Zion National Park
Zion had been on our bucket list for a LONG time. But as life goes we kept pushing it off. It’s easy to give into the lie that you don’t have enough money. But you have the money you have and you’re either spending it or saving it to spend later. The question is what are you spending it on? This time around, since it was on a whim, we used our savings to do what we always wanted to do.
If it’s not money keeping your from marking it off it might be fear. It’s even easier to give into the comfort of staying we’re you’ve always been. I didn’t know I was so afraid until I started the process of buying the plane tickets. Up until now we had always driven on our vacations, it’s cheaper and easier. As I sat on our couch filling in the numerous questions I felt afraid. I ended up calling my mom to walk me through it. I felt the same way as we parked at the airport. New things have a tendency to be accompanied by fear and we have to be intentional in casting off that fear so we can accomplish the things we want.
When I found tickets for $300 a piece to Las Vegas that magically aligned with my Spring Break I knew we had to go. After my mom walked me through the process of booking plane tickets and renting a car we were well on our way. A spur of the moment decision to go out West was one of the best decisions we’ve ever made. Brandon had never been west of Chicago and I hadn’t been out to Arizona since I was in eighth grade. On that trip my family and I flew into Las Vegas, drove to the Grand Canyon, down to Sedona and over to Prescott, so I was a little familiar with the area. We decided to drive to Zion first, then travel north to Bryce Canyon, explore the Grand Staircase and finish at the Grand Canyon.
Having never been to Utah and not knowing what to expect we tried our best to keep an open mind and an open schedule. We found a city, Kanab, with a good deal on a hotel centrally located. We booked five nights there and two nights at the Grand Canyon. We asked friends and family members who had been to Utah to give us their top places and trails. We got maps and read blog posts and were set. But we never expected to see ANYTHING like we did.
We left on a Friday right after school. Not the most stress free thing but it guaranteed the most time. We drove to Pittsburgh to catch our flight and got into Las Vegas about 9 at night. It was dark once we got passed all the screaming lights from the strip. We drove up 15 all the way to Mesquite so we would be closer in the morning. The moon was covered by clouds, large dark outlines loomed in view. Mountains. When we woke up the following morning we saw this guy (above). We sure weren't in Ohio anymore.
We got a few things at Walmart (which is like their Target, the nicest Walmart I’ve ever been in) and we were on our way. As we drove the landscape started to change. Grass was replaced by rock and dirt. Green faded into brown and we met up with the Virgin River which accompanied us all the way to Zion. We traveled 15 to 9 all the way into the Canyon, for Zion is a Canyon. We got to Springdale about 11 o’clock and stopped at the Visitor Center to get our bearings and purchase a topical map. We followed 9 all the way through the park enchanted by the big red rocks. It was like nothing we had ever seen before.
Brandon was eager to get out and explore so once through the park we turned around and stopped at the first spot we found. We got on foot and explored.
Pictures barely capture the magnitude of the rocks. Everywhere you looked you were reminded that we are not a BIG deal. Here, in the midst of the park, water flowing for centuries carving rock we were aware of our smallness, of our finite nature.
Our first official stop was the Canyon Overlook trail. It was not difficult, though we were quickly aware that any wrong step could be your last. We walked along, not entirely sure what the destination was, but we followed the crowd. And there as the crowd of people thickened, crowded around the edge we were met with this view (below). In this picture you can see the snow capped tops and the road (Highway 9) that cuts through the canyon, zigzagging it’s way to the bottom below.
Later that day on our way out we magically passed by a heard to sheep (not goats there was some debate but we solved it). It was enchanting. I had Brandon stop the car and let me out. I made my way across the street and in the midst of the grasses to get a better look. Although none are pictured here there were several baby sheep frolicking across the rocks and course grasses.
We ended our day at a little waterfall. Since we went in late March water was still melting from the tops of the mountain and flowing toward the bottom. There were several streams trickling down rocks. We drove to our hotel in Kanab and found a BBQ place to eat and settled in for an early start the next day.
The next we woke up early. We were told the best time to get to the park was before 9:00, not only to ensure you got a good parking spot but also to hit the trails before they were too crowded. First on our list was Angel’s Landing. Angel’s Landing isn't a terribly long trail but it is extremely difficult due in part to steady and steep incline but also to the chained portion of the trail.
It is the highest point in Zion and is regarded as the BEST trail. If you look carefully at the picture above and to the left also the picture below (top left corner), you’ll see hikers climbing the cliffs of the mountain. The hikers are using huge chains, anchored in the ground. Originally we were excited by this difficult prospect but as we arrived to the chained portion of the hike, not only did we realize the danger of such a task but the absurdity of only having one set of chains for people going up and down. That means you either had to let go of the chains to let people go past you or glue yourself to the chain and let them go around you.
I’m sure the view from the top would have been AMAZING or else people wouldn’t do it. We made it through one set of chains and were satisfied. You’ll notice no pictures of the chains themselves or us using them. We aren’t idiots. We opted to use both hands at all times.
Pictured above is a view of the canyon from a portion of the Angel’s Landing trail. If you look carefully you can see the switchbacks at the very bottom of the picture, and a bus on the canyon road at the bottom left corner.
After we came down from Angel’s Landing trial we ate at the Lodge and ventured out to see some more waterfalls.
After exploring a little more on our own outside of the canyon and spending time near the river (pictured above) we decided to head back to Kanab. On our way back we passed a sign that said Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park. Naturally we were curious, so we pulled off 89 and drove what seemed like forever to the park. It was incredible, like nothing we were expecting to see in Utah. Sand the color of red rock, stripped by the wind and softened by the sun. It was the softest most beautiful sand I have ever seen. We walked around for a bit and watched Dune Buggies race over the sandy hills. Eventually we made our way back to our Hotel ready to take our boots off and rest for a bit.
As we left the park to head back to our hotel we passed by several herds of cows grazing in open fields. I pleaded with Brandon to stop so I could take a couple of photos. I LOVE cows. They are probably one of my favorite animals and as silly as it may sound, I did not expect to see them in Utah. I was actually surprised, I never pictured sand and cows, but this environment actually seems perfect for them. And look they posed. :)