I had originally planned on staying near Arches but decided to just keep driving into the night. I had originally planned on visiting Bryce Canyon but it was really late and with nothing looked open and no quick and easy campgrounds I decided to continue on to Zion. I did try sleeping at a rest area but I still had not figured out a comfortable way to sleep and get more than an hour or two. So after a few hours I gave up and continued down the road.
In Michigan, we have deer crossing signs on the side of the road but on my way to Zion I saw about twenty of them and they were surrounded by what looked like blinking Christmas lights. After a few of these signs and a LOT of deer sightings I decided to drive 30 mph down a 60 mph road. I was totally paranoid and did not want to get into an accident so far from home in the middle of the night. It took me a lot of extra time but I eventually made it to the park in one piece around 2am.
The entrance booth was unmanned here too so I continued in the dark driving down the red colored (and really curvy) road towards the visitor’s center. It was so dark here I could not tell what the landscape was like. I first wanted to see where the visitor’s center was located. Once that was done I could then head into town and find someplace to crash. Once I arrived I noticed a number of cars parked in the lot. This caught me off guard as I didn’t know you could camp in the park. I don’t think that you are supposed to but since others were there I decided to give it a shot and hopefully get an early start on the day before the masses showed up.
I woke up in the morning and realized why it was so dark in the park. There were mountains surrounding the whole park. They are all red and unlike anything I had seen before. This is definitely a park that will make you feel small, really small. The visitors center was beautiful too. They are working hard at being a green facility and nurturing native trees/plants nearby which provide shade and a break from the Summer sun.
A friend at Red Rocks (Billy Van Horn) who also serves as one of my National Park advisors had convinced me that I needed to shave a day off of my trip somewhere to spend an extra day at Yellowstone. So…. I decided to only spend one day at Zion. As I was having altitude issues on the trip I decided to cut out the Angels Landing hike. It is a 5 mile round trip hike up and down a mountain. One mile of the round trip hike is along the spine of a mountain. I will be heading back in 2016 to conquer this one so you will have to wait to hear more about it.
After exploring the visitors center and buying a walking stick, a few dry bags for electronics and some souvenirs I hopped on the shuttle to the Narrows. The Narrows is a hike in one of the most beautiful slot canyons in the world. There are two ways to hike the canyon. You can take a 2 day trip and hike the complete stretch of the canyon or a one day trip and hike up the river about 4 miles and then head back to the shuttle. Since I had only one day here and read that the best views were at the lower portion of the canyon I decided for the one day trip.
As the hike takes you up a river and across boulders/rocks that are constantly moving proper preparation and gear is a must.
I brought a large sturdy walking stick (made of wood and not just a hiking pole), Keen sandals (the ones that have a toe protector) and Camelback to carry water, camera, phone and lunch. The water in the river is pretty cold but eventually you get used to it. Just make sure to take time to stop and enjoy the scenery and talk with others making the rip up the canyon. I stopped about every 5 minutes to talk to someone or take a few photographs.
About 4 miles up the canyon I met another guy on a solo trip and as we stopped for a smoke break we each exchanged travel stories. It was really nice to see and hear that other people enjoy traveling by themselves too. His trip took him from the Grand Canyon to Banff National Park in Canada and everything in between.
Once I returned to the trail I spotted a waterfall down a hill and after not showering since Denver decided I had to wash off a bit. The river was full of swimmers so I wasn’t breaking any park rules. After swimming I headed back to the crowded shuttle. I was really tired and after a number of stops around the park I returned to my car. I turned on my car to cool down, changed out of my wet clothes and boiled some water to make a Mountain House dehydrated meal (Mac and Cheese) and a Diet Mountain Dew.
After straightening everything in my vehicle I headed out of the park and took photos of the surrounding mountains at each of the pull off areas along the road. I was heading back towards Panguitch, Utah. I figured I would try to find a campground and laundry facilities. The town turned out to be a small town with a lot of travelers coming and going. There were plenty of charming local hotel options and a nearby laundry. I stayed at the Canyon Lodge and luckily reserved the last room. It was going to feel great to sleep in a regular bed, take a few warm showers and watch a bit of TV and plan the next few days of my trip.