This destination was recommended to us several times, but it was Michael’s recommendation that convinced us. He wrote in an email that he didn’t want to oversell it, but Zion National Park is like heaven on Earth.
And it is out of this world.
The drive into the park is spectacular. Even if you aren’t into hiking, this park is very accessible and can be enjoyed just from your car, if you so choose.
I nearly died laughing watching him turn around to come back down. It was like when a cat races up a tree and then realizes that coming back down is a heck-of-a-lot harder. Their once agile and springy run up turns into an awkward and cautious picking their way slowly back down.
We had to cross through two tunnels through the mountains on our drive through the park. We switched drivers at this point, since, it turns out, I’m not too keen on tunnels (who knew! I didn’t.). We didn’t envy the RV drivers then, and felt again that the Westy was the right choice for us. Traffic on both sides was stopped when one of the larger RVs (which is 90% of them) had to go through, and they’d have one of the park rangers escort them to the other side.
We read the park guide and we had a couple choices for hiking trails. One that I definitely want to go back and do is an intense hike along the cliff-tops of the mountains, where at some points you’re walking right along the edge, with only a rope handrail keeping you from slipping off.
Because our muscles were tired from the Grand Canyon hike and because, it turns out, Steve isn’t too keen on heights (who knew! I didn’t.), we decided that the river-walk sounded the most appealing. The hike starts out with about a 45-minute walk on a paved path along the river. Then the path ends and it’s just river through a canyon for miles and miles.
So we hiked up the river. Literally. We were up to our knees in cool flowing water for 4 hours, sometimes all the way up to our waists. Some people fell in altogether and got soaked, but we were obsessively careful. Our camera is precious to us, and if you chose your footing carefully, you never had to get wetter than up to your waist.
We learned from one of the shuttle bus drivers on the way to the hiking spot that there is a bird in Zion National Park called the Canyon Wren, and we were lucky to see a couple. One was hanging out on a rock, bouncing up and down and chirping at us. We think possibly she was trying to distract us from a nearby nest of little ones because otherwise her behaviour was just downright silliness!
We also learned from the bus driver that this park is one of the world’s most popular destinations for rock climbers and I kept searching high above for any of those brave and crazy souls dangling from the cliff-side. But actually it was while hiking up the river that we stumbled upon some climbers rappelling down a tiny waterfall.
Apparently I retained a lot of the information that the bus driver told us because I also remember him saying that the water seeping out of the mountain has been making its way through the cracks and crevices for thousands of years. Scientists tested some of the water that finally made its way out and found it to be 4000 years old. Isn’t that amazing?! I’ve never touched something thousands of years old before. Usually things that old are locked up inside of glass cases in museums.
We didn’t intend to hike for as long as we did (another 4 hour hike), but around every turn in the river there was a new and beautiful path laid out ahead and I kept saying to Steve “let’s just see what’s around the next bend!”
Eventually the cold water and the fading sun started to give us goose bumps and the other hikers were fewer and far between, so we turned back.
Returning was a lot easier because we knew exactly where to cross the river so that the current wouldn’t carry us away – it was strong enough at some points to sweep you off your feet! And we knew where to cross so that the water level wasn’t as high. On the way there we’d seen many people with special shoes and hiking sticks and learned from a precocious little boy that you could purchase these from the park. He exclaimed to us in an I-told-you-so tone as we were slowly picking our way across a difficult current in the river that, “you should have got shoes like me! They sell them at the lodge” and “you shouldn’t do it without a walking stick!”
Eventually we did find a big pile of branches and fallen tree limbs that had piled up in the river and grabbed ourselves some walking sticks.
I was quite fond of mine until I actually tried using it. When I finally made it across a particularly difficult point in the river, with no help but rather hindrance from the stick, I flung it into a bush and said good riddance. Steve stuck with his though, and I stuck with Steve. He was my walking stick.
The way back was like a totally different hike because every turn looked different coming from the other direction. And the direction of the sun had changed as well, so the lighting was all different. I found it hard to capture the beauty and magnificence around us with the contrast of bright light and dark shadows depending on where the sun was catching the rocks. It’s truly a sight that must be experienced in person.
That night Steve fell asleep instantly, exhausted from all the physical exertion and long drives we’d been making. But I was wide-awake. I woke him up at 2am, urgency in my voice, “tomorrow we have to go to the South rim of the Grand Canyon.” And this is how wonderful my husband is – he woke up just enough to see that I was serious and replied with the same sincerity “okay, we will.”
And so that is why we drove back the way we came and decided to see the other side of the Grand Canyon.
And we weren’t disappointed.