In 1967 my father bought a Pontiac Catalina and a dingy old travel trailer and took his girlfriend, my brother and me on a road trip. Over the next 8 weeks we drove 13,498 miles, visited 51 parks, and saw wonders like geysers, redwoods, grizzlies, and the Summer of Love in San Francisco. The trip made an indelible impression, cementing my appreciation for the natural world and the American landscape. This summer Pamela and I hope to repeat the experience for our family.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Dave: Zion National Park always gets short shrift

I've been to Zion three times now. Each time, I've spent only a few hours there.

Many people tell me Zion is their favorite park. I believe them. But it seems like life doesn't want me to get familiar with the place.

Today we were slow leaving Vegas. It took a while to schlep all the bags around and get Judy acclimated to the rental car she is using (while we borrow her van) and the navigation system we provided to take to the place of the Honda's nice GPS. Plus we had to stop at Barnes and Noble to restock Linden's book supply. She had already blown through all the books she brought on the trip. To boot, we forgot about losing an hour when we crossed back into Mountain Time. Even eating a rolling picnic, we didn't get to our motel in Springdale until 5 PM.

Immediately we pulled on our hiking books and jumped on the shuttle bus up the canyon. Instead of taking an afternoon hike, as we had planned, we only had time to do a few fly-bys.

Even so, it proved to be extremely pleasant.

Of course, the landscape is spectacular. Incredible, soaring ramparts of red and white, all towering over a pleasant river valley lined with cottonwoods.

The shuttle system they have instituted at Zion eliminates the sense of crowds, vehicular gridlock, and suicidal rampages that come on me when visiting some national parks. Instead, your focus turns back to the landscape. There are people around, of course, but it doesn't feel suffocating. I wonder whether total visitor numbers are up or down since the shuttles were introduced.

We rode the shuttle to the top of the canyon and took a short hike along the river, but were soon driven back when a summer thundershower unleashed a downpour on us. Then we worked our way down the canyon, stopping for some other pleasant little hikes at the weeping rocks and the emerald pools. After spotting some deer, there was much laughter when we started identifying anything that moved as a deer.

Back in Springdale we had pizza and beer on a deck at a place called the Flying Monkey. We looked out at the soaring jagged red walls while the sun set. We talked to our waitress, who is planning to leave Springdale soon and move to St. Louis, where she hopes to be more active in historic re-enactments. A warm breeze blew and the whole time we did not see a single mosquito. I guess we are not in Florence, Massachusetts.

Tomorrow we're going to drive across Zion on the way to Bryce. So it was short and sweet today. Shame. I could see some intriguing trails heading up into the remote, rocky passes. I could almost hear them calling out to me.

Oh well. Maybe on visit number four Zion and I can get serious.


  1. What an amazing place! When we visited a few years ago, fires constrained hiking options. B and N managed the knee-quavering hike up Angel's Landing. Zak and I did yeoman's work sitting in the lodge. I got the cookbook so I could replicate the delicious eggplant dish. Let's make it when you get back!

  2. Family Wicinae: what a great trip and adventure - perhaps excepting Linden's extremely hot day.

    If it's hot there, then you should know that it snowed on Mt Washington Thursday. It doesn't matter, still a good day for a hike.

    Enjoy it and post more pictures.