Zion National Park | 6/59

Zion National Park holds a special place in my heart.  I feel like my whole body and soul resonate with this place!  The red rocks.  The desert.  The huge walls.  It all just feels RIGHT.

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We left for Zion the week before we launched.  It was our “test run” park.  We have been to this park so many times, that we felt comfortable enough to work out all the kinks here.  For the whole recap of all of those issues, check out the The Personality of our Journey post.

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On our way down south (we started up in Northern Utah), we stopped at the famous Meadow hotsprings.  I had heard good things about them from a lot of people, but had never made it down until this trip.  We stopped and had some kitty swimming lessons and then kept journeying south.

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As a geology major in Utah, I spent a lot of time in Zion and the surrounding areas.  I was in Southern Utah for six weeks doing research here last summer.  We worked hard all day (okay really we pretty much kicked rocks around and pretended to understand what was going on) and then in the evenings we would PLAY PLAY PLAY.  I was able to explore canyons, climb cool rocks, and ride my bike all over this beautiful place.

Coming to Zion always feels like coming home.

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One of my professors showed me this magical spot one day when we were out and about.  There is just so much time represented in the rocks bellow.  I remember standing on the edge and geeking out with my fellow rock nerds as we discussed how much money we would pay to see the nearby cinder cone erupt.  I vowed to return here and camp someday.

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By the way, this is the infamous spot where I punched a hole in the side of the RV as I pulled in.  Bad move.

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Even the kitty couldn’t stop staring at the view.  It was an amazing spot to camp.

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Angel’s Landing is an iconic hike in Zion.  People go crazy about it–and for good reason!  The view at the top is spectacular.  The best part, in my opinion, is the top section where chains have been set up to help stabilize you as you walk along the edge.  It is really quite thrilling!

We set out to hike when it was a little rainy.  It was our one afternoon to do it, so we didn’t let the clouds scare us away.  When it was raining like that, we weren’t about to jump in the Narrows or some other slot canyon due to flash flood threats.  Our choices were to hike Angel’s or sit around in the RV.  We decided to hike!  And actually, it turned out to be really nice on the top. We were the only ones there!  It was nice that we didn’t have to battle the crowds up there, but unfortunately for us, the chipmunks didn’t want to brave the threatening storm either.  The chipmunks on the top are half the fun of finishing this hike.  They are always just running around looking to score some trail mix.  It’s amazing how those little guys can just cruise around right on the edge – they’re fearless.  I wonder how many of them chase a peanut right off the edge and plummet to their deaths.  I’m sure it is an impressive number.

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Attention everyone – and angel has just landed on Angel’s Landing and her name is Madison!!!

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It was nice to have friends with us in the park.  Here are the Carmichaels enjoying the view that Angel’s Landing had to offer.  Check out their website at ourhomeonwheels.co to see where they have travelled to in their van since then.

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Madison thought it would be fun to ride on my back on the way down.  We went about five feet and realized this was not smart.

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That night we ran into a few problems as we were looking for a place to camp.  We ended up spending most of the next day dealing with RV repairs.  Madison and I both feel that this trip to Zion got a little ripped off because of that.  Luckily, we have been to this park so many times, that it wasn’t too big of a tragedy.  For a full account of our mishaps during this week, check out The Personality of our Journey.

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After getting things squared away with the RV, we still had a decent bit of sunlight left.  We were in Hurricane dealing with all of the RV issues, so instead of driving all the way back into the park, we drove the few miles to the reservoir – Sand Hollow State Park.  We got there and it was CRAZY windy, but we still got the kayaks out and paddled around for bit.

The cat came with us, but he didn’t spend any time looking around.  As soon as he was in the boat, he hunkered down in the bottom of the kayak and pretty much didn’t come out until we were back on land.  It was actually kind of hilarious.  We had a hard time convincing him to come out for anything, because of the roaring wind, until we got back to shore.  As soon as we hit land he jumped out and was fine.

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The next morning we got up and drove back to Zion and spent the morning driving around looking for sheep and just enjoying the pull outs and various stops.   The tunnel is always fun.  We took the bikes off the top so we could fit through.  It is a 13 ft clearance – and with the bikes on we are at 12’10”.  So theoretically, one little bump would have put us into the ceiling!  But I wonder how those things are really rated.  Do you think there is any leeway?  Or is it really 13′ when they say it is 13′?  I would bet they give you a few inches, right?  It’s not worth testing, but interesting to think about.

I really enjoyed the drive through the eastern part of the park.  After you go through the tunnel, its just a nice drive through beautiful red rock.  There are usually bighorn sheep bouncing around in the little gullies or up on the rocks.  We didn’t see any this time and I was really bummed.  For some reason, those animals just make me happy.

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We left the park on the east side and drove about 4 miles up the road and then doubled back towards the park on North Fork Road.

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We spent a whole day in Birch Hollow Canyon.  This canyon is amazing.  It actually starts just outside of the park and then ends within the boundaries (if you take the exit ALL the way through Orderville canyon).  There are eleven rappels and quite a bit of hiking.  With the kitty and Jace and Giddi’s dog, it made for a full day.

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At the bottom of a few rappels there were some nasty mud puddles.  Jace was having a hard time coping with the mud and his rope.  Sorry about that, man!
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Vlad started in his kitty carrier, but was NOT happy to be in it -major Grumpy Cat.  So we took him out of his carrier, and hooked him up in the back of the backpack.  He was still grumpy, but at least he was quiet about it.  He just gave us the death glare every time we would rope up.

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The canyon starts out really wide and then slots up quite nicely.  I like the feeling of walking through the canyon with the walls towering above you.

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We didn’t take Orderville canyon down into the park – if you do that it adds another five or six hours to your outing.  Along with the extra time commitment, you also have to secure a permit to go out that way.  And honestly, the hike back out and up to the road is actually really nice.

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Lotus, Jace and Giddi’s dog, was a great trail guide!  She led the entire way and showed us where we needed to go.  Her leadership skills really showed when our party would reach an obstacle or a tricky turn.  She would wait until all of us successfully navigated that section, and then she would power back to the front to lead the way again. It was really fun for me to watch her take charge.  Dogs are so cool.

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There were some wild turkeys gobbling around just off the trail.  The cat loved listening and trying to figure out where the sounds were coming from.  Be careful with those things though.  I got chased by a pair of turkeys in Zion when I was twelve or thirteen – I have had an irrational fear of those wild birds ever since.

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Speaking of irrational fear, as you can kind of see in the photos, the sun set behind us as we were walking back to the car.  We had left my bike where the trail met the road.  By the time we got to my bike, it was already pretty dark and I still had to ride the few miles back to the van.  I had my head lamp with me, so it wasn’t a complete black out, but it was still very dark.

I hate admitting this, but on the ride back I had what you might call a “spook”.  I was riding along and everything was just fine.  A mile or so in, I looked casually to my right only to see a giant pair of eyes staring back at me.  The eyes were a few feet up off the ground just following me on my bike.  Now that I remember it and am writing it down, I feel kind of dumb, but at the time I was REALLY scared.  Fight or flight syndrome kicked in and I started peddling as hard as I could.  Who knows what it really was, but I wasn’t taking any chances; I didn’t slow my pace until I hit the van.

When I am alone, I am allowed to be afraid.  When I am with Madison, I have to be the tough, strong, brave one.  Not that she doesn’t posses these qualities, because she definitely does (she is one of the toughest girls out there when she has to be), but I feel the responsibility to take care of her and protect her.  To do a good job of that I can’t get spooked by a pair of eyes!  However, when I am by myself, it is a different story.  I don’t have to be brave!  Whether it was a harmless rabbit on a rock, a mountain lion poised to pounce, or a blood-thirsty cannibal waiting to chew off my fingers, I will never know.  All I know is, I got weird vibes and my animal instincts told me to get the FREAK out of there.  I’m just glad I survived to tell the tale!

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When Vlad gets tired, he will just stop walking.  That’s his way of saying, “I’m done – pick me up and carry me, human.”  After that he rode the top of my bag the whole climb out to the road.  Lazy kitty.  Actually, he was a total trooper.  He walked and explored almost the entire canyon.  Only towards the end did he want to ride. Pretty impressive for a little guy.

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The word Zion refers to the hill on which the city of Jerusalem was built and is symbolic for other spiritual places or religious epicenters.  This place is appropriately named.  Like I said, I feel like my whole being connects with this canyon.  There is something about this place that gives a visitor a thick sense of belonging; the spirit of the canyon seems to invite and welcome everyone in to partake of its glory.  It is, in my humble opinion, one of the best parks we have.  There is so much to do in the park and in the surrounding areas.  I feel like I could explore here the rest of my life and never get enough.  Come to Zion, come to Zion, and within her walls rejoice.

6 Comments

  1. Ahhhh I love Birch! But I hate that dang hike out. Maybe because the first time I did it I probably almost died of heat stroke, but I think I would’ve been okay hiking it with the weather y’all had, haha. I love the canyon so much though. One of these days I’ll combine it with Orderville. I love Zion so much. I never get tired of it! I’ve totally lost count of how many times I’ve been there but I’m with you, it totally feels like going home.

  2. Claire Ahlstrom Folts

    So glad to hear I’m not the only one with an irrational turkey fear! The gobble of a turkey sends a shiver up my spine like nothing else can – being chased by one of those suckers is a scarring experience!

  3. I think we as humans have very few instincts left, but I’m always so grateful when they pop up every once in a while. Good job listening to that feeling!

    Since you guys go to Zion frequently, you should check out Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab. It is one of the most positive and beautiful and wonderful places on earth! They rescue so many animals, and treat them so well while they are waiting for forever homes, and just being there fills you with hope for the future.

    http://www.bestfriends.org

  4. Carol Green

    Earlier this month 12 of us went to Vegas for family fun. 3 from South Carolina, 4 from Alabama, 4 from Portland, Oregon and one from Seattle. And one stationed at the Air Force base in Las Vegas. My sister saw a commercial about five national parks in Utah and nine of us decided to do a day trip to the closest one. Zion is breathtaking. None of us are hikers so we did the easiest trail (the grotto). That place is magical and you can feel the spirit of its beauty. It was the highlight of the trip. I tried to send a picture of our group but I’m technologically challenged but you couldn’t miss the nine African Americans enjoying the beauty of the park. PS. There is nothing scarier than a turkey gobbling and puffing up his feathers. I was afraid of them as a kid and I still steer clear of them and I’m 57.

    • Cees

      Zion is SOOOO amazing! I’m so glad that you got to experience that canyon. And I 100 percent know what you are talking about with the turkeys! When I was 11 my family road tripped to Zion NP and I got out of the car to take a picture of a turkey and it totally puffed up and ran at me! I was TERRIFIED! So glad that you got the big group together to experience such a magical place.

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