Zion National Park

An impromptu visit with my brother Jessy lead me to check off a few things on my list of big things to do in life. Jessy lives in Salt Lake City Utah. After being collected from the airport we stopped into a tattoo parlor to discuss a tattoo the two of us were considering getting together. Contrary to previous statements given by another worker, they didn’t have space that weekend to tattoo the both of us. :(. The airplane ride made me hungry so we ate at a canyon diner called “Ruth’s” which had great food, and a not so great live band comprising of two older gentleman who thought they were REALLY entertaining. We left and got some groceries and a DVD and had a quiet evening sitting with a few of Jessy’s friends and getting some rest for the trip ahead of us.

The next day we hiked in the Wasatch mountains and did some grocery shopping for our exciting trip to Zion National Park! We were planning on camping on some BLM land just outside the park’s boundary. Our destination was a long 6 hours away from Salt Lake so we rented a car and set off on the road. We had a hard time finding the spot for camping but eventually made it there and set up camp. We realized just afterward that our rental car got stuck in the sand. Jessy tried valiantly to get the car out of the sinking hole, but to no avail. As the light of the desert began to creep behind the mesa formations we decided it was futile to worry, and just relaxed and enjoyed our campfire. This was my very first tent camping experience. We drank beers and cooked tasty burgers while watching our campfire roar. We caught up on events in our lives that we hadn’t had the time to talk to each other about. The desert night sky was filled with stars, more than I have ever seen anywhere else. I could vividly see Orion’s Belt and the Milky way glittered like a huge band of diamonds stretched across the blackness. I saw four shooting stars that night, Jessy didn’t see any and thought for sure I was making it up.  We knew we had a long but fun day of hiking ahead of us so we called it a night and retired in our tent.

I woke up to the sound of a car’s tires spinning. I looked out the tent window to see a younger guy pushing the rental car while Jessy stomped on the gas. Within seconds, the car was out of it’s hole and victory was ours. Of course I didn’t realize that to gain this victory, Jessy had gotten up just before 7am and dug around the entire car with a shovel for almost 45 minutes.  Sleep is so sweet. 🙂

After all the shoveling, Jessy decided it was now my turn to pack up all of our gear and take down the tent. He cracked a beer and wondered at the huge pit that now remained where the car once sat. We packed up and made some sandwiches and set out for Zion.  We got to Zion around 9am. Many of the trails at Zion require a shuttle ride so we had to sit through that before we got to explore on our own.

We were at the park for nearly 12 hours, went on 3 trails, for a total of probably 10+ miles. The first trail we went on was called the Middle Emerald Pools Trail. It was 3.2 miles round trip. The way up to the pools gave us a spectacular view of some of the formations and of the canyon valley containing the Virgin River. When we got the pools, they were filled with green algae which seemed to make the water almost glow green. We hiked just a little bit farther to the Upper Emerald Pool were there was a bigger pool. We stayed there for a little while, climbing on the rocks. Jessy discovered some really neat silver like frogs which we had no idea were actually canyon tree frogs.  We made our way back down and took a trail called the Grotto back down to the shuttle stop area.

Our next hike was called the Riverside Walk, another 3.2 miles following the Virgin River. There were  a TON of people along this trail, mainly because it was the safest and least arduous trail of the park. We had to follow it to get to our mail goal, which was the Canyon Narrows.  At a point the riverside trail ends and we were left to enter the Virgin River and continue forward by foot through the rocky rapids. I don’t know how long we followed the river, but I know we were there for at least 3 hours, so my guess would be another 3 miles if not more.  The water wasn’t very deep, except for one part which went up to our waists. However, there were slippery rocks and the sunlight did a good job of hiding them against the water’s surface. I fell a total of four times, scraping my knees and bruising them, and also soaking my underwear. Jessy fell twice, dunking my photo equipment into the water with him. Luckily, nothing was damaged besides our pride. 🙂 (Everyone saw)

We wanted to continue in the narrows but were getting tired of having to cross the river back and forth and struggle through the rapids and slippery rock. So, we decided to head back and do one last trail before our day was finished.

We debated heavily on doing a trail called “Angel’s Landing” I particularly wanted to do this trail because there was an Ansel Adams image of the “Great White Throne” which I admired heavily and set a goal for myself to someday attempt to recreate the image. The trail was 8 miles round trip and had huge drop offs, some which were 1,200 feet on one side and 900 feet on the other. The last half mile of the trail was only 30 inches wide and the park had to add in chains for climbers to grab onto since the trail was so narrow.  Just the week earlier a woman had died during that last half mile, plummeting  over 1,000 feet to her death.  The trail guide noted that it was the most difficult trail in the park and that inexperienced climbers, out of shape climbers, and people fearful of heights should NOT attempt this trail. Considering I met all of those qualifications, we decided against it.

We went on the Watchman trail instead, which was another 3.2 miles traveling up into the canyon eventually leading us to a viewpoint of the canyon’s valley. It was breathtaking. We rested at the top for almost 2 hours to watch the sunset. While waiting we saw two road runners! The wind picked up and we sat in silence looking out at this amazing view. I kept thinking to myself how amazing it all was. To think that for millions of years this was forming. How much was here before I was even in the picture. How many people passed through, how many creatures lived and died all while these formations grew and broke apart and were eroded by the elements.  It made me feel small, but in a good way. Just how amazingly unlikely my birth was, and that I was lucky to be sitting there with the wind tossing my hair in my face appreciating something so much bigger than me.

With much hesitation, we knew there was another 6 hour car ride back to Salt Lake, which would be in the dark so we needed to head back fast. We drove back taking turns at the wheel since we were both pretty exhausted at this point. The last day in Salt Lake we went to the Great Salt Lake and waded through the nasty water that only brine shrimp are strong enough to tolerate living in. Afterwards we went and Jessy finally got his tattoo, then it was back off to the airplane. 😦

It was a really great trip and I did some pretty amazing things with my amazing brother. Enjoy the pictures. Right now all I have ready to go are the Zion pictures, but later I’ll post some of the regular trip.

They are all in b&w to honor mr. ansel adams. Also they may look really hazy and that is because there was a huge lightning storm that passed through Zion the day before we came, igniting SEVERAL forest fires throughout the park. You could smell the fire while you were climbing the trails and smoke filtered through the entire canyon.

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