Zion National Park
This is the 7th part of a series that describes a trip we took several years ago. If you have not read the first part, click here.
Our next canyon was Zion, and I didn’t expect much after the Grand. We drove into the park in bumper-to-bumper traffic, hardly the wilderness experience I had enjoyed yesterday. Zion only had one campground, and it was first come first serve. We were back in the dry heat, and the slow traffic was not helping my mood.
The campground was nearly full; we finally found a grassy dried out spot beside the bathhouse. There was no escaping the sun or the heat. After setting up the tent we tried to eat lunch, sitting in the direct sun on our picnic table. We had picked up a watermelon that morning and I cut it, hoping the fresh fruit would help. Sitting in the broiling heat in our tiny campsite, crowded by other hot campers, and trying to enjoy the sticky fruit, I could just see my fair skinned children burning and peeling. My scalp was baking. I opened the car door, and waves of heat washed over me.
“Hey, where is the suntan lotion?” I asked. No one knew. The car was messy, and full of travel junk, but no lotion. I started yelling, and throwing things. Neighboring campers stared. My hands were sticky, the heat was stifling, and the neighbors were too close. I was so hot and miserable I couldn’t think.
“Mom!” Calm down.” Anna cried.
“Let’s go explore.” Joseph begged.
“I’m hot, I don’t feel too good.” Laura cried.
We grabbed water bottles, put away the watermelon and left. We drove to a parking area to pick up a bus into the park. I discovered later we could’ve walked to the parking lot in less than 5 minutes. We hopped on the bus with no plans, no ideas, just escape.
Zion has limited car traffic in their park, and instead offers a shuttle service to all the trailheads and points of interest. The buses are convenient and they cut down on the impact of the public in the park. It’s a great idea, but we were so hot and unprepared, we just hopped off the bus when it stopped at the next station.
I felt cluttered and lost, but Anna looked at a map and picked a trail. We walked at first on a paved walkway with many other hot tourists. I felt depressed. After all the interesting places we had seen, this was a letdown. In the distance I saw a trail ride. Ten horses and riders ambled slowly in the dust. Clouds of dust swirled around the riders as they followed their leader. Earlier Anna had talked about doing that, but watching them she shook her head. “That looks horrible.”
Laura, like me, was hot and whiny, so the older two went on ahead, and were soon out of sight. After a few minutes Laura sat down in the middle of the trail. “I wish we had never come here,” she fussed. Other hikers had to walk around her.
“Come on Laura, get up.” I begged. “I have no way to get Anna and Joseph back. We have to go on.”
“Besides,” I sighed. “It’s too hot to go back to the campsite.” Finally we trudged on in the crowded, dreary walk. I was worried about finding the older kids, and dragging the youngest on with me. Why did I let the oldest go on? Traveling as the only adult was so hard. My complaining mood was growing.
We walked on, me encouraging, pushing, dragging Laura to continue. As we turned a corner the air cooled. People were laughing and Joseph walked up to us, soaking wet. He grabbed my arm. “Come on, hurry!” The dry desert was replaced with lush greenery, and a waterfall poured from a grass-covered rock right on to the path. Anna and Laura giggled and ran back and forth under the icy spray. I felt my mind clear, and all my anger was washed away. In one cool and wet surprise we changed into new people.
On this trip across the country I had wanted adventure and wilderness. I wanted to experience the nature and its changes across the country. Looking for a connection with the wilderness I had found crowded campgrounds, hay rides with loud speakers, neighbors washing RV’s like a suburban Saturday, and although I had been enjoying the trip I had an undercurrent of frustration. The feeling had crested at Zion, then washed through me and melted away under the surprise waterfall.
Laura was the first to say, “Let’s keep walking, see what’s next.”
At first we hiked behind and in front of other people. After a long hot climb we found a green pool, beautiful and shaded. A crowd stood respectfully, and they spoke in hushed tones.
We took off on another trail, and soon found ourselves alone on a beautiful exposed path. It felt like we were in a desert, and yet around every corner we discovered new plants, flowers and birds. What a wonderful day of discovery. Suddenly the trail descended and we found ourselves at a rest area and bus stop.
The bus driver was talkative. He told us that Zion is an oasis in the desert, a canyon with more plant species than Hawaii. Parts of the park were lush and green. The first settlers had been in the desert for days before discovering this “Zion” in the dry wilderness. In a way our little walk represented this park and its discovery.
We returned to the campsite late, ate a simple supper and fell into the tent exhausted, sweaty and tired. It was a full moon, and a beautiful evening. We could hear people all around, but we had no trouble sleeping.