The Walls of Zion!

Location: Colorado
Listening to: Blow – Beyoncé
Time: 12:06 pm

I am currently sitting in the car, listening to Beyoncé gazing upon red earthed, tree lined mountains of Colorado. We just left Moab, Utah, but here I will write about Zion! Just FYI the title to this post is a nod to my high school chorus class (hey Mr. Mayo) in which we sang a song called “The Walls of Zion”. I am almost 100% positive that this song was not referring to Zion National Park, but the large rocky mountains of Zion National Park are like great jagged walls surrounding the winding park roads so I thought it was fitting.

Leaving Wyoming, we drove 8 hours south, ending in La Verkin, Utah. This trip took us through Wyoming, Idaho, and Utah. Arriving hungry, we found the River Rock Roasting Company through a quick Foursquare search and stopped in for dinner. Lennon, Jess and I hopped out of our car, stretched our limbs and walked toward the restaurant and realized there was a back patio with stunning sunset views. Perched up on a cliff overlooking the setting sun, we sat down and enjoyed paninis. A clouded, pink and orange sky provided our entertainment for the evening. Watching the sun disappear behind the grand mountains in the distance we smiled as Utah welcomed us to enjoy it’s serene beauty. With the sun set, and our plates cleared, we climbed back into the car, anxious to get to our Airbnb and get some sleep.

Lennon enjoying the view

My eyes, crusty from slumber, peaked open as the sound of the 5:30 am alarm rang out. Today we were heading to Zion National Park to beat the heat for a hike. To be honest, I had woken up with an unenthusiastic attitude toward the day’s hike. Just a little emotionally detached from this hiking idea I joked that we could perhaps do something else. Receiving a glare of disdain from Jess, I knew that I better lace up my boots and change my attitude. After all, we were in Utah, at the gates of Zion National Park. Of course we would be hiking! Our sights were set on Angel’s Landing, a trail that was recommended to us by a handful of people along our way to Utah. Actually, a man we met in Dubois, Wyoming (at my new fav. restaurant Nostalgia Cafe) sang praises about Angel’s Landing and proclaimed that it could not be missed.

Arriving in Zion National Park for our hike, we were eventually notified that Angel’s Landing was closed due to falling rocks. Slowly we began to realize that quite a few “moderate” trails were closed due to similar situations. One trail was open though, Observation Point. An 8 mile out and back trail that gains 2,300 feet over 4 miles filled with steep switchbacks and drop-off cliffs. Still feeling apprehensive about our hike, I was a little curious about the severity of this hike and if I could make it to the top. Taking it one step at a time, we gained elevation and sight. Climbing up the trail revealed deep valleys flanked by ginormous red cliffs. Walking through valleys where smooth rock twists and turns we gazed upon the natural curves and colors of this place. Switchback after switchback, incline after incline, I began to question my strength and tenacity. High above the park, with no end in sight, I hit a (proverbial) wall. I stood, hunched over, my face against some shaded rock walls, admitting defeat. The coolness of the rock juxtaposed my fiery, red face. My hiking master, Jess, said that if I needed to turn back she would go on without me. With this offer from Jess, I trudged on. This mountain would not defeat me. They say that hiking has a lot to do with “mind over matter” and I completely agree. Once the offer of quitting was on the table, I knew I had to continue on and reach the top of the summit. Beginning to walk again, I slowly continued on our trail. Being greeted with a jolly ‘hello’ by a passing hiker headed back down the mountain, I retorted with an Eeyore-esque ‘helloooo’. Hearing my pain, this kind man stopped and informed us that the end was near and to not give up as we were so close – phew! Pointing in the distance, he showed us where trail ended. I was so thankful for this news, I thought about giving him a hug or taking his mailing address to send him a present, but instead I offered a smile and a very happy ‘Thank You! You are the best!’. With the end in view, we were eager to arrive for a celebratory photo and a nice moment of relaxation. Trekking about 1 mile more, we reached the top!

To be abrupt, this trail was hard as fuck. As Jess put it, “breathtaking; both visually and physically”. But, the juice was worth the squeeze. Observation Point did not disappoint. The incredible views were paralleled by the accomplishment I felt. Something inside my soul lit up at the top of that mountain.

Summit of Observation Point Trail, Zion National Park

There was (and still is) a great warmth that I feel inside my soul when I think back to that moment, sitting at the peak of the mountain, looking out into Zion National Park. I can’t really describe it, but I can feel it with my whole heart.  We sat high above Zion National Park, gazing down on the dark red and green mountains. We settled into our success and snacked, hydrated, and regained our breath. Eating Honey Nut Cheerios by the handful, I relished in our journey; taking a quiet moment to appreciate the simple fact of physically being there, in Utah, on a road trip with a truly remarkable friend, sitting atop a massive cliff, I counted my blessings.

As the morning faded into the afternoon, we readied for our descent. We glanced back for one final look and headed back down the mountain. This time it was us delivering news of hope to weary hikers. Joyously we voiced encouragement and positivity to our short-of-breath friends. “You’re almost there, keep going!”, sang out of us. We were met with gratitude and looks of hope from our fellow hikers. I even pointed out the end point to a couple of hikers, just as the nice man had done to me. Paying it Forward feels fantastic! With a four mile descent ahead of us, I was glad to start this hike down with good vibes and positivity. With little shade on the trail now, I was very happy to have gotten an early start. Definitely easier on our lungs the way down was grueling on our legs, knees, shins and toes. Sweaty and flushed, we finally reached the parking lot and rejoiced our achievement! With a high-five we celebrated and agreed it was time for a beer. Getting back into our car, the temperature reading 109 degrees, we raced towards town to find some grub. After filling ourselves on chips and tacos, we headed back to La Verkin for some rest.

Exhausted from our day, we napped and found dinner close by at the Stage Coach Grille. Friendly service and a cowboy feel, Stage Coach Grille offered home cooking with a smile. I ordered a Pork Chop with a baked potato (smothered in A1). A great meal to end our stay in La Verkin, we returned home and readied ourselves, and our luggage, for Moab, Utah.