Summer 2011 - Chapter 2: Zion's National Park

To usher in more of Summer, we decided that we needed that all-important trip to a National Park. Last year I took Turtle to Capital Reef. She had a blast. But she'd always wanted to see Zion.

So this time it was going to happen. Turtle was getting ready to move (more on that in an upcoming post), so we knew this was our only chance. Joshy decided to join us, and we were more than happy to have him along for the ride.

I asked to leave work early as early as possible (to which my boss laughed. Me leave early? HA). My boss was in a strangely good mood and stopped what he was working on and started getting out tour books and maps and telling me all about where we should go in the park (I never even told him that's WHY I wanted to leave early... he got the info through the grapevine). I was super taken aback. Then, even funnier, he went to lunch and when he got back he was like WHY ARE YOU STILL HERE?! LOL When I asked to leave early I meant like 3pm. Not 11am. Why would I come to work for just 3 hours?! So that was a pretty humorous experience.

Joshy met me at my house and we went to Turtle's to get her. She piled in and we were off. The drive down went really fast because we were deeply engrossed in finishing off The Silver Chair (book review in an upcoming post) and starting The Horse and His Boy (ditto).

We were looking for somewhere to camp outside Zion, but we missed it on the way in, so we decided to see if there was any camping inside. There was one spot left! Lucky! It was just light enough for us to get our tent up. The pay spot was pretty much all rocks/gravel, so not the most comfortable sleeping arrangement. It wasn't bedtime yet, so we wanted to do something. We snagged a bus up canyon to the Emerald Pools (even though it was dark). Night hike! We did fine for a while just hiking in the dark, but then we got to a part with a lot of rocks so we had to bust out the flashlight. The pools were pretty cool, even though we couldn't really see them. Then we hiked back down, caught the last bus, and settled in for the night.

I didn't sleep so good that night. In and out of sleep alot, and the ground was super uncomfortable. We pretty much woke up with the sun. Joshy and I went to the first-come, first-serve campground to scope a spot. We found a really awesome one (with sand!) and a giant shade tree and I sat there and "camped" while Joshy went back, shoved everything in the car, and he and Turtle came over to our new site.

We set up the new site and staked the tent and such while Turtle made us breakfast of tortillas, peanut butter and honey. Mmm carbs! Then we hopped the bus to Angel's Landing - Turtle's dream hike.

We made Turtle go really fast because the trail was still in the shade and she was dying. But the sun was coming up and it was going to be REALLY hot, so we pushed her. She agreed that it was totally worth it.

When we were almost all the way up, we stopped in some shade and found some people who were visiting from like NYC or something, and they had to decided to quit. All that work and you aren't even going to the top!? We dragged them with us the rest of the way. We were not about to stand by and let them come that far and then just go home. Pshh.

Finally, after hours and hours (not really, but it felt like it to Turtle!) we were at the TOP!!! YAY!!!

I felt like the top of Capital Reef was cooler, but that's me. We met these two guys at the top who were reading Scripture. They were super Catholics from Ohio, right near where I grew up. They'd spent time at a monastery that Turtle's uncle was the Abbott of. We chatted with them about Ohio, and nature, and God, and all kinds of things. They were pretty cool people. I've always been interested in the way other people believe, and how that belief translates into the way that they live their lives. The underpinnings of all that intrigue me to no end.

We hung out on top for a while, had lunch, and just enjoyed the view.

Then it was time to go back down. And we knew it was a looooong way down!

The sun was out and it was indeed HOT. Turtle was struggling, but we pushed and made it okay. We took the bus back to camp and then decided we wanted to go into town and see the sights and get some food. We had lunch at a mexican restaurant, then went to a candy store. When we got back, we were trying to decide what to do. It was way hot, so we decided to go swimming. We found a spot at the Virgin river where some other people were hanging out, and we got in to join them.

This is NOT where we were swimming... that picture is of the river at a much more swollen spot. In the shallows where we were, it was barely over our ankles.

We played with rocks and waded and generally had a grand ol' time. There were some people upriver from us whose kids were rafting in tubes and having a blast. Downriver from us there were a bunch of rapids. Scary looking rapids. Especially with the river as swollen as it was.

Then came a moment I lived to regret (thank goodness), but one that I still find myself mulling over more than a month later. One of the kids, I dunno she was 7 or 8, did not get off her tube in time and stop and went past her family toward the rapids. She turned and looked at us with panic on her face and said "help me!" She was swept away and her parents were yelling and screaming. She managed to grab onto a branch halfway through the rapids, but it wasn't going to hold, and no one in her family was in a spot to reach her. I was already wading in the river, and I was the closest person.

What should I have done? I was super sacred for this poor girl! So I made the decision to go and help her. I was crossing the river to get to the side she was clinging near, but I never made it. The current was so powerful it swept me right off my feet. If you pay attention to the news, you know there have been like 14 drownings in the last month because the rivers are so bad.

I lost my footing and was swept away. And now I couldn't think of saving the girl at all, I had to save myself! I was scared to say the least. The water was rushing so strong there was no way I was going to be able to stop and get up again - It was now a matter of incur as little damage as possible and keep my head above water. I smashed into rock after rock in the rapids. I didn't swallow any water, and eventually made it through the rapids okay, but when I managed to swim to the side at a calmer spot, my legs were bleeding all over. I was so tore up.

And then I started thinking... was that really stupid of me? I knew people were drowning, I should have realized that the current would be wicked strong, I should have realized that would happen, but what about the girl? Should I have just not cared and left her to fend for herself? Someone from her family eventually got to her and she was fine, and not one of them ever said anything to me about it. I don't even know if they noticed that I'd tried to save the girl...

I got back in the water and cooled my aching legs, which bruised badly and took weeks to completely heal, and thought about these things. Was I really dumb for trying to help her since I could have lost my own life? I haven't settled on an answer yet.

After that I was pretty much done at the river. On the way back to our campsite, we met up with the Catholic boys again. They were in our same campground! So we chatted some more and then agreed to do evening prayers with them. I was super curious about the way they worshiped. I don't know why that sort of practice is so fascinating to me, but it is.

We decided we were tired and I voted for a nap, commenting that we always seem to be go, go, go whenever we vacation, and we never just chill out. Turtle agreed and we zonked. It was an awesome nap.

After we woke up we debated doing another hike, but decided against it because it would take too long to get up the canyon. So we played cards - good ol' war and 21. And then when we were hungry we went and got ice cream and ranch dressing right outside the park (not together! the ranch was for the veggies we had back at camp. silly). Then we had dinner and just relaxed.

We hung around for a long time before the Catholics finally got back from town. We started a fire and did evening prayers and it was so neat to see them pray and sing in latin and they were so of one mind, it was really cool. A discussion ensued about belief and doctrine that I wasn't interested in in the least. I like to see how and why people do things, especially when it comes to things as deep-seated as faith, but I couldn't care less about the small places we are going to differ in tenet and principle. I already know your views aren't mine, and that's enough for me. So I went to bed while the others kept chatting.

Next morning we packed everything and moved over to the Visitor Center. We took the bus all the way to the Temple of Sinawava and hiked as far as we could up the narrows (just to the mouth - the narrows were closed because the river was too high).

So we'd seen all we could see pretty much. Time to turn around and go home. We started winding our way down the canyon and decided to visit weeping rock, since rumor had it they had hanging gardens.

It was a pretty cool spot. Water coming off the overhang all around us and such. I read a sign that told me about Observation Point, which is apparently higher than Angel's Landing, and I was like WHAT?! Why haven't I ever heard of this?! I want to do that one! We didn't have time though. I'd have to come back. We wound our way back down canyon and then went into town for some brunch at Wild Cat Willy's before heading home, which again resulted in me reading more of The Chronicles of Narnia (reviews coming soon). We wanted to leave the park early Sunday so we would still have time to do stuff that night before work Monday.

Stay tuned for more awesome summer trips!


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