A couple weeks ago Mackenzie emailed me and said she had a weekend free, and asked if I wanted to go camping. I was busy with planning and packing for our family reunion, but I knew that the weekend following the reunion was open. I emailed back and said, "Yes!" Chad's job was sending him to Phoenix for training during those days, and my mom volunteered to watch the kids. I knew that another perfect opportunity like this might not happen for a long time, and I knew we had to do it.
We thought Zion National Park would be a good half-way point, and we both wanted to do some hiking. I was super excited, because I'd never been to Zion before (all that time living in Vegas--we were so close and never went!). We decided on hiking The Narrows slot canyon, since it would be the only hike bearable in the over-100-degree heat. I managed to get a campsite reservation at Zion Canyon Campground, which is just south of Zion's south entrance. Our spot was right on the bank of the Virgin River, and we set up the tent and got a fire going (Mackenzie showed that a girl can start a fire on the first try) to roast our hot dogs for dinner. It was quite hot still, so we got in our swimming suits and waded in the river, getting a feel for what we'd be up against the next day. I even tested out the special river shoes and socks I'd rented for the hike. Stylish, aren't they? I felt like I was wearing bright yellow old-person velcro sneakers.
Then we cut up the watermelon I had brought from my garden. I think I hadn't let it ripen quite long enough, because it hadn't gotten very red, and it wasn't super sweet, but it was very juicy, and cool from sitting in the river, so it was perfectly refreshing. We also roasted marshmallows, and Mackenzie said the S'mores made with Reeses Peanut Butter Cups were superior to those with plain chocolate. The dark chocolate S'mores are still my favorite.
Mackenzie points out, is nigh unto impossible when you're using two cameras whose timer intervals are different. I especially like the bottom left photo, where we've reached the "I'm laughing so hard I'm squatting" stage.
I think this photo ended up being the best, even though I look like I'm just doing some serious stretching. Let it be said that Mackenzie is far more experienced when it comes to jumping photos, and I'm afraid I may have let her down. Finally, even though our photos were inadequate, we decided we needed to get some sleep if we were to get up at 5:00am. We were serious about the hiking thing. Unfortunately, the chatty girls on one side of us, and the huge group of drunken Brits on the other had other ideas. I did go over to the drunks in my PJs (it was 11:00pm, after all) and asked them to please be quiet. Amazingly enough, they actually went to sleep. Only to wake us up again at 4:30 with pots and pans and car doors slamming. People can be so inconsiderate.
We were so glad we got an early start on the hike, though. We rode the park shuttle all the way up Zion Canyon, looking at the amazing sandstone cliffs, which are some of the tallest in the world. We watched the shuttle empty at stops along the way, and got off at the northern-most stop with a small handful of people who were definitely not dressed to hike. So we were pretty much on our own. We started off with some jumping pictures, of course.
We started the hike on the paved river-side trail, passing the few people who had been on the shuttle with us. Then, when the trail ended, we plunged right in, hiking up the river. It was an incredible experience. We passed just a few people who had gotten started earlier in the morning, but for the most part, we had the canyon to ourselves. I wish I could have captured the grandeur of the canyon walls with my camera, but it was impossible. In one portion of the hike, "Wall Street," the canyon walls squeeze down to 25 to 30-feet apart, defining the aptly-named “Narrows.” The Virgin River itself was not moving very fast, which made for relatively easy hiking (as easy as hiking on slippery river rock can be!).
By noon we had made it to the five-mile mark, "Big Springs," which is also the place where hikers without a permit must turn around. We ate our lunch here, enjoying a rare patch of sunshine, then started our hike back.
We made pretty good time on our way back down, passing some of the same people we had met on our way up. It had gotten warmer too, so we swam through all the deeper parts, not bothering to pick our way around as we had on the way up. The Narrows had gotten very crowded by that time though, which really marred the scenery! Plus, we had had a long day of hiking, and we were impatient to get back, so getting stuck behind slow people was unbearable. I was so glad I had rented those river shoes, because even with them my feet were tired and sore, and my ankles and leg muscles were screaming. Of course, I can't remember the last time I hiked for 10 miles straight. And I'm pretty sure the 8 miles of hiking in a river bed was a first. Mackenzie and I should feel quite accomplished.
After we got back to the campsite, it took a little time, food, and caffeine to bring us out of the coma of exhaustion we had slipped into on the shuttle ride back. But then we were at it with the jumping pictures again. This time, we jumped off the picnic table benches, to increase our chances of success. Not bad. We played some games, and talked late into the night, enjoying our time together. I love that girl.
The return drive brought it's own scenery. I had to drive all the way through the park on my way home, which delayed me a bit, but not for too long. I will definitely have to come back to Zion again, to see more of the amazing geology that I only got a glimpse of on this short trip.
In the past couple of weeks I have seen many of the wonders of the Colorado Plateau, an area rich in geology and human history. I now have a longer list of must-see destinations--places that I have only gotten a peek at. The more I see of the Southwest, the place I call home, the more I realize how incredibly unique it is, and how I've only experienced a fraction of the beauty it has to offer.