Friday, December 30, 2011

Zion National Park: Prickly Pear Cacti and the Watchman

The Watchman has captivated my imagination since I first saw photos of it a few years ago. I have since seen a half million shots of the Watchman, all from the same bridge, using the Virgin River in the foreground. That composition is beautiful and I made several images from that bridge, but in the end I wanted to make my own composition. I am sure that this is not a unique composition, but I have not seen it anywhere else. So, I consider it original. There are probably at least 10,000 shots very similar to this one. With millions of visitors every year, it is incredibly difficult to make new images of the national park icons, but we can try.

I only wished that I had visited these prickly pear cacti a week earlier when they were still in bloom. Later that night, I ate at the restaurant at the park's hotel and had a pork chop with prickly pear sauce. The prickly pear sauce was delightfully sweet. Its funny how something so harsh looking as the cactus, can taste so good...

I must say that I was very pleasantly surprised with the best national park meal that I have ever had. National Park restaurants are often sub par. They are usually the only game in town. This lack of competition allows them to serve poor meals at high costs. The restaurant at Zion was excellent. This may in part be due to the proximity of many restaurants just a short drive from the park. Competition is a good thing and essential to capitalism. These were some of my thoughts on the 4th of July.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Zion Canyon: Sacred Datura

The sacred datura is a beautiful white flower also known as the Zion lilly. The sacred datura has a slightly sweet fragrance, but it is highly poisonous. Visitors to Zion are urged not to touch the plant, which can cause hallucinations and possibly death.

The sacred datura opens its large white flowers during the night and closes them up again, usually by mid morning. They are fairly abundant in the southern section of the park and are often found growing side by side with wild squash plants. The flowers of the squash plant have a strong smell much like bad body odor. When I first encountered the squash, I had worked up quite a sweat and smelling the squash caused me to stop my hike to double check my deodorant. After a few moments I realized that the squash was the worst smelling pumpkin that I have ever encountered.

These sacred datura happened to be in the perfect spot to dress up this early morning composition of the towers of the Virgin. I was fortunate to be able to find an area where I could photograph the Towers of the Virgin and the Watchman with beautiful floral foregrounds.

The second image on this post is a macro of a sacred datura in the late evening, before the flower reopened for the night.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Zion Canyon: Garden of Eden

I celebrated the 4th of July in Zion National Park. Zion Canyon is an amazingly beautiful landscape. The Watchman is an icon of the park and of the West. This image shows the Watchman just after sunrise. I had been searching for a unique viewpoint of the Watchman when I crossed paths with a doe. I quickly readied my camera and made a few images as the deer made its way past me. The animals in Zion, particularly the deer are fearless of humans. This doe walked within 10 feet of me.

The fearless animals, the wild squash, prickly pear cacti and the sacred dutura, a beautiful lilly, reminded me of what the Garden of Eden must have been like. The fantastic mountains and flowing Virgin River create a stunning and peaceful scenery. Early morning in Zion is a truly blissful experience.

At sunset, I met a birder who pointed out six large birds along the ridges to the north of the Watchman. They were too far to conclusively identify, but they may have been California Condors! The other possible species was the turkey vulture.

I found Zion to be truly enchanting. I can hardly wait to return!
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