I had been to Zion National Park when I was in 7th grade as an arrogant lump of teenager. My father drove me to one of the lookouts and we toured the visitor center and I was unimpressed as it was neither unhealthy food nor Magic cards. My tastes had changed considerably since and every inch of the park now interested me. Chris and I were on camping time which involves going to sleep when you’re tired at some point after the sun goes down and waking when the tent gets too warm or the sound of European tourists rising guilts you into carpe-ing some diem. Driving down from Lava Point gives one only a taste of one part of the park but it’s a heck of a part.
All of the road signs were pockmarked with small(ish) arms fire reminding us that while this was a National Park for Chris and I, people lived here. Those people had their own customs and their own thoughts on what made appropriate target practice.
I was far from peak physical condition but I felt the trail was hitting me overly hard. After a loop of about four and a half miles I felt near death. I asked Chris if he found himself tired and he looked back at me saying “we’re 7000 feet above sea level.” This made me feel much better and I only wish I could use that excuse when I got tired going up to my 3rd floor apartment back in Philly.
Zion National Park’s terrain is sculpted by the Virgin River, a body of water that moves some 90% of its water in only 10% of the year. Besides being an awesome example of the Pareto principle, it suggests that this place floods, and when it floods, it floods a lot. This flood/drought cycle influenced the ecology of the park and trees close to the river are either young enough that there’s been no major flood to uproot them or old enough that they can take a deluge. That’s a heck of an excluded middle.
Chris and I felt beat up but happy after our trail loop and took a rest before attempting The Narrows Trail. Chris was faster on the uptake and it took me a little to realize that “Narrows Trail” meant “walk up the Virgin river”. I brought my camera and the views up the walls of the canyon was moving. Each inch of rock removed was worn of water and time.
I have a near infinite capacity for kinetic activity that requires exertion without being exhausting and at some point I felt I was dragging Chris through riparian monotony. He didn’t complain and he was polite enough to point out that the trail functionally ended dozens of miles from where we were. This was what we looked like most of the time.
After saying “Just one more bend” some fifteen times I called it quits after the water reached sternum depth and we did the trail again in reverse. I was glad I overbought shoes. Back at the trailhead, I washed out my shoes and we took the tram back to the park entrance.
This view isn’t as spectacular as say The Grand Canyon, Pike’s Peak or any other number of grand vistas but this is the kind of view that makes me wish I could slow down time, bottle a moment, and hold it for a day where I spend 10 hours staring at Excel. This was my favorite view of the trip so far, until an hour later I got another treat.
Theoretically there were and will be views more impressive but this one knocked me back for how locally quotidian it was. Some 30 miles from here Chris and I got a sandwich served by the least interested food service worker I may have ever encountered. This view was a 30 minute drive from where she worked and she probably thought nothing of it. I hope this is something I see often enough to be sated but not so often that it becomes pedestrian.
The sandwich stop was also my first interaction with “locals”. As we pulled up, the man from American Gothic was considering his Subway sandwich while Lennie from Of Mice and Men washed off his truck and frequently sprayed Chris and the car by accident. I asked the counter attendant where he went for fun. His reply was a town some 75 miles away. More people are in my office building than his county and we are in the same country. I hope we get a chance to swap some day. We saw more local on the way to Bryce Canyon in the form of the Bryce Canyon Airport. At first I thought this was a joke but I later checked with Google Maps. A plane can land here and that is both wonderful and terrifying.
Bryce Canyon itself was nice or at least that’s how it started. As we headed East into the park and higher in altitude and the sun slid south to the horizon this was the sequence of our responses to each new canyon.
“Huuuh, hur huhh, hooooooo”
The last was just a grunt. A pilcrow marking that there was nothing more to be said on the matter where a period was simply insufficient. Chris identified a color of purple in the sky that may exist beyond the rainbow. At this late hour, we practically had the park to ourselves and each grand vista was ours.
We settled in for the evening at a tent slip and I was angry at having cell reception. I wanted nature dammit. I inflated my air mattress and found that it had stopped holding air properly. Air was slipping out through the fill valve and I thought myself sneaky by wrapping the plastic wrapping from the sausage we had for dinner around the inlet and tying it in place. My knot wasn’t quite tight enough and air leaked out albeit slower and now with a high pitch whistle that sounded like someone squeezing a desert rain frog. Funny followed by rage-inducing. Chris nodded off and I deflated my air mattress to the point where my body blocked the fill valve. Here I was, in Bryce Canyon, lying on an air taco, with cell reception. What the shit.