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Zion National Park – Tips and Images

Zion National Park tips and Images @handbookofnaturestudy

Zion National Park is like no other park we have ever visited. It amazes me when I find a place so different than I had imagined. I think that Zion rivals Yosemite as my favorite national park because of its beauty and uniqueness.

Zion shuttle bus
This park impressed me because we were able to park the car for three days and then either walk or take the free shuttle to every place we wanted to visit. The shuttle was convenient and came regularly, never making us wait very long. There were times that we had to stand in the shuttle but only for a stop or two at most.

Zion 1

The visitor center has indoor and outdoor information boards that we found very helpful in planning our visit. Each hike was explained in detail so we could pick hikes that fit our needs: time, distance, and difficulty. My husband and I enjoy taking 3-6 mile hikes, anything longer for a day hike makes us feel pressured to walk fast and I think we miss things of interest. When we had young children, we had to make sure that the elevation change wasn’t an issue either since we had our children hiking as soon as they could manage it…usually around 3 years of age. Zion has hikes for all abilities so this is a great park for families.

Zion riverside walk

Riverside Walk: this hike is at the last shuttle stop in Zion. This is an easy hike that winds alongside the river where you see beautiful trees and wildflowers.

Zion 2

It is also the trailhead for the Narrows hike which is a popular hike that requires you to wade up the Virgin River. The day we were there it was forecasted to rain and a 50% chance of flash floods. We opted to take the Riverside Walk up to the end and have a picnic lunch as we gazed up at the Temple of Simwava, an amazing red rock formation that surrounds you.

Zion 3

The changing weather along with the changing light make the canyon so different every time you go out for a hike. We had all kinds of weather during our visit but only one afternoon was wet enough to keep us off the trails. We took that opportunity to eat a nice lunch at the Zion Lodge and then later into Springdale on the shuttle to a very nice coffee shop.

Zion turkey

One day we got off the shuttle at the Court of the Patriarchs and hiked from there to the Emerald Pools. This was a difficult section to hike on because was soft deep sand…sort of like hiking at the beach. The horses take this path and have worn it down until it is a crazy hard stretch of trail. We did see some wild turkeys and a deer while hiking…and not a single other person which made the hike very peaceful so it had its advantages.

View from trail patriarchs zion

Here is a view from the trail that showcases the view and the plant life.

Emerald Pool Zion

We did eventually make it to the Lower Emerald Pool but we should have taken the shuttle to Zion Lodge stop and then hiked from there. The trail is much easier in that area. The Emerald Pool was a soft falling waterfall at this time of year and very pretty. There were a lot of people at this particular spot but we continued on around to the Kayenta Trail which brought us to a portion of the park that was virtually empty.

Kayenta Trail Zion

This was actually my favorite trail in the park and we ended up hiking it from both directions on different days.

Parus Trail zion

We walked part of the Parus Trail one morning by taking the shuttle up the canyon and then walking the trail back. It is a super easy trail that allows bikes and dogs so it is a little more popular. It takes you along the Virgin River with pretty spots to stop and enjoy the views.

Zion campground

We hiked up to the top of the Archeology Trail where you have a sweeping view of the park, especially the campground. You can see in this image the walk in part of the Watchman Campground. We stayed on another loop of this campground with our trailer and we thought it was one of the nicest campgrounds we have been in. The place seems to have been recently updated and the restrooms are brand new. I highly recommend this spot for camping and it is convenient to the Visitor Center, the shuttle bus stops, and the town of Springdale which is within walking distance.

Hidden Canyon Hike Zion

My husband’s favorite hike was Hidden Canyon. We were hoping to experience Zion’s famous Angel’s Landing hike but the day we had planned to take it there was rain in the forecast again. I am also not sure about the portion of the hike that is along a sheer drop because of my fear of heights. We opted to take the Hidden Canyon trail and get a taste of what Zion has as far as a more strenuous hike.

Hidden Canyon Hike Zion 2

See me? I made it along the portion of the trail that is super narrow and you really need to hug the hillside and hold the chains! I wasn’t sure at first but my dear husband is such a great encourager. He kept telling me just to put one foot in front of the other and you know it works! I made it all the way to the top. It was thrilling and scary too, especially on the way down the mountain when it was raining a little and the rocks started to get a bit slippery.

This is a unique and wonderful place and I hope you will get to experience this park for yourself some day.  My husband and I thoroughly enjoyed our visit and will be reliving our hikes and adventures for many years to come.

zion 4

Tips for a Visit

  • We stayed at the Watchman Campground right in the park and found it convenient and reasonably priced at $18 per night. There is also the South Campground which is equally as convenient and right inside the park gates. If you need to stay in a hotel, the Zion Lodge is situated right in the heart of the park. Also, in Sprindale, Utah there are quite a few hotels within walking or shuttle ride distance to the park.
  • We ate lunch at the Zion Lodge and it was a beautiful spot to sit and look out the large windows at the landscape. There is also also a cafe and ice cream shop at the lodge. In the town of Springdale (a 5 minute shuttle ride), you have lots of cafes and coffee shops. We ate at Oscar’s Cafe which was delicious and had a funky atmosphere. We also had coffee at Cafe Soleil which is a short walk from the gate at the end of the theater parking lot.
  • Use the shuttle to get to a trailhead and then hike to the next shuttle stop! Make sure to ride all the way to the end to the Temple of Sinawava at least once to see all of the glorious canyon.
  • The Visitor Center has a lot of information on hikes and things like that but you need to go to the Human History Museum to get a better grasp on the whole picture.
  • There is a Jr. Ranger program at Zion National Park and a nature center that is open from Memorial Day to mid-August.
  • Download a map and guide: Zion National Park.
  • If you have an oversized vehicle, check the park website for information about driving through the tunnel between the park and the east entrance.
  • There is no way we could experience the entire park in three days….if you have more time, there are lots more canyons and places to hike if you check with the visitor center and get some good maps.
  • Fees charged: $25 per car or $12 per person if walking in. (We saw them charging each GROUP $25 as they walked in together.)

You can read more of my national park entries by following these links:


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Burdock Nature Study

Burdock Plant 8

Here is our burdock nature study happy to have had a chance to see it in person!

Hiking in Utah we saw an area with these plants that had HUGE leaves. I was intrigued and took a photo so I could later look it up in my field guide. I had no idea that what I was looking at was first year burdock!

Burdock Plant 1

Later on in the hike, we spotted these blooming plants and I was pretty sure what we were seeing was burdock. I had read all about this plant when I was writing the current ebook and was sort of on the lookout for it in our travels this summer. I apologize for the blurry photos but it had started to rain and we were moving quickly off the mountain.

Burdock Plant 3

Here is a closer look at the leaves.

Burdock Plant 6

And here is the underside of the leaf. It is much whiter than the top of the leaf.

Burdock Plant 4

Here are a couple more images we took to document our discovery.

Burdock Plant 7

In reflection, the plants and flowers are much larger than I anticipated.

The flowers look like prickly balls with purplish color. The flower is ringed with spiny hooks all around.

We noted that the first year leaves are large and wavy looking while the second year plant with the flowers are much smaller and less wavy.

This was a case of preparation in identifying a wildflower/weed…reading up on things and then looking for them when you are out for your Outdoor Hour Challenge time creates such a sense of satisfaction. Since the Handbook of Nature Study was written for a specific region, many of the topics are not found naturally in California. This never stumbles me since I view the time reading and researching topics for future use a very valuable tool in learning more as I go through life.

Did you find some burdock this week?

Cocklebur weed walking trail (3)

But, guess what? We found something right alongside our walking trail that looks remarkably like burdock. We snapped some photos and made some observations.

Cocklebur weed walking trail (7)

Doing some additional research online, we found out that this plant that looks like burdock is a the cocklebur plant!


Both the cocklebur and the burdock plants are in the asteraceae family…which is probably why they have some of the same characteristics.

What a great find and discovery!

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Utah in August!

Vacations can be many things. Our trip to Utah and Nevada was rich in nature study opportunities and family adventures too! I love that type of vacation because it leaves us refreshed and full of memories.

Utah to Nevada (5)

The road between California and Utah is really captured in the image above. Open roads, big skies, and lots of NOTHING. We had a long trip to get there but watching the clouds and then early evening lightning in the sky was enjoyable. Plus, there are many rest areas that you can stop at along the way to stretch your legs, get a cold drink (most have vending), and use the clean restrooms. We didn’t have a single rest area where that wasn’t clean and inviting.

Trip to Utah Aug 2014 (16)

We took several longer stops where we all got out and walked a bit before hopping back on the road. This rest stop (Grassy Mountain/Cedar Mountain Wild Horse Range) in Utah had a path up to where you could see the pioneer trail across the Great Basin. We had our youngest son and two of his friends on this trip which made for a lot of boy time…I felt very outnumbered.

Trip to Utah Aug 2014 (18)

Yep, the sign says snakes and scorpions. The boys were disappointed that we didn’t see either of those things on our hike to to top of the hill and back. What we did have was an awesome view!

Trip to Utah Aug 2014 (13)

Just another road shot on the way to Utah along Hwy 80. More rocks, more sky, more clouds, more road…..along about this time I was ready to be at our destination.


Jordanelle campsite and wildflowers (4)

We arrived at Jordanelle State Park and had a terrific spot in the Hailstone Campground. This is a super place to camp and a great home base for our trip….between Park City and Heber City (where we were visiting friends).

Jordanelle campsite and wildflowers (5)

The Jordanelle campground was filled with lots of wildflowers which surprised me. It was nice to talk walks in the evenings when it was cooler.

Milkweed heber city kh (3)

We spied a large patch of milkweed!


Summit Park Peak Hiking Utah (1)

We all were invited to hike up in Park City up at Summit Peak. We started off with sprinkles of rain but it never did get us too wet. What a beautiful trail! We had a lot of fun hiking here and getting to know the boys’ friends.

Summit Park Peak Hiking Utah (10)

Along the trail there were lots of wildflowers growing and my husband and I noted this plant in abundance. At first I wasn’t sure what it was, so I took some photos of the big distinct leaves. Later on I discovered one with flowers and was able to identify it…burdock! I was thrilled because that is one of our new Outdoor Hour Challenges coming up in September. This gave me an opportunity to observe it up close and I will share more photos next month.

Summit Park Peak Hiking Utah (11)

Lots of these along the trail too!


Park city downtown

One night we walked up and down the historic downtown of Park City. I love doing window shopping, finding a nice place to eat, and then strolling through a town to get the feel of it. This is a very casual and friendly place that I would love to go back to in the winter…skiing!

Park City downtown (6)

Loved this sign downtown that shows the direction and distance to other Olympic game sites around the world. I live closest to Squaw Valley…how about you?

Jordanelle campsite and wildflowers (17)

With three teenage boys around, they were always eager to have a campfire after dinner. This night though it was my husband that got it going and I sat and enjoyed the warmth and glow of the flames. Jordanelle has these awesome cement fire pits complete with grill that swings over and a hook for hanging a dutch oven.

Jordanelle campsite and wildflowers (18)

This was the night of the really bright moon….too bad we had clouds that obscured the light and brightness. We still enjoyed sitting out late and watching it peek in and out from the cloud cover.

Utah to Nevada (6)

We reluctantly left Utah and headed back home at the end of the week. Here is our smiling faces somewhere on  a summit near the border of Utah and Nevada on Hwy 50. We were heading back into Nevada to Great Basin National Park. This is a very remote park but very much worth the effort.

Great Basin  (16)

Here is a little sneak peek into our campsite at Great Basin….more on this national park in an up-coming post!

I fell in love with Utah on this trip and we are eager to go back again maybe next fall to experience Zion National Park. We just couldn’t work it in this time but it will give us something to plan on and look forward to in the future!


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Insects in August – Looking for Crickets

Insects in August- Looking for Crickets (our cricket study)

We have spent lots of time outdoors in the evenings this summer because it is too hot to be out much during the day. We usually start our evening off with dinner on the back deck and then sit later in the evening as the sun sets. We are still experiencing lots of finches flocking to our tree just at dusk…accompanied by lots of singing and chirping.

We also notice the hummingbirds at the feeders as the sun descends lower and lower on the horizon.

The bats come as well and several times I have felt them whisk past my ears while I am on the deck, startling me but they never actually touch me so I am okay with that.

Great Basin grasshopper

We have been on the lookout for insects at all times of the day. We noticed grasshoppers in Utah and Nevada on our trip a few weeks ago.

Swallowtail butterfly

I was able to capture some butterflies at my dad’s house that were in among his flowers. This butterfly had a lot of his wings broken off…didn’t seem to stop him from flying skillfully from flower to flower.


Milkweed beetle Utah

My favorite insect of the month so far is this Milkweed beetle that we saw in Utah. Amazing colors and design!

bee lavender butterfly (3)

Here is an interesting bee we saw in our front yard on the lavender.

Listen Here=Capturing Cricket sounds in the Evening -Our video/audio

And then there were crickets in our yard. When I took a video (so I could capture the audio), I realized that there are two distinct sounds. One is definitely a cricket but the other is a buzzing sound. I am thinking it is a cicada of some sort and have done some research on cicadas found in California. There are some so I am now on the hunt to actually see one.

Just remembered that we saw cave crickets when we were at Great Basin National Park in the Lehman Caves, which are pale and have really long antennae. I was so focused on the cave and its awesome formations that I forgot to really pay attention to the crickets or take a photo.

I love it when we take one topic and focus on it for a month….I highly recommend it for more in-depth study of anything topic your children are interested in learning more about.

Here is a pdf for you to use with your children: Buggy Sounds of Summer.

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Birds of Summer: July List

Bird Nest - Southern Wyoming
Nest on a Utility Pole – Southern Wyoming

We spent quite a bit of time away from home in July so I will attempt to break the list down by location.

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  1. European Starlings
  2. House Finches
  3. Lesser Goldfinches – they sound like they are laughing
  4. White-Breasted Nuthatch
  5. Oak Titmouse
  6. American Robins
  7. Mourning Doves – our constant companions, everyday under the feeders, always a pair
  8. California Towhee
  9. Steller’s Jay
  10. Western Scrub Jay
  11. Acorn Woodpecker
  12. Great Horned Owl – early morning
  13. Anna’s Hummingbird – males chasing each other, not so many in the feeders but in the flower garden
  14. House Sparrows
  15. Canada Goose
  16. American Crow
  17. Turkey Vultures
  18. Red-tail Hawk
  19. Mountain Chickadee
  20. Black-headed Grosbeak
  21. California Quail
  22. Brewer’s blackbirds

Santa Cruz

  1. Brown Pelicans
  2. California Gulls

Grand Tetons/Utah Trip

  1. Osprey-Wyoming
  2. Trumpeter Swans
  3. American White Pelicans
  4. Lots of gulls – not sure what kind
  5. Killdeer
  6. Barn Swallows
  7. Red-winged blackbirds
  8. Western meadowlark

If I ever go back to Yellowstone, I will print this bird list. 

You can share your link with Tweet and See…click the button above to learn more about the monthly meme. This exercise of keeping a list of birds has opened my eyes to a whole world. I highly recommend this activity for all families, no matter where you live.