Zion Is Zion

7 July 2012 in Memories, Trails/Hiking, Traveling


Admiring the ViewI am not a religious person. I wouldn’t even consider myself a spiritual person. I believe in science and reason. But still Zion National Park—ironically named in this instance—is a holy land for me. Many natural places are, but Zion is definitely the current title holder when it comes to magnificence and the evocation of a subconscious yet detectable feeling of sorts. Religious places are said to produce a humbling affect on the pilgrim and this is exactly how I feel upon entering Zion Valley.

Hiking the NarrowsThe walls of stone that tower over the tiny, unassuming Virgin River are mountainous in stature, but the gradual slope of a mountain’s sides have been sheered off leaving monolithic rock faces that rise thousands of feet above the valley floor. The tops of these giants are a mixture of jagged peaks and level flats. The former are barren of life and ominous and the later are like islands in the sky. They look as though the earth around them either fell away or they were thrust upward under some massive eruption of pressure beneath the earth’s surface.

And the humbling effect only seems to grow. Usually the effect a place may have only diminishes with time and eventually evokes mostly nostalgia, but I swear this last time we visited the effect of Zion was greater. The rocks actually seemed larger, more imposing and the humility produced by their size and age increased. I’ve never experienced this before. I found myself more in awe of the park than ever and this was my fifth visit.

So we arrived late, leaving Greenehaven when Lindsay got off of work and driving up in hopes of still landing a campsite in the park. This was a bust. And so with no plan B we drove back out through Springdale—the small town that borders one side of Zion. We considered crashing in the truck, but decided to camp at the Quality Inn. Set behind the actual hotel was a campground/RV and we just caught the attendant in the lobby before they closed for the night. She informed us there were a few tent sites open and without asking the price we took one. It was pretty cramped. They obviously needed to pack us in there to be able to stay in business at the ridiculously cheap rate of $34/night. Times are tough.

With a half a dozen tents within fifteen feet of us and the bathroom just beyond that we didn’t get too much quiet time that night. This was a plus because we were up early and ready to make another attempt at getting into Zion’s campground, but then we had to wait for the lobby to open so we could pay. Damn guilt, could’ve just skipped the overpriced bill.

We lucked into a spot in the park. There were already several at 8 am so I reserved some doubt that they were actually “full” as their sign said the night before. But anyway, we quickly threw up our tent and paid, reserving our site and freeing us to head up to Kolob Canyon. Zion National Park is divided into two sections that are accessible by car and linked by a vast stretch of mostly untouched wilderness minus a few backcountry trails. We had never been up to Kolob Canyon and when we arrived we were saddened by this fact.

Kolob CanyonJust off the interstate. Far enough to forget civilizations still there by sight or sound is a smaller version of Zion Valley. Not smaller in size and grandeur, but merely in expanse. While Zion Valley is quite long, Kolob Canyon is relatively short in comparison. But rather than a scenic drive amongst enormous pinnacles of rock, the Taylor Creek Trail allows you to walk amongst them. Free from traffic, asphalt and depending on your timing—ours was very good—people. The Taylor Creek trail—as the name implies—follows Taylor Creek up and through the valley I assume it had much influence in shaping over the years. The trail zigs and zags from one side of the small, trickle of a creek to the other and leads you to stunning views of impossibly stunning rock. Each turn and bend in trail affords new sights and chances to catch bugs in your mouth as it slowly opens with continual, drawn-out “wows” and remains agape long after this insufficient remark. The feelings this area will conjure can not be properly translated by word or photo. If you see one National Park in your life make it Zion.

Double Arch AlcoveAfter leisurely marching down this trail you come to an abrupt halt and appeased by another natural wonder. This one much lower, a brief bit of relief for your craning neck. Double Arch Alcove is a massive, bowl shaped indentation in the rock where water seeps down and leaving traces of minerals and supporting a small collection of plants. The walls are painted by these circumstances producing a beautiful painting of momentous scale.

As I mentioned we saw few people, in fact no people until this end point, but on the way back they were out in droves. We saw four people total before returning and probably a dozen on the way out. Like I said perfect timing.

After returning to the parking lot and wolfing down some sandwiches we continued up the scenic drive. Aptly named this drive shoulders an amazing expanse of the formations Zion is know for, but unlike the main valley here the road, that cuts into the opposite hillside elevates you midway up and allows you to better see the tops and the nooks and crannies that weave in between.

At the end of this drive you are almost to a point on the formation where the road spans and a quick half mile hike takes you to this very tip. Here you can view the formations of Zion to your left, an range or regular mountains to your right and a longview of the barren desert that is supposed to include the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, but we couldn’t identify it.

After a quick stop in St. George we headed back to Zion Valley, stopping to pick up our equipment for the Narrows that we were to hike the following day. Then we grabbed some delicious pizza and caught an wonderful ranger program before retiring to our tent.

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