By the time we were on our way to Zion we smelled terrible. "I think a member of the Donner party died in our car," was one memorable way of putting it. It had been five days without a shower or clean clothes and now going through the Mojave Desert the temperature was 125. Hopefully other parents out there have looked upon their sleeping children, and even though they are exquisite, thought, "Man, that kid is gross!"
About the same time it became very apparent that MapQuest isn't a very good judge of distance when crossing multiple states, nor is a road atlas given to you by your insurance company a good guide. Jules was rightly frustrated when we pulled into Zion late, had to pay 38 dollars for a rather terrible campground, and still didn't understand why on earth I was dragging him to this location in the middle of nowhere. (We became even when I completely lost it in Kansas)
He quickly apologized for his mini-meltdown and we hopped a bus into the canyon. Like some National Parks where the ecosystems are highly fragile, you cannot drive very far into Zion. You must take a shuttle bus which has frequent stops and return trips so that the flow of traffic and people can be controlled. Another added benefit to this is that if you want to camp within the park, a back country permit must be purchased and you have to hike everything (including water) in by yourself.
Zion National Park is one of my favorite places on the planet. The colors are incredible. Being a natural sandstone canyon which was forged over years of water and then baked by the sun, the walls are a vibrant orange. The orange makes the sky and the trees look almost fake. Secondly, the size is mammoth and you cannot help but leave with a new understanding of how forceful nature can be.
What is even better, the canyons are open access most of the year and there are few guard rails. You get to hike amongst the rock at your own risk and truly experience how small you are within the power of nature. Jules had never quite hiked like this as a dad before and found himself quite paranoid. With a 400-600 foot drop it was reasonably justified, but The Barracuda did just fine.
Even at 112 degrees, the canyon was incredible. We hiked most of the morning. Up the cliffs and through the winding crevices worn away by eons of water, this was the best lesson in erosion I could ever have imagined. If Sequoia was a cathedral showing the grace and beauty of nature; Zion is a picture of nature's ability to both build and destroy as the true architect of the Earth.
This time it was Jules feeling humbled. We decided to come back and purchase a back country permit as The Barracuda gets better at rock climbing and can handle the technical merit of many of the hikes (probably around 9). We figure spending at least 10 days will allow us to see a bit more of this awe inspiring natural wonder which is so different than our normal hiking.
On the way back to the car we stopped to submerge ourselves in the Virgin River which winds its way through all of Zion and is what cut the canyon in the first place. Other tourists seemed to think the dirty hippies playing and soaking in the water were a bit odd, but at least we didn't stink quite as badly when we returned to the car. After all, we were on the way to crossing Texas and that is quite a while to be trapped together smelling like wildebeests!