After a few days of cruising down I-15 in my sweet rental Jeep (beep beep!), I met up with my Dad in La Verkin, Utah. He had set up a temporary RV home-base on BLM land nearby, outside the little settlement of Virgin, Utah.
The BLM (Bureau of Land Management) oversees more than 200 million acres of Public Lands in America. Full time RV'ers like my Dad often stay on these patchwork sections of land strewn across the Western US, intersecting with private property and bordering some of our national parks and forests. They are free campgrounds/open spaces where stay is usually limited to two weeks. The BLM is responsible for managing protected conservation areas, government owned recreation space, and underground minerals. It has been in the news quite a bit lately as President Dipshit attempts to withdraw both funding and acreage from public lands in his efforts to open up the fracking and oil industries, and generally be an even greater source of destruction than he already is.
But, I digress.
After a delicious dinner at a local cafe, we headed to Dad's little home on wheels to get some sleep before our first day of hiking together in Zion National Park. From that first sunset drive, I was astonished to witness the remarkable greenery and foliage of Southern Utah. Big, blooming, yellow cottonwood trees lined the Virgin River that snakes along the highway towards the entrance of Zion. For early November, it was still wondrously and bountifully colorful.
Utah was like that though; altogether unexpected and ripe with a remarkable beauty that I couldn't have predicted. Although I've been to the Southwest, this area was completely different from my former experiences. Perhaps it was also due in part to the season; When I think of childhood summers in New Mexico or Arizona, I think of dusty desert sunsets, watching the cacti and raptors from my dad's porch hammock, adobe houses, red clay, and green hatch chilies sold on the side of the road. I remember vast, empty, flat landscapes that stretched on forever.
Zion and its surroundings are far from empty or flat. I had to stop often in awe of the unbelievable magic and total saturation of color all around me. I think I averaged one photo every 4 minutes because I was having a hard time processing the sensational explosion of light and color in the moment. Each time passing clouds cleared, sunshine would highlight the brilliant rock faces surrounding us in an illuminating golden hue; Basically the equivalent of having a halo surround these monoliths.
The upper left corner of Washington is lush, green, overgrown, littered with ferns and low hanging leaves, mossy, and wet. Southern Utah is everything at once: diverse, monumental, dry, with staggering peaks and canyon crevices that seem to spiral down to the very center of the earth. Sporadically rainy, yellow, orange, red and white at the same time, with sand stone hills and geological oddities at every turn.
Zion National Park feels like the ancient settlement of Gods on Earth. There is something strange and supernatural about the park itself. Yes, it is crowded with people from every country imaginable, all desperate to witness the same grand design as you. Yet more than any other public land or national monument I have ever been to, it felt like a gateway to another world full of anthropomorphic wonders. I could imagine the court of the patriarchs (three huge sandstone cliffs) coming to life any moment as kind giants re-awoken. Looking down on the incalculable vistas of the valley below Angel's Landing, I imagined dragons and mystical creatures hiding out in the wide open and far slung corners of the park. If there is a safe place for magical and wonderful beasts in the modern age, Zion is it.
It was nothing short of a blessing to experience this magic with my Dad and his incredible friends. He is beyond lucky to have found the sincere, adventurous, and knowledgeable Red Rocks Gang. I saw a side of Zion that only the experienced and well-trodden visitor gets to see thanks to Mark and Bobbie, who led us on some trails outside of the core zone. On our Many Ponds hike the second day, we encountered a large group of big horn sheep but zero human beings until the very end of the trail! I can't wait to meet back up with them again soon.
|I loved these exposed ridge lines
|Those are some biggg horns in person!
|So many intriguing rock formations, carved by water and time
|Dad and I
|Love my Dad
|Mark and Bobbie are relationship goals
|Keep your fingers crossed for no flash floods
Angel's Landing and part of the West Rim Trail:
|Headed up to Angel's Landing
|The white sandstone of the West Rim