Seeing Zion National Park

The drive through southern Utah was the most gorgeous stretch of the trip. It's funny how well the terrain seems to combine the best of the red rock desert of northern Arizona with the rugged greenery of the Colorado high country. Before coming into Zion we made an unexpected detour at the Lake Powell dam. In retrospect I wish we'd had the time to take the full tour, but as it was we needed to get back on the road in order to hit Zion before sundown.

The eastern entrance to the park takes you down into the canyon, affording plenty of amazing sites and a number of hiking trails. The rock formations and overall topography is a lot different there on the outskirts than it is in the interior of the canyon, where we spent the remainder of that, and all of the following, day. Everyone we talked to spoke about how “different” Zion is compared to a lot of other national parks; probably because it's such an amalgamation of the best natural features of many other parks, creating a kind of hybrid beauty all its own. We didn't attempt to hike The Narrows, not with the young one along, though I did still buy the t-shirt. We did, however, hit one of the other famous features of the park, Weeping Rock. Where The Narrows hike is described as being suited for more advanced hikers (due to the fact that the entire length of the trail is in the river, with the associated dangers of flooding), the Weeping Rock trail is rated as a short family-friendly hike. It was only a few weeks after we'd been there that a rock slide happened along that trail, injuring a few folks and stranding many others at the site. It just goes to show you never know where danger really lies.

The weather in the canyon was hot, as we were expecting, but not unbearably so. We set out as soon we could that morning before the heat and bus lines got really bad. The kids were starting to wilt a bit by the end of the tour, but everybody seemed to have a great time taking in the sites. After we finished the tour we grabbed a terrific Mexican dinner in town and walked back to the hotel where Kassi and I took advantage of some down time to run a load of laundry and shop around for some adult beverages. In the evening we took the younger two out to the pool and let them play around while we watched the sunset over the mountains. Thinking back on it now I feel almost as peaceful and relaxed as I did that night. What a beautiful place.

Zion is having a problem these days with significant overcrowding, and you can tell that from some of the photos. One of the solutions being proposed is to open up more of the park to visitors, make existing trails more accessible, and advertise some of the more out of the way sections of the park in order to spread folks out. Although it was annoying at certain points along the trail, it didn't ruin our overall experience of such a beautiful and flagship park. Of all the national park Instagram pages I subscribe to, some of the most beautiful photography regularly comes out of Zion. The negative impact that Instagram is having on tourism is a separate conversation, but there's no denying it led us there, and I'm grateful for that. At least they kept the buses running on time. We never had to wait very long for a ride.

One of the highlights for me was scratching off a bucket list item for my Nikon superzoom lens. Kassi, with her typically sharp eye, spotted a mountain climber just as we were about to exit the park. We'd been looking for one, but assumed the rock would have been too hot that morning. From the ground the climber was barely visible with the naked eye. Everyone assumed it was a guy. The fact that I was able to get such clear, detailed closeup photos — enough to see the strain on her face and the muscles on her back — just blows me away. This is so much more than I might have asked for in a zoom lens. (And by the way, about 75% of these pictures were taken with the Nikon, giving you a little idea of just how fun and versatile it is to shoot with.)

Next up is Arches, my personal favorite of the parks we visited this year. Many great pictures to come.