exploring Utah – zion national park

zion national park

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Jamie, my best friend Gaston and I decided we were going to plan an escape. We routed a mini road trip through Southern Utah and ended it at my and Gaston’s hometown of Highlands Ranch, CO. What started as a quick trip led to a five month national park tour around the country. As each day went by, I began taking the hint from the world that maybe my life should slow down and perhaps I should start re-prioritizing my life. It’s rare, if not once in a lifetime, where a pandemic pushes pause on your life and forces you to look around and ask yourself how can you fully take advantage of this time.

…..more below.

cliff notes

hikes. The Narrows. Angel’s Landing. Observation Point

things to do. Zion canyon scenic drive. check out weeping wall.

coulda, shoulda, woulda. grab a slice from Zion Pizza & Noodle Co. visit kolob canyons. hit Wall Street in The Narrows. Angel’s Landing (was closed due to COVID in July 2020).

tips.

  • buy water shoes and a walking stick for The Narrows.
  • wake up early, it’s worth it.
  • leave a second pair of shoes in your car with a cooler holding water and some beers.
  • if you hike The Narrows, you will end up getting soaking wet, get over it.

…it was June 14th, 2020 and we’d nearly lost our minds after 3 months of lockdown in Los Angeles.

After a pretty extensive car pack job, 3 negative COVID-19 tests and a solid playlist achieved, we hit the road. To chop up the ride, we made our first pitstop in Primm, NV where the one and only Whiskey Pete’s exists. We quickly checked out Bonnie and Clyde’s death car, smelled the wafts of strong cigarette smoke through our masks and happily accepted a sticker that said, “TODAY’S MY DAY. I’M HERE TO WIN” with the day 6/14 listed on it. Coming from many months of groundhog’s day it was mini shock to see how different things were elsewhere, and quite honestly it was refreshing to be in a place where we didn’t know what to expect next.

We hopped back on the road and wasted no time in digging into Zion National Park. We knew the sun was going to set fairly soon so no ambitious hikes were in our future, but we drove down Highway 9 entering from the South entrance at Springdale and stopped off a few spots. As soon as we entered the park we became enveloped into the 2,000 feet tall walls rising above us.

Parking for the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive was bananas by the time we got there, but I’ll get to that fun later. As we drove west to east towards our glamping abode in Orderville, UT, we marveled at how completely stunning these rock formations were, and how each ribboned layer was the result of deposits that had built up hundreds of millions of years ago. This landscape has evolved, seen many different ecosystems/inhabitants and it continues to awe inspire its visitors today. After taking a few pictures, we drove through to the Observation Point trailhead. Be warned, you should probably have a car that can handle high clearances. We didn’t get too far before the sunset, but it was beautiful nonetheless and will be what we come back for on our next trip.

I will be the first to admit I am a morning person, but unfortunately for me, my fellow travelers are not. You see, the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive previously mentioned is where all the major hikes are (The Narrows & Angels Landing), and due to COVID-19, the shuttles that typically drove hikers up and down the road were closed. Most people online advised that we get to that road by 5:30AM at latest to ensure we get one of the few parking spots up top. We did not get there by 5:30AM the next morning. And so, as an overachiever does when faced with limited time in a spot and nothing else to do there, I made us walk the scenic drive. In total, that is 6.2 miles up and 6.2 miles back…12.4 miles to just get to and from the hike.

Angel’s Landing, a treacherous, yet incredibly popular hike at Zion had closed the chains at the top due to COVID-19. The chains are essential for some of the most narrow and steep parts of the hike, and heights involved, you’ll want to hold onto them. For us, it made more sense to visit that hike when we could do it justice and so we focused our efforts on The Narrows. The 6.2 mile walk up to the Narrows trailhead was quite spectacular. The views were everywhere you looked and the temperature was brisk, yet comfortable. Few folks dared to walk up the scenic road and so it was an incredibly peaceful morning to enjoy.

Once we arrived at the trailhead for the Narrows, we realized how completely ill prepared we were for this hike where cold water would at moments come up to your chest. RENT A WALKING STICK AND WATER SHOES. PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD JUST DO IT. Every step of the hike was a game of how do I not eat shit as the river current encourages me to do so, and also how heavy is my hiking boot when I lift my foot up? Despite all of this, the dramatic views and the narrow gorges made it all worth it. Big tip about this hike: don’t stop until you’ve hit Wall Street. Maybe you download an online map or yell at the guy down the river who is holding one, but just keep going. We were pretty damn tired after a few hours, so eventually we did turn back (no thanks on a 15.5 mile hike point to point on top of our 12.4 walk).

We started heading back with our legs and feet numb and 6.2 miles back down! TOTES easy downhill, right? Well lucky for us we now were enduring 100+ degree weather walking down and there was not a beer in sight. Altogether this grueling journey was around 27 miles total for us and boy did we do ABSOLUTELY NOTHING for the rest of the day. For being the first park on this unexpectedly long journey, we fell into every single pothole, trap, mistake we could have. We even left our flour tortillas in our tent free to mold up in the scorching heat while we hiked all day. It was a funny experience. Nonetheless, no matter how annoying or painful or impossible the feat seemed, we continued to do what I think this year is making all of us do. We kept on going and adapted to our environment as the circumstances changed. Of course this means that I ABSOLUTELY have to compare our Zion experience to the sedimentary rocks that have weathered many a storm and continue to deposit new layers as their surroundings change! Each rock layer that makes Zion as spectacular as it is tells a different story where different species, changes in weather and time altered what the canyon would look like. While 2020 might be a pretty fucking brutal layer of rock to pile on, it’s only going make everything else in our future more magnificent and strong as we continue to evolve and change.

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