Zion National Park

The Grotto, Zion National Park
The Grotto, Zion National Park

August 29, 2008

A day that began with an ambitious plan but sidetracked by poor execution.

I don’t have to tell anyone it is hot in the Nevada desert in the summer. 42°C hot, to be exact, on this very day we planned to go to Zion Nation Park in Utah, a three-hour drive away from our comfortable, air-conditioned room on the Strip in Vegas.

We were back in Vegas again, a mere three months after our last visit. Vegas is definitely not my kind of town, but I was drawn back by its unbeatable airfare and hotel package rate – one of the rare benefits of the ongoing Great Recession.

We woke up early, got downstairs for some buffet breakfast, then got our first taste of the scorching heat and blinding light when we took a step out of the entrance of our hotel and quickly rushed back indoor. A few days in Vegas would do that to you; people only go out at night here in the summer.

Motivation was low to make the long drive to some forsaken valley in this murderous heat. Our minds complied to our senses by showing no willingness to step foot outside again.

The clock had ticked to 3 p.m. and a day of doing nothing loomed ahead. Since we had already rented a car for the day, we at last willed ourselves out of our room and attempted a late charge to Zion.

The drive was smooth once we left Las Vegas and its congested traffic. It was rather bland too. The scenery made a dramatic turn once we left I-15 and onto Ut-9.  As the sun set, the rock formation on the right side of the road glowed into a fiery red under the orange sunlight. The scenery was amazing, but we were racing against time to reach Zion before the sun disappeared completely. Not that we could accomplish much at the park, but it would be a shame to not even be able to take a short walk inside.

We parked the car at the entrance and boarded the park’s shuttle bus at 19:15 (one hour faster in Utah). The sun was out of sight already, but some dim light remained. The difference between Zion and Grand Canyon, where we visited a couple of months earlier, was immediately apparent. While everyone marveled at the Grand Canyon from above at its rim, here at Zion we arrived at a deep valley flanked by towering rock. This perspective from the canyon’s base offered a more intimate experience, but the trade-off was a much more limited range of vision. We got off the shuttle at the Grotto, and had a half an hour hike to the base of the Angel Landing before darkness completely engraved us.

Without a doubt we did not even see 1/100th of the park, yet to be able to hike in the dark with only the two of us in sight was a memorable experience that left me elated on the drive back to Vegas.

One day I will make a proper visit to Zion, along with Bryce Canyon and perhaps the Monument Valley and the Antelope Canyon.

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