Sunday, April 26, 2015

Day 12-Ridin' Solo Zion National Park

The plan was to get up at 4:00am; take a shower, and head to The Fast and The Furious house about 18 minutes away from Justin's apartment. My alarm went off, and I did not want to get up to shower. I laid there for awhile and then decided it was time to get moving, I rinsed my bright red face with cold water, put some cream on, and packed up all of my things. I don't know how I carried a backpack, two pillows, a large blanket, and a 6 pack of beer with two hands but I managed. I put everything away in the car, and set the navigation to "Vin Diesel's" house. The photos below seem as though it was light out and daytime, however it was around 4:30-4:45 in the morning; still dark. I pulled to the side of the street, and took some long exposures of the nostalgic house. I wonder if the owners even like the movie series? The last photo has two nice natural lens flairs that I like to think is in spirit remembrance of Paul Walker. I am very glad that I stopped by to see the house nonetheless. I punched in the address for Zion National Park and it would take me just under 7 hours. Since I was up so early, I was ready for breakfast around 6:00am. I stopped to get gas and joined with Shell was a Subway. I waited 5 minutes for her to finish opening up and then ordered a 6 inch ham, egg, cheese, and green peppers on a flatbread with chipotle sauce. I of course dripped some of the sauce on my newly laundered sweatshirt, never fails. It was nice being on the road for the sunrise, and it was a gorgeous one at that. This was the first time in nearly two weeks that I was traveling alone, I drove with my foot up on the dash taking turns on either side. It was almost like I was doing yoga on the go, maybe I can make that a thing? Also, I must put a disclaimer here; on my photo below with the speed being 89mph, the speed limit here is 80 mph so legally I am only 9 mph over-just so we are clear. Originally our next stop would be Las Vegas, which was only about two hours away; since I was flying solo now, Vegas is not really fun when you are alone. I opted out the party casino trip and drove on through. Seeing all of the buildings from the highway did trigger my trip almost 10 years ago, time really does fly. When I hit Utah, I lost an hour; putting me an hour closer to home. Now I am only two hours behind Connecticut. The drive was long and boring, not much of anything to see after Vegas. This also meant there was not a lot of gas stations, I left LA with a near full tank and now was eagerly searching for the next Shell station. Utah looked a lot like Arizona and the rest of the desert I had been traveling through. Luckily, I spotted a Shell and pulled off the interstate to fill the tank. After many uneventful hours, snacking opportunities, and singing out loud; I pulled into the campground where I would be staying. It was a really nice campground, one my Nana would surely approve of staying at with her motorhome. I checked in for one night, went to my campsite, and started to set up. The ground was crushed rock, and there were a bunch of sites all in a row; we were next to the basketball court, and horseshoe ring. I was site number 126 and no one was set up around me. As I walked around the back of the car I realized an article of clothing had been closed in the hatch and was sticking out, of course it was a pair of underwear; how classy. I made a Mountain House meal, and relaxed in my camp chair. Knowing that tonight and tomorrow night were meteor shower viewing nights I decided to stay another night at the campground. It was a really nice place, and I think Zion has a lot to offer. I walked over to the office in hopes that my site would be available for a second night, turns out it was. I went back to the campsite, and relaxed a bit more; and then decided to take a nap. I was tired from getting up so early and driving the 7 hours that I figured I'd nap for an hour, and then head to the park for a half-day exploration. I lay in my tent, which was like a sauna; in my sports bra and shorts. I kept the rainfly on because I didn't want to expose my face to the sun anymore. After about a half hour, 45 minutes; I awoke in a sweat. Everything was wet and I needed air conditioning. I got up, got in the car, and blasted the AC. It was such a relief, though I still had some time to kill and was a little tired still. I pulled the car to the dead end of the basketball court and tried to get as much sleep in the driver's seat as possible. I knew I'd be up until at least midnight tonight for the stars so I had to get some rest. After a restless half hour, forty-five minutes; I heard a door slam. I looked up to find a car parked in a nearby site and decided to head out to the park. We lucked out at the Grand Canyon with the fee being waved for Earth Day, but for some reason now that we were closer to Earth Day, I had to pay at Zion. It was $25 for a 7 day pass which was their minimum, even though I would only be there for two days. I entered the park and started to explore in my car, there was a drivable scenic road that you could drive about 25 miles within the park. I stayed on this road which switchbacked back and fourth up the canyon walls, there was a mile and a half long tunnel which was pretty cool, and the red rock was gorgeous. The streets were even red within the park, and after many stops along the road for photo opportunities I reached the other entrance to the park. I turned around and decided to go back down the way I came, around the bend I saw a crowd of people and wondered what was going on. I then spotted a grouping of Desert Bighorn Sheep and realized why everyone was so memorized. I crept the Chevy off to the side of the road and some of them frolicked off the slope side across the street. Two of them stayed grazing on the other side of the street and I was able to get a few shots of them, the cars were building up on either side, and after the last one decided to cross I slowly crept by. I enjoyed the rest of the drive down to the base of the park, and decided to go into town to get some dinner before sunset. I had found a new love for Tripadvisor while looking for restaurants in towns or cities I am not familiar with; Whiptail Grill was rated 6th and had a very aesthetic presentation of a chili relleno which I wanted to experience. I sat outside and the waiter was very friendly and helpful; I ordered a relleno, as well as mahi mahi tacos. The relleno presentation was everything it was cracked up to be, an art piece for sure. The best part was, it tasted as good as it looked! It was hard to follow up, but the fish tacos were pretty good as well. After an awesome dinner, I headed back to the car to research further star trails. I had dabbled a few times in long exposure and star photography, but never star trails. Seemed a single image was composed of nearly 100 images in the same exact location. With a program such as Starstax you can compose all of the images into one and see the Earth's rotation in the star movement. The next two evenings would be the annual Lyrid meteor shower, viewings best after midnight, what a perfect place to be. Sun would be setting around 8:15pm so I headed back towards the park entrance. A couple miles in, I set up my tripod to experiment before the primetime for the meteor viewing. The sky was still deep blue, and there were many cars driving by on the road 10 feet from me making a long exposure difficult. After a few experimental shots, I decided to move further up the canyon in hopes of finding less cars. I stopped at a few locations and tried different things here and there looking for the ideal spot for later on to attempt a star trail photo. It seems outrageous to spend 3 hours outside in the dark photographing stars, but it is a hobby of mine that I enjoy partaking in and gain a lot of gratitude from. After the second to last stop before I would settle down for the remainder of the photographic experience, I ended up dropping a full 6-pack of beers I had picked up in Los Angeles. I opened the door, the same door in which I have been dumping granola bars, chips, and other miscellaneous items out of. The location is so convenient however things shift around in the car and before you know it you open the door to bottles fizzing and spraying beer all over. I quickly stood as many of them up as possible, and went in the trunk to grab a trash bag. I returned to the sound of the caps bubbling and put all six bottles in the bag. I tied up the bag and left it roadside while I continued to shoot the stars. Looking up, I saw a shooting star; shooting stars are addicting to me. As soon as I see one, I get the urge to see another. Once I settled on going back to a previous location further down towards the base, I picked up the bag of beer and noticed it was seeping through the trash bag. I pulled out another bag, double bagged it, and threw it on the passenger seat floor. When I got to a pull-off that had a trash dumpster I took out the bag and tossed it in. Somehow it had seemed through a little and there was a little damp spot on the carpet, awesome. Do you have to clean rental cars before you give them back? They gave me a brand new 2015 Chevrolet Trax with like 80 miles on it and I will be returning a well broken in road trip vehicle, guess that is the perks of "unlimited mileage" rentals. It was almost 11:00pm when I got the side of the road where I wanted to set up, There was a medium size rock there which I would lean the tripod on to get the peak and stars in one shot. By this time, most of the cars were done driving up and down the road; one would pass occasionally, but for the most part I was left unbothered. I sat on the rock and would click the shutter release every 30 seconds or so. I would alternate between 30 seconds, 20 seconds, 5 seconds, and varying times in-between. I stayed there shooting for about 45 minutes to an hour and then decided after 70 shots of the same exact thing to head back down to my campsite. It would take about twenty minutes to get back to the campground so I would be arriving a little after midnight. I was disappointed I had only seen one shooting star, but it was better than none. I also decided to leave at the start of the prime viewing time since I was exhausted from getting up so early in LA. The drive back to the campground was peaceful, there was no one on the roads and it took no time at all. When I pulled into my site, I noticed there was a tent set up right next to where I parked the car, there were also a few other ones set up that were not there earlier when I left. I tried to be as quiet as possible, and climbed into my tent and passed out before my head hit the pillow.

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