Welcome back everyone.
This week has been a little bit crazy that’s why I have been unable to post new blogs on our website. On Wednesday afternoon Abby, Eyra and I ate dinner in the basement since we were under a tornado warning. Then lightning must have hit close to our house (or on our house!) since we all of a sudden saw our outlets spark and then instant thunder came right after! Eyra started fussing and covering her ears saying “Daddy, loud! Mommy, loud!”. Our internet router was gone (burnt) and smelled like burnt plastic. Here I am, trying to complete our adventurous week using my cell phone as my hot-spot. Who knows when our internet provider will send in a technician to repair or replace our router (especially since it’s a holiday weekend) but, anyway! As our vacation began to unfold, it appeared that our locations of choice kept getting bigger and bigger starting from Camp Dick, Colorado National Monument, Arches National Park, Moab, Canyonlands National Park Needles District and Bryce Canyon National Park. Our next location in my opinion was my favorite location of all (we all have different taste), as this location was imprinted in my memory all this time. Maybe it was the area, or perhaps the people who partook on that adventure when I was young that were the main reasons that made Zion National Park even more memorable. Who knows, but this place was the one park I was looking forward to all along. At this point the Wyma’s, Abby, Eyra and I decided to deviate a little bit and visit yet another amazing site that Utah had to offer. It’s not the Great Sand Dunes National Park but it was just as impressive. We headed to Pink Coral Sand Dunes State Park which was located between Mount Carmel junction and Kanab.
Abby and I were getting used to not having to pay upon entrances to National Parks since we do have our annual National Parks pass and we had forgotten about our pass not working on state parks and also getting cash to pay for the entrance fee. On our way to Pink Coral Sand Dunes, here we were (Abby and I) scrambling for pennies, dimes, quarters all over my car’s console and busting out a bunch of $1.00 dollar bills that Abby and I had to pay for the entrance fee. I was glad to hear that the park took debit cards because clearly we didn’t have enough cash for the entrance fee but we now had $6.48 cents that we came up with in a matter of minutes (that’s pretty good for not having any cash). The Pink Coral Sand Dunes were amazing and the heat was not as terrible as we thought it was going to be. Then came the wind and it didn’t feel bad either, it was more refreshing in my opinion (except for some sandy eyes!). What amazed me the most was the amount of wild flowers present in the area, they were everywhere and fully flourishing, I am a sucker for wildflowers but Abby is even more and she took amazing photographs of wild agave and yellow wildflowers. There was no actual trail on the park or I should say, within the dunes. A fence was placed within the dunes allowing ATV’s to roam free while not endangering the safety of hikers. Along the dunes a handful of plaques were placed for hikers to read and understand what’s around us (wildlife, flora and fauna, etc.) I had a blast just walking on the dunes with both of my ladies. I think Luke, Charlotte and Corrine also liked the place. We were all impressed on how big the Pink Coral Dunes were and we all had a look of awe. It wasn’t long before Eyra wanted to get out of her pack and begin playing in the sand. She loved it, she wanted to come down from a sand dune full blast but we had to supervise her poor decision since she almost ate it bunch of times and of course Abby and I were the villains when we told her that we needed to leave but off to another adventure we went.
Check out these images of this amazing place.
As we planned to head to Zion National Park it came to our attention (all of us) that something didn’t feel right, so sure enough we all sat down on the sidewalk or our cars and began getting the sand out of our shoes and holy cow did I have a lot of sand in my shoe. We all hydrated, used the facilities, changed a diaper and re-packed again before our next destination and let’s not forget that Eyra requested to watch Disney’s Frozen, again for the 10th time since our trip began. Eyra doesn’t actually say Frozen but she does say “Elsa!!” profusely! We got Eyra situated and off to Zion we went!
Oh, Zion National Park, how I’ve missed you! It’s been too long! Last time I was here you showed us the power of a flash flood and the unpredictability of your canyons. I honestly cannot describe how AMAZING this place is. It just blows my mind. I was super excited about this place since day 1 on our trip and finally here we were. I always told Abby about this place and what it was like but I don’t think the words I used to describe this place were the right ones since Abby seemed unimpressed but that quickly changed the moment we entered the park…mmmhhmmm, no BS! Abby seemed more excited than I was and let’s not forget that her finger was definitely picture friendly since she snapped tons of pictures in Zion National Park alone. The gigantic and steep red cliffs are super rad and the rock formations of this place are so unique that every corner of Zion is impressive. I might have been tearing up on my drive to the campground but I blamed it on multiple grains of sand getting into my eyes from Coral Pink Sand Dunes. I wish I had set my Go Pro facing us to capture our faces as we looked upon Zion National Park but I am a dumb @$$ and I forgot.
On our drive to the Watchman Campground we drove through a couple of tunnels, but one in particular totally caught our eye. It’s called the Zion-Mount Carmel tunnel which is 1.1 miles long. What makes this tunnel so special? That would be the lack of lighting and it is pitch black! There are literally no lights in this tunnel! The only light you have to rely on is your car’s headlights! There were 2 built in windows within the tunnel that are more like holes in the wall but other than that it is darker than night in there. As we drove through the tunnel, Eyra was jamming to Disney’s Frozen “Let it go!”.
As we proceeded to our campsite, there were so many scenic areas where I wanted to stop and take pictures but I couldn’t just slam on my brakes and go for it. I figured since we were all going to be here in Zion for 2 days, there was really no rush in taking lots of pictures in that specific moment. The drive was super sick and just like that we had arrived to Watchmen Campground. We checked in and proceeded to our B loop. Luke and I stopped by our campsite and contemplated for a little while and determined how we were going to park since the parking situation on our campsite was also very small and very narrow. Since we already had terrible luck with a park ranger in Bryce Canyon, we didn’t want to experience the same circumstances yet again.
Of course we made our parking situation work and within minutes of setting up camp the park rangers greeted us with a smile. Funny story: so far on our trip we hadn’t encountered anyone from the state of Iowa and we actually lost hope, but one of the park rangers that greeted us was from Iowa, BOOM!!! Hope restored in seconds! We chatted for about 10 minutes and joked around (mostly about corn fields) and the park ranger gave us additional information about the ranger’s program that was happening that evening in the amphitheater. He also told us about his favorite areas of the park and also where to go before the morning rush in the park. We all thanked him and we proceeded to relaxing that entire afternoon. I took a good look at our surroundings and the view from our rooftop tent was hideous (I kid, I kid!!). We could not have asked for a more perfect view of the Watchman Mountain.
We walked around the campsite, ate a ton and chilled the rest of the afternoon while we talked about our possible hikes for the following day since we all wanted to hike The Narrows. There were signs by the visitor center stating that the river water levels were reaching 70 CFS (cubic feet per second). To paint a clearer picture, I am 5 feet 10 inches tall, yeah! I’m a pretty tiny guy in comparison to Luke and Corrine who are just as tall as Shaquille O’Neal. The water level would be at my chest. That being said we needed to take extreme caution especially with 2 kiddos in our group and the water in the river was going to be 55 degrees according to the visitor center sign. It sounds worse than what it was. We came prepared but as I mentioned before, we all have limits now! That afternoon, we all decided to hike The Narrows the next day and try to get mentally ready since it was probably going to be brutally cold.
That night Eyra was having a feisty pants attitude and Abby took one for the team and decided to head up to the roof top tent and put Eyra to sleep while the Wyma’s and I headed to the ranger’s program. At the ranger’s program we learned about the history of the park and it was interesting but the park ranger was super nervous to do a presentation all by herself (she mentioned that numerous times). At the amphitheater during the park ranger’s presentation, there was a white tail deer present and the deer didn’t mind us at all. I tried to take a picture of it but it came out super blurry. The night sky was incredible; the view of the Milky Way was beginning to show and so did the cockroaches! They were everywhere in the campsite but I didn’t mind them at all since we were sleeping on the roof of my car. I felt sorry for the Wyma’s since the cockroaches were going to get cozy with them under their tent, but they survived!
The following morning arrived and believe me, I had been waiting for this time a long time. I could not believe that we were an hour or so away from hiking one of the coolest trails I have ever done in my life and this time Abby and Eyra were there with me, in addition to our friends. That morning was a bit cool (temperature wise) and let’s not forget that the water in the narrows was going to be 55 degrees so we all prepped up with appropriate hiking gear and headed to the visitor center and waited for the bus. Zion has designated areas were vehicles cannot roam around within the park for emissions purposes. Once we got to the bus stop, the line was massive and yes! They were all waiting to get on the bus! This is where a fast pass was for sure needed but then again, the buses could fit maybe 65+ people at once so we really weren’t waiting that long and also the buses were frequent.
Once in the bus we noticed that there were several stops along the way and I want to say that the bus was going to make 9 stops and our destination was literally the very last stop. We had a 30-minute drive to the narrows but the drive was awesome, Eyra did great and was counting with Charlotte for a good portion of the ride in Spanish. Eyra can count from 1-10 in both English and Spanish, she is a quick learner! Both Eyra and Charlotte made our bus ride pretty entertaining. On our drive to the narrows, our bus driver told us to look towards our left since he could see climbers… Now, I don’t know how the bus driver managed to see the climbers, I just snapped a few photos where our bus driver was pointing and while checking out my photos, sure enough, the climbers were there! This dude had eyes like an eagle and I couldn’t see anything and I was wearing contacts.
Alright!!! We arrived to the narrows trail and we prepped Eyra with her PFD (personal flotation device), put on some sunscreen and off we went! By this point Eyra was getting really sleepy and every step I took I could feel her head hitting my hat and I knew it was just a matter of time before she would fall asleep but we continued our hike. The views that the trail provided were spectacular and if you (the reader) ever have the time to visit this majestic place, I can tell you right now, you will NOT be disappointed. We kept noticing lots of people on the trail but apparently this was pretty mellow in comparison to the next couple of hours to come. It amazes me how overweight the squirrels were, not just here in Zion but every National Park that we went to. I guess It makes sense, especially since the parks are frequently visited by millions of visitors a year that the squirrels don’t seem to be afraid of man anymore. Abby got a great shot of 3 pudgy squirrels begging for food because clearly they looked like they were starving but nothing left our backpack (snacks) since we were NOT supposed to feed them in the first place and yet people do! WTF???
OK, I am more calm now! Please see the pictures below and try to enjoy what we saw along the trail before we actually got wet!
The beginning of the trail appeared to be busy but actually some visitors didn’t want to get wet (only the first mile of the trail is paved… then in the water you go!)! I couldn’t believe it, it’s like going skydiving, getting in the plane but not actually jumping out of the plane!! It didn’t make sense to me. The majority of the visitors were only snapping pictures, but whatever floats their boat! Yes, the water was freezing but only temporarily as our bodies got used to the cold temperature within 10-15 minutes of being in the water. During the first 10 minutes of our hike I noticed that the water levels were not as bad as I remember since the water was reaching my shins and at times my knees but not the Wyma’s, since all 3 of them are really tall the water level was probably reaching their ankles (true story). Now, I know for a fact that all of us had a blast hiking this trail but if someone enjoyed it most that would have been Charlotte! She was so excited that she was the one setting the pace of our group. It’s truly remarkable to see a child being interested in the outdoors and I was witnessing a rarity before my eyes as our modern days are causing our children to be interested more in electronics than the outdoors. Eyra however, she was asleep for half of our hike but when she woke up, she woke up super excited and she wanted to jump in the water (that was not going to happen!). Well… that would be because the current was picking up and getting stronger by the minute. Yes, the water level did increase but not as much as I expected. There were sections where the water level reached my hips but still had enough grip on my feet to continue without floating away. I am so glad we had trekking poles because honestly I don’t know if we would have made it that far without them, especially with Eyra on my back.
The canyons were impressive and when we looked at the canyon it appeared to be something relatively small but on the contrary, see the picture below where there are a couple of people walking by the river for size perspective. This place was big and it got bigger and narrower. Even though the sun was out, that didn’t necessarily mean that the weather conditions were favorable. It was relatively cool and the wind picked-up a bit. It appeared as if our minds (Abby and I) connected with the Wyma’s because we all stopped and put on an extra layer (wind breaker) because it got chilly. Eyra however, she was already nice and cozy from the start. So what did we do? We continued hiking! The hike isn’t hard but it is tiring since we were hiking against the current. We saw a suitable place to have lunch and we realized that we had been gone for 2 hours already. We all had a quick bite and looked upon the beauty of the narrows. No one said a word as we were all soaking up the beauty and magic of this place.
Here are a few more pictures of the Narrows!
We all decided that it was best to head back since we had been gone for a couple of hours and it was probably going to take us the same to get back despite actually hiking with the current this time and sure enough, we were correct. I am glad we all started hiking at the time that we did because there were sections within the river that we had to wait our turn to walk across it. The river was so congested with visitors that it was hard to navigate through but even then, the abundance of wildlife was present.
I was very sad to see the beginning of the trail again because that meant we had completed the narrows! After that, we didn’t know what to do next! All I have to say is that Luke, Charlotte and Corrine were extremely patient with us since we had to hike a mile back to the bus stop and of course Eyra decided to walk really slow with her trekking pole! But she enjoyed seeing the squirrels and calling all of them monkeys, yeah! I can totally see the resemblance! Eyra did great the entire hike back to the bus as she was mesmerized by the “monkeys”. While sitting on the bus we all decided to stop by the lodge, look at the map, and continue our hike to Emerald Pools Trail.
Emerald Pools Trail was awesome as we hiked under a small waterfall but the trail was narrow, slippery and again, very congested. I can see why the Emerald Pools got their name. Even before we started the actual trail the emerald color of the river stood out and with the red hills in the background made this place quite a sight to see. Eyra made a friend! A cute little lizard kept following her until a visitor scared it away but at least Eyra got to see a lizard very close! By this point we all got a bit tired and hungry, so we decided to stop by the Zion Lodge and get a couple of souvenirs and ice cream. Our party split but we had a time frame to meet again and head back to camp.
You would not believe how tired we all were! We were all running on fumes! Maybe it was just me, but I for sure felt pretty tired and the thought of a nap was looking very appealing. But since my child tends to sleep while on hikes, Eyra was super hyper and the nap was a no go for both Abby and I. That afternoon the sun was brutally hot and even though we had a canopy set up, it didn’t provide as much shade as we would have hoped so we all sat at under our roof top tent. Abby and I can walk under our roof top tent while it’s fully folded down with no problem but this was not the case for Luke and Corrine. These guys are pretty tall so they bonked their heads a couple of times and I felt pretty terrible and pretty short at the same time. All we did that afternoon again was chill, Eyra wanted to watch Disney’s Frozen again but she was looking pretty sleepy. I told Abby I would take Eyra up to the tent if she wanted to go to the next ranger’s program since apparently they had another one that night. Abby said she was tired too so she stayed with Eyra.
The Wyma’s and I went to the ranger’s program again! This time the park ranger was different and the presentation was going to be about raven’s (the actual bird). I enjoyed the presentation and the park ranger was super knowledgeable. Not to mention that she worked for numerous National Parks around the country before she worked in Zion. The white tail deer must have liked the area because this deer was at the amphitheater doing its thing as if we were all invisible. That night the stars looked phenomenal and brighter than the night before. I don’t remember seeing this many stars before and it almost looked fake. I couldn’t wrap my mind around the beauty of this park and I went to bed satisfied with what Zion had to offer. As I mentioned before the view from our tent was great and just as I was falling asleep I get smacked in the face by Eyra’s foot! My child sleeps like a weirdo but I love her!
That morning was hard for me to pack our gear and car since I wanted to stay longer at the park but I learned something from Eyra’s favorite Disney movie Frozen, sometimes it’s just best to let it go! That morning we were bound to go to the Zion Human History Museum which by the way, is super cool and informative and not to mention the view of the Beehive Mountains were killer. We spent about 30 minutes at that museum before we decided to call it and leave this amazing park and go to our next destination.
Zion National Park has been on my mind for the longest time since my last visit, this time Zion remains not only in my mind but also in my heart as I had one of the happiest moments of my life here and with my family. I want my daughter to grow up knowing that parks like this still exist and to show her the importance of having a National Park System. I know it seems dumb or perhaps annoying to see friends enjoy their lives to the fullest on social media sites. I cannot tell you what you need to do with your life as every man or woman has their own demons to face but I will give you a quote that a wise and great man once said:
“Keep close to nature’s heart and break clear away once in a while, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods to wash your spirit clean” – John Muir.
Think about what you could do with your life momentarily, to start all over again. Obtain inspiration about what you want to do next with your life! I have found my inspiration in my wife and daughter but also found yet another kind of inspiration in this special place called Zion National Park.
To be continued…