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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Zion Day 3; Our Biggest Adventure Yet

I woke feeling refreshed, and the fact the bed was level, plush, and downright comfy made me wish I had done anything I could to stay here just a bit little longer. The morning view through the cathedral windows was glorious in splendor and served to reaffirm my faith in life and beauty....and the fresh cup of Kona Blend made from an honest to god real coffee maker didn't hurt either. We had a lot of things planned in the afternoon that revolved around the activities at the Zion Ponderosa which meant we only had about ½ a day to stay with the confines of the Zion National Park.

We made the trek back through the Tunnel and had the agenda to spend sometime at the Zion Museum, a walk on the River at a trail called Lower Falls trail, and a final walk on the Canyon Overlook which according to the guides was a 1 mile moderate hike. We originally were going to do the canyon overlook first but based on the fact it was Saturday and we planned to park at the Museum parking lot as opposed to the real parking lot, rolled the dice for parking at the museum.

Alas we were too late, and I had to park at a turn out and walk to the museum after dropping off the family first and make a short walk back to the museum. We took the shuttle to the Cable Junction departure point and crossed the street towards the first trail. It was an easy walk and one which we hoped for since we knew would be climbing some stairs soon. The Virgin river flowed and its waters looked pristine, almost as if mother nature was giving a come hither look. As me and the kids hopped along some of the rocks on the banks of the river, one of the kids spotted a toad on the bank. Only remarkable thing here is I remember as a boy living on the Huntington Beach/Westminster border frogs and toads were fairly common, but for some reason I couldn't recall the last time I saw one in OC. Neither here nor there but a curious notion none the less.

The Virgin River

After that was a short period spent in the museum. The air condition felt good and the various artifacts were certainly interesting, and made even the more by the glorious view offered from the museums patio which showed proudly displayed some of Zions most majestic mountain views. There is no shortage of majestic views in Zion, but those who planned the museums location clearly had this spot in mind when choosing the location, it was one of those nature scenes in which you could easily have a seat and just gaze for hours at the sight which presented itself. I wished I had more time to take it in both with a bevy of activities still to achieve along with the Canyon Overlook hike there was no time to lose.

We made our way back through the two tunnels that separate Springdale and Mt Carmel and found the parking lot for the canyon overlook full. I thought about parking in the handicapped spot and taking my chances but decided to kill 10-15 minutes and hoped someone would come down the hill thus opening a spot....and luck would have it a Chinese couple came down and pointed to the space their car was parked in.

Now the Canyon Overlook is one of the most scenic hikes in Zion and the one mile descent didnt seem too difficult as most of the parking maps said this was a moderate hike and not strenuous. But after looking at the first set of stairs, we thought it best to let my dad stay in the van and hang which proved to be a fine idea. Now grandma on the other hand could not wait to tackle the challenge and was clearly invigorated from the whole trip. Only a few years removed from knee replacement surgery I was a bit worried, but the broken hockey stick I converted into a hiking stick served as a fine assistant for the sometimes uneven footing. Apart from the stairs, both man made and stone, there was a covered area which not only provided some much needed shade, but also had a sandy bottom that we all agreed had to be the worlds greatest camping spot....provided a long horned sheep or mountain lion wasnt using the facilities. I was assuming the hike was a quick one, but it was a bit more then we bargained for and every corner was met with yet another flight of stairs, and yet more corners and climbs to face. We finally made the top of the hike which proved to be worth the walk. Apart from the snaking roadway that made its way to the tunnel, the elevation along with the view, along with standing on a few of the rocks that made the ascent even higher was a joy to behold. And was a bit of a weird feeling to see my Mother there to celebrate with us. On the way back we cam across an Indian family resting in the shade of the covered rocky overhang, and gave a bit of a double take to see mother making the hike back down. The older gent asked how old she was and my mom said something like “age is only a state of mind” or something thereof. They gave us a big smile. Of course on the way up and back every passerby was friendly and made some comment about our crew.

The worlds greatest camp site.

The Top of the Canyon Overlook

We made it back to the lodge for a quick rest and a bit to eat but the rest of the afternoon proved to be a busy one as we had miniature golf, our 6 person atv ride, and zip lining on the agenda.

Miniature golf was kind of white trashish, and I almost wish I had worn one of my cutoff shirts and drank a can of Pabst to seal the white trash deal. Time ran low though so we were only able to finish around 9 holes. I did like the fact the course had ramps that led to the water, and white and green shag carpet that served as pseudo sand and rough.

We made it back to the recreation hall to get our ATV and the guy working the front desk came to give me the once over of the vehicle. He asked if I had ever driven one, and of course being a man I said, “oh yeah all the time” which was a complete lie. We were given a lot of warnings about not getting it over 30 mphs were later proved to be a bit of salesmanship. We were handed a crudely drawn map and given some vague instructions on some nice trails and off we went.

Of course, through years of playing off road racing video games there was no way in hell I was going to go at Autopia speeds. Once we were out of the parking lot I pushed the petal to the floor and smiled as I watched Tomoko and Alex's heads jerk backward. My enjoyment of the ATV experience was somewhat hindered by my family's apprehension to sliding around dirt corners and trying to go as fast as possible. There was one smooth downhill I figured I had to take to top speed out of the principle I wanted to simply see how fast I could get our rented Polaris. And once again the over 30 mph warning was largely spectacle as even going downhill while gunning it only achieved a speed of about 35.

We made our first stop at a beautiful top vista marked by a totem pole, that had the most panoramic view I had ever saw. According to out guide one could see Zion, the Grand Canyon, and Bryce Canyon....of which I suppose he was correct. I could have stayed there for hours but was on the clock and still wanted a few more opportunities to give my children whiplash. Gramma was sure having a good time though.

After that beautiful view we tried to follow the map but after a series of confusing mishaps ended up being slightly lost in the expanse that served to be the rugged Utah wilderness. Alex kept asking if we were lost, and I told him everything was just fine, but truth be told after passing a few dilapidated trailers and shacks with crudely drawn “no trespassing” signs I started getting visions of deliverance entering into my stream of thought. Gramma was sure having a good time though.

Letting the Kids Drive...I figured if I let my 10 year old drive what difference did an open door make?

The Magic Totem Pole

Soon we came to an expanse of smooth dirt road to which Gramma suggested I let the kids sit on my lap and pilot the vehicle. How could I turn that down? We spent the next few minutes letting the kids sit on my lap and drive. My white trash side emerged once again when I looked at the cargo space on the back of the ATV and wished their was a cooler with some cold beer to complete the effect. Gramma was sure having a good time though.

After the kids took their turn the wife asked to drive which I was fine with. As mentioned before though the Autopia speed morphed into Jungle Cruise speed to the point where I was almost giving a running commentary on Trader Joe, Schweitzer Falls, and tigers protecting napping Zebras. Gramma was sure having a good time though.

Soon I was back in the seat and with time running out spent the remember of the trip gunning the atv at full speed sliding into corners, doing donuts, and exploring some of the back areas that featured a paint ball course as well as a small dirt track. Good times....well worth the price of rental.

Back at the recreation area we check the atv back in and soon it was Zip line time. We were relived when my youngest passed the weight check and was allowed to zip line with the others. With video camera in hand I was able to record the event live. As I stood in the field under the line to record the event for posterity I was able to get my wife and the kids taking turns on the zip line, and soon noticed a small crowd forming outside the building which housed the zip line. Putting my glasses on I realized the people from inside the building had all come out to witness my 71 year old mother do the Zip Line.

As she took a leap off the step, a roar of applause, whoops, and hollers met my mother as she soared through the Utah sky. It was a bit surreal actually. I was very happy though, it was a moment I wont soon forget and the whole trip was a beautiful event that was priceless. The staff was nice enough to let the whole crew do another zip from the line before it closed for the evening and a good time appeared to be had by all.

We made it back to our vacation home for the final night, I cracked a bottle of Cabernet and cooked the remaining meat products on the grill and was a bit melancholy this was to be the last night of what was a very special occasion for so many reasons. To be able to share so many events with my parents, my children, and my wife made me realize(for about the millionth time) how lucky and blessed I truly am. No matter what the employment situation may be, no matter how uncertain the future, no matter what the cloudy financial situation may be....I was the richest man in Zion. I thought of how many people probably had all of lifes luxury and wealth, but never experienced the love, the comradeship, and outright enjoyment of familial companionship I had experienced over the last four days.

And the fact the next day was to be met by an 8-10 hour drive back to OC made the moment all the more special. But rest assured readers, I will spare the blog entry about the ride back.

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