lost, for a little while


the golden circle’s greatest hits: zion
June 16, 2011, 12:31 am
Filed under: trips

Zion

It’s a tough call picking a favorite of the Utah parks, but if forced to choose, Zion would be the winner. It’s got everything: awesome hikes, gushing waterfalls, towering rocks, and enough animals running around to keep you on your toes.

When we got to the park, we found out that all the campgrounds were full and that it was expected to storm that evening. I didn’t want to admit defeat so easily, but one look at my cousin and I knew we wouldn’t be camping that night. The nearby Best Western was booked solid, but they told my aunt to try this place down the street, the Mount Carmel Motel. What we found was quickly added to my growing list of “Bizarre Lodgings.”

The motel was a set of one-story buildings arranged in an L-shape, only six rooms in all. When Aunt Barby went into the ‘office,’ there was no one there–but there was a clipboard with a numbered list and a note asking guests to sign their name next to the room they were staying in. Only one spot was left, and we snatched it up. The note then informed us that the room keys could be found hanging on a hook in the room, and to please pay before leaving in the morning.

Sure enough, the room was unlocked when we tried the door. I walked in, expecting the worst, and was pleasantly surprised to find a neat room with two queen beds, a mini fridge, arm chair, and small flat screen television. The shower was just slightly larger than an airplane bathroom and the decor was only slightly better than your great-aunt’s house, but everything was clean and smelled freshly laundered. We were sold.

We decided to try to get in some time at the park before it rained, and caught one of the ranger talk bus tours that was going around that evening. Zion has a shuttle system that cuts down the amount of traffic through the park itself (a really great system that I wish was more common in other parks), and every night they had a special shuttle that would make extra stops and have a ranger on-board to narrate the scenery and answer questions. It was interesting, and a good way to get ideas for what to explore more the next day, but what I really enjoyed was the look on our ranger’s face whenever people on the bus would interrupt the lecture to point out a turkey or deer on the side of the road.

Animals will always trump geology. Don’t forget it.

Mount Carmel Motel office/Mount Carmel's Post Office

The next morning, my aunt dragged me into the motel office to meet the woman who owned the motel. I’m not sure what was more surprising, the fact that the motel was also the town’s post office (and Lorraine, the owner of the motel, was also the postmistress) or that they didn’t have problems with guests leaving without paying. It seems that there’s still a place left where the honor system works, and that place is Mount Carmel, Utah.

I replenished my stock of post card stamps, and we were off. At the park, we started the day with an Emerald Pools hike, which took us along the lower, middle, and upper Emerald Pool trails, and then onto the Kayenta Trail. The pools weren’t very emerald, but they were beautiful–especially the Upper Pool. Bring a snack or lunch to eat on the rocks before heading back.

Weeping Rock

After the pools, we made a quick stop at the Weeping Rock, where water seeps out of the rock itself, creating a fine mist that sprays overhead as you walk below. Cool thing about Zion: the water in the park that you fill your bottle with is the same water that gets filtered through the rocks in the park. Basically, when it rains, water gets into the cracks and tiny spaces between the compressed soil that forms the rock. It can take thousands of years, but the water eventually comes out of the rock where the sediment changes or there is more space for it to filter through. At this point, all the impurities and junk in the water has been left behind, caught where only the water could squeeze through, and what’s left is some naturally filtered, seriously clean water.

On the Hidden Canyon Trail

Our next hike was to the Hidden Canyon, a 2.4-mile round trip that went up steep inclines and around narrow ledges. At different points along the trail, chain has been nailed into the rock wall to give you something to hold onto as you navigate the ledge. Aunt Barby was not pleased with these sections.

The official trail ended at the entrance to the Hidden Canyon, but Jesse and I went on ahead to see if we could find what was on the other side. Alas, after a half hour of clambering over rocks and felled trees, we were no closer to seeing an exit than when we started, and when a passing group of hikers informed us that it would take hours to get to the next canyon, we had to turn back. Even with that setback, it was an awesome hike, filled with varying terrain, inclines, and viewpoints. Just don’t go if you’re afraid of heights.

Up next: Kanab, Utah.

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