We are WAY behind on our blogging! I am going to blame a general lack of wifi, but also (speaking for myself) using a computer feels out of synch with our outdoor lifestyle. After a long hike, sitting around the campfire, who wants to fire up a laptop?
After leaving Lake Powell (but bringing lots of Lake Powell sand along with us), we had a lovely drive across southern Utah to Zion National Park. A mid-morning arrival was not early enough to score a first-come, first-served campsite, but we were able to get a hotel room in Springdale, the tiny overwhelmed town just adjacent to the park. The next day, we lined up for a campsite by 6:30am. There were a few hopefuls in front of us, but we were successful this time. We once again had a fantastic campsite. (Some of you know that Bob always wants a front-row seat at the theater. We’ve been getting front-row campsites as well: unobstructed, mind-blowing views. Nice!
I feel I should describe how beautiful Zion is, but words seem inadequate. Gorgeous? Varied? Dramatic? Colorful? People around with dazed looks on their faces saying, “wow?”
Or, the ONE WORD that has dominated our trip so far: GEOLOGY. Spoiler alert: future geology musings coming up.
Zion is ridiculously popular! With 4.2 million visitors in 2016, it is the fifth most visited national park, tied with Yellowstone. We saw many Americans, but possibly even more visitors from outside the US– Chinese, Japanese, Germans, and French in particular. It’s helpful to approach Zion with the expectation that you’re taking part in a large-scale global community nature-feasting experience. While I prefer to enjoy nature in relative solitude, it was exciting to see so many people grooving on the beauty.
How do they handle this crazy crush? Very well. By 1997, Zion had 2.4M visitors. Imagine the cars! So, they established a free shuttle system, changing the experience completely. While the shuttle definitely has its down-sides (you are basically funneling 4.2 million people along one 20-mile stretch of roadway and the handful of trails that branch off of it). But the upsides are numerous….including that you are at least confining the negative impact of humans to a relatively confined geographic area. Also I liked riding the shuttle with the other visitors, young and old, from all over world. It felt communally exciting, everyone craning their necks to see the peaks that line the canyon. If each group had been in its own car, we wouldn’t really been “with” our fellow visitors in the same way, having conversations and cooing at babies and what not. The shuttle also forces people to be at least a little bit active. They have to walk to the stop! When people drive their own cars along a scenic road, they hop out, take a picture, and hop back in. But when you take a shuttle, you feel they need to go “do something” when you get dropped off. And the only thing to do is hike! So they do, at least a little bit. There are easy, accessible trails at virtually every stop, and you see all kinds of people hiking them…some with difficulty, but mostly embracing the experience reverently. We saw several wheelchairs! We thought it was great that such a wide range of people with differing abilities can come to see this beautiful place. It was inspiring!
We, of course, chose the most challenging hikes we could find!!! including the famous Angel’s Landing (crazy! Crowded! Fun!) and Observation Point (our favorite). We also took a long hike in the northern end of the park along Taylor’s Creek–also a blast. Bob counted that we crossed the (small) creek 56 times—one way. And then you get a beautiful double arch and a waterfall at the end. Not a bad place for a picnic.
Cooking, sleeping, and doing practically everything outside has been wonderful. We love our tent, our “sleep system,” our truck, and our gear! We’re hiking A LOT, and loving that too. We’re meeting interesting people and adding to our list of place to visit, “secret” places to camp, and more. I find my mind wanders blissfully in all kinds of directions as we hike, and I LOVE that. A few of these idea threads may turn into something worth sharing with you in the future.
We’ll do some backpacking later in the trip when we can have access to water sources. It’s no fun to hike in the desert and haul a bunch of water with you.
Feeling fortunate and loving life!