There are certainly many extraordinary natural features to see in Yellowstone National Park, but I will bet there is one hillside in particular that might not have caught your eye. In fact, you could have driven right by this seemingly innocent slope on the road between Madison Junction and West Yellowstone without even giving it a second thought. After all, it looks just like any old slumping, eroding hillside.
|Not just any old hillside|
This past weekend I found myself at loose ends. I am the proud owner of a new pair of birdwatching binoculars but had become weary of looking at flocks of house finches from my backyard patio perch. I wanted to go on a hike, but not one that was too strenuous or that involved packing much more than a bottle of water and an apple. With these simple criteria in mind, I decided to drive up to the Kolob Plateau area of Zion National Park and have a look around. It has been years since I’ve been up there and I was overdue for a visit.
|Getting to Kolob Reservoir involves weaving in and out of a corner of Zion|
It was a crisp October morning as we zipped up Cedar Mountain in our three–car caravan, bound for an eight–mile hike around Navajo Lake and along the Virgin River rim trail. Interspersed with the grayed skeletal remains of Engelmann spruce (victims of an endemic beetle population and a dubious forest management policy of the past century), the aspen leaves blazed their burnt red–orange and golden yellow brilliance against a cloudless sapphire sky. As we cruised I noticed orange–vested people near the side of the road, parked in camp chairs and peering through binoculars across the meadows. A suspicious little voice inside my head told me they were probably not just admiring the leaves.