parks are too good to ignore. Zion National Park in southwestern Utah is one of them.

Kolob Canyons area

Before I could see the cliffs at Zion, I had to endure my own cliffhanger. A certain group of petulant politicans had shut down the government in an effort to prevent their own constituents from obtaining health care. As that drama continued, I took my time crossing Nevada in hopes that the national parks would open their gates. On the first day after the shutdown (October 17), I took Exit 40 from Interstate 15 and parked at the Kolob Canyons visitor center.

Map of Kolob Kanyons area
Map of Kolob Canyons. Courtesy National Park Service.
The Kolob Canyons region is the northwestern portion of Zion, connected to the main portion of the park by a narrow strip of land. This is the most easily reached portion of the park, even though it is not as famous as Zion Canyon farther southeast. Beyond the visitor center, the lone road snakes past vividly colored rock sentinels, ending at a viewpoint. From there, tourists can hike the short Timber Creek Trail to a higher overlook. Having arrived in early afternoon, I took that hike. There was not enough daylight to safely navigate any of the longer trails.

Here are some scenes along the park road and Timber Creek Overlook trail. They are in "lightbox" mode. Click on the image for a larger view.

Kolob Canyons area

Where enough moisture is available, tree species such as ponderosa pine, white fir, and Douglas-fir cling to the hillsides.

Kolob Canyons area

This is a distant view of formations seen up close in later images.

Gambel oaks (Quercus gambelii)

Grove of Gambel oaks (Quercus gambelii)

Gambel oak (Quercus gambelii)

Gambel oak leaf showing a bit of fall color

Timber Creek Overlook trail

Timber Creek Overlook trail

Ponderosa pine

This ponderosa pine growing in the open has endured harsh weather, as evidenced by its twisted top.

The next five pictures show various scenes panning from left to right (east to south from my point of view).

Kolob Canyons area

Shadows create an interesting pattern on the cliffs

Kolob Canyons area

More light and shadow

Kolob Canyons area

Timber Top Mountain

Kolob Canyons area

View to southeast, with Timber Top Mountain on left side of picture

Kolob Canyons area

Looking south towards Smith Mesa and Hurricane Mesa

Pinus monophylla

Singleleaf pinyon pine (pinus monophylla)

juniper trunk

Juniper tree with numerous branches

Interstate 15 near exit 40

I-15 near park entrance. Do people exceed the speed limit no matter how high it is? Of course!

I'm publishing this as a Daily Bucket since one has not been posted today. Feel free to add your thoughts and pictures.

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Originally posted to Backyard Science on Sat Nov 30, 2013 at 09:25 AM PST.

Also republished by DK GreenRoots, National Parks and Wildlife Refuges, and Shutterbugs.

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