The National Parks of Utah have long been on my bucket list so I was overjoyed when I finally reached the park entrance to Zion!
I knew the landscape would be exceptional and awe inspiring but I truly had no idea how it would take my breath away. Once again, the diversity of this planet's land formations is astounding to behold.
"...the geology that underlies lusher landscapes is exposed to the eye, and this gives it a skeletal elegance, just as its harsh conditions - the vast distances between water, the many dangers, the extremes of heat and cold - keep you in mind of your mortality."
I booked this trip with Intrepid Travel - an Australian company that takes small groups on adventures with local guides in a manner that supports local communities, builds human connections and respects the environment. And I love that Intrepid name means fearless, adventurous and unafraid!
Our group of 13 travelled in a large 15 person Van that towed our camping gear behind us in a trailer. Our awesome guide kept us organized and laughing the whole way, even in the unexpected snow, rain and colder temps.
Our first campground was in Zion National Park and beside the rushing Virgin River, a tributary of the Colorado River. We set up our tents just before the rain started. Instead of cooking in the rain we opted to go pick up local pizza and eat under the outdoor shelter. That night we snuggled into our sleeping bags and listened to the river splash by. I LOVE sleeping outside, and even though it was cold I was cozy in my sleeping bag.
The next morning brought cooler temperatures but sunshine and so we set off for Angels Landing, a world renowned short but adventurous hike with steep switchbacks and sheer drop offs. This trail is often crowded in high season but because of the lower temps there were far less peeps than usual.
With every twist and turn a new vista opens up and my heart would burst with gratitude to be hiking along the edge of this 270 million year old rock. That's Dan in the photo above, our intrepid guide and fearless leader. He was like a mountain goat on the hikes, sure footed and full of reverence and knowledge for these magnificent mountains.
The wildflowers and trees that are able to survive in this arid, rocky environment are a wonder to behold.
Part of the way up there is a stretch through a lush canyon filled with green from the creek that runs through. This is a pleasant stretch as the canyon was filled with birdsong that echoed off the rocks in all directions.
I didn't know much about this hike before I started climbing when I heard that the last stretch wasn't for the faint of heart but I figured how bad can it be? Here's the sign just before the final ascent along the ridge you see below. People die every year on this part of the hike and some poor man lost his footing and his life only a month ago.
I then turned around and saw the lesser taken trail called the Western Rim. I decided to give it a try instead. I turned around to take a photo of the trail behind me and when I turned back to the trail...
...this is what I saw. This little mule deer perfectly framed in a crevice of the rock. The deer was intent on licking the rock (for salt?) and though she was aware of me she wasn't disturbed.
There was no one else on the trail, just me, the deer and the immense silence of the rocks all around me. It was one of those moments of beauty that completely overwhelms.
Earlier in the day I had read to pay attention to these mountains, rocks and land and listen to the stories and gifts that they may offer. I spent several minutes in this spot absorbing and listening to it all.
"What is the message that wild animas bring, the message that seems to say everything and nothing? What is this message that is wordless, that is nothing more or less than the animals themselves - that the world is wild, the life is unpredictable in its goodness and its danger, the the world is larger than your imagination?"