October 30, 2015
Red rocks, slot canyons, expansive views, river hiking, lots of stars, sleeping next to a rapid. These were the core of my experience at Zion National Park recently. My visit was but an appetizer, three quick days that left me knowing I had seen but a morsel of what there is to experience. It was a great appetizer, and one I am thankful to have tasted.
The drive to into southwestern Utah is a quick three hours from Las Vegas. In a convertible, the views were expansive and inspiring. At 75-80 miles per hour, the speed limits were but an average Michigan speed, but cruising worry and congestion free at 80 was relaxing. However, I was in a losing battle against the clock, as I was intent on reaching the campgrounds inside Zion before they filled on what was to be an unusually busy weekend for this time of year. I thought I had a chance, as the day prior the campgrounds had filled by around 2PM, and as I left Vegas at 10:30AM, I was sure to get there in time. I am not a fan of whoever put a time zone line on the map between Vegas and Zion. Losing an hour, I arrived too late for a site in any of the NPS campgrounds.
Luckily, all was not lost, as the Zion Canyon Campground just outside the entrance still had spots. I initially paid for one night, but as soon as I saw my site nestled against the river, I quickly claimed it for the duration of my stay. I love the sound of water over rapids, and I am not a big fan of hearing everyone else in the campground, so this site next to the river was ideal.
Once I set-up my tent, I went for a drive to the visitor’s center to get acclimated. Consulting my online Zion photography resources, I then proceeded to the bridge over the Virgin River near the Canyon Junction shuttle stop to try to get one of the classic Zion sunset shots. Sadly it was a cloudless day, which is not so great for photography. I still set-up my tripod and camera on the bridge next to 30 or so other people. I got a few OK shots, but when I realized the people down by the river were oblivious to all of us trying to shoot, I decided to call it a day. Between the long travel day, the lack of clouds and the couple people by the bank, I was not feeling it.
After dinner, it was back to my tent for an early bedtime and the relaxing sounds of the river.