I love this place... Zion National Park. Definitely amongst my favorite places in our country. So… although I’ve been here twice, I could not pass up the opportunity to bring John for his first visit.
Unfortunately, by the time we got there I had a major head/chest cold plaguing me. Hiking… which I couldn’t pass up… had me hacking and wheezing with every step. I stepped out with John the next morning to “check it out”. I was saddened to discover that you can no longer drive into “the valley” of Zion. It was a week-day only situation during my last two visits, otherwise by shuttle. Where I once drove back and forth up that beautiful valley… in search of the “sweet light”. It changes with ever turn throughout the day, and for someone who’s constantly focused on the lights and shadows, and how they play on our lands… it’s…literally heart wrenching! It pulls you in the most compelling way! You… I, anyway… cannot get enough of it. I thirst for the light.
To be hobbled… not able to go with the light, but limited to a shuttle schedule instead… KILLED ME! It was probably just as well that I needed some rest. Every time I stepped out bravely, thinking “I can hack this!” I was a sorry mess. So… I took my beloved Zion from a “back-seaters” point of view. I knew my limits and I sure as hell didn’t want John to miss out on the experience.
So we set out our first morning, after traveling from Death Valley and “docking” late the night before, to see what we could see. We couldn’t drive up THE canyon, so the Mount Carmel Highway Tunnel (really quite cool) and the “Canyon Overlook Trail” seemed like a good start.
Our morning adventures took us out the Canyon Overlook Trail. I’ve always wondered about this, as it doesn’t overlook THE canyon, but it’s a nice moderate hike and… well, I saw Big Horn Sheep last time… I saw happy Chipmunks along the trail this time…
After our hike our hike we drove farther east… just to see the landscape (which I remembered as pretty worthy of another pass). The landscape and hillsides change with ever mile, and that’s notable to me. That is one of the most memorable aspects about my solo journey actually… the gradual changes… from one landscape to the next.
John enjoyed it too, but eventually we turned around, and headed back toward the tunnel. And then we saw the Big Horn… out on the ridge in front of us. And then a ram! We got out of the car at a turn out and hiked just a bit… just far enough not to disturb. These are desert Big Horns, and are built a bit differently than the big horn you would see in Montana, for example. They are better adapted the the rocky desert terrain, and can go for long periods of time without water.
Following our morning excursion we hopped on a shuttle into Zion Valley. I do have to say that the shuttles are nice, and run on a very regular schedule. For someone who’s not chasing the light I certainly wouldn’t make it a deterrent. This valley is worth a visit, shuttle or not. Once we got to the end we walked along the river from the end of the valley to a point called Big Bend, where we caught the shuttle back.
It was suggested, since several of the hikes I had enjoyed before were closed, that we try Lava Point Overlook trail. This hike is near the end of Kolob Terrace Road, which requires driving out of the park and coming in from the west through a town called Virgin. (Same road I drove early one morning on a previous visit to do a permit only hike… The Subway.)
In all honesty, compared to so many of the trails in Zion, this one was somewhat underwhelming to us. (The fact that I hacked and wheezed and snuffled the whole way in and out may have distorted my view to some degree.)
Meanwhile, back in the valley…
We did another drive up Zion-Mt Carmel road before calling it a day. This entire valley is truly a wonder, the way nature sculpted the land over time.
One of my favorite hikes in this park is Angels Landing. It’s a 5.5 mile hike with a 1488′ elevation gain. The route takes you up “Walter’s Wiggles”, a series of switchbacks designed by… none other than Walter! This climb is one that requires breath, which I had little of at the time. I didn’t want John to miss out on the experience, and suggested that he go without me.
Since the last segment of the trail is a sheer drop to the valley floor, at times to both sides of the trail… I did not rest easy until I knew he was safely back to the safety of a wider trail. Needless to say he LOVED the experience… and the view. It really is that incredible, but not for the weak of heart.
As agreed, he texted me once he was safely back in the valley. We agreed to meet at the shuttle stop near the bridge over Virgin River. When we heard from him Sadie and I set out hiking in that direction on the Pa’rus Trail (the only designated trail that dogs are allowed on).
The following morning we “broke camp” (slides in, jacks up… the simplified version) and pulled out of our site to a open space at the far end of the campground where we could hook up Zippy (tow car) and head out toward another favorite destination… Bryce Canyon National Park. This is another incredible park John had never been to, and I couldn’t wait to share it with him!!
Before we left a small herd of Mule Deer showed up to graze, including this handsome buck…
Previous posts on Zion… (In all of them I saw more and did more than I was able to this time around, and Elissa was along for some of it! Worth a look-see)
Next up is Bryce Canyon National Park… another place of wonder!!