Hiking Zion: The Thrill of a Lifetime

IMG_0587Yesterday, my son Jack and I finally made it to Zion National Park, a hiking dream of mine for many years. I have the honor of being the keynote speaker for the Annual Southern Utah Federal Law Symposium being held in St. George, Utah. It was a wonderful opportunity to hike the Zion, though today proved a bit more exciting than expected. (There are a few iPhone pictures from yesterday)

IMG_0585As some of you know, I am an avid hiker. Indeed it is my only real pastime and I particularly like our national parks. Zion has been one of my longest standing desires for hikes and when the invitation to speak came through, I was eager to combine the trip with a couple days of hiking.

Jack and I reached the park later than expected after getting lost in Southern Utah. However, when we found the park, we were in total awe. Even though we had been planning the hikes for weeks, nothing prepares you for the sheer beauty of this place. We hiked the “emerald pond trails” before heading further into the park for the difficult Angel’s Landing hike. We took the shuttle to the site. Half way along the trail however we got sidetracked watching the mule deer and following them to a river. We sat by the river in this cathedral-like valley for a long period surrounded by mule deer. With the sun going down (and owls hooting in the background), we worked our way back up the trail only to watch the last shuttle leave the pickup point. Behind us were three mountain climbers from Spain with ropes and climbing gear. They spoke a little English and we waited together hoping for one last bus. It was soon pitch black and we had no choice but to hike down toward a lodge. Fortunately one of our Spanish friends from the Basque country had a headlamp. We walked through the mountain the dark until we found the lodge and we were able to call a ranger.

IMG_0578This is the second time in two weeks that the United States Park Service saved my bacon. A ranger came for us but could only take two (Jack rode in the “cage” for prisoners in the back which he loved!). I was then able to retrieve our rental jeep and drive back to pick up our Spanish friends. It was beautiful with a thousand stars and giant moon in the sky. Jack and I then went down into the town and ate at the “Bit and Spur” bar and played pool where we showed as much skill as we did timeliness on the hike. In the end we made three great friends and a really really nice ranger. I have to say that my experience with Park rangers has left me with a deep appreciation for these men and women. They are unfailingly helpful and remarkably non-judgmental when you do such moronic things like miss the last shuttle in the middle of a remote national park. They are also incredibly knowledgable about every aspect of their work.

IMG_0597After my speech on Friday, we will return for another hike and then on Saturday we plan to tackle the “Narrows” where you hike in water that can reach your chest in a 16 mile narrow canyon. If you have not planned a trip to Southern Utah, you really need to do so. It is an experience that truly cleanses even the most over-worked or tortured soul. Beauty is found in tiny desert flowers and extends to the soaring cliffs of painted sandstone. Just make sure you make the last shuttle out.


35 thoughts on “Hiking Zion: The Thrill of a Lifetime”

  1. Professor,
    What an amazing experience. A camelbak would be a must for a hike like that. There are some good hiking areas in Southern Illinois. Giant City State Park and Garden of the Gods!

  2. Professor! SO happy to hear everything worked out for you and your son. I miss the scenery in Utah. We sure don’t see that here in D.C. Plus, you now have a great story to tell. I bet you can incorporate that nicely into one of your speaking engagements.

    I lived there forever and never made it to Zion. I did get down the San Juan River on a 3-day rafting trip which is gorgeous, and I’ve hiked Arches National Park which is also stunning.

    Glad you got to get out there and see it. Where do you like to hike here in the D.C. area?

  3. feynman 5/16@1748

    “Or if you have forgotten your hiking boots take a drive up 179 and hook a right up 89A to go up the canyon – one of the most beautiful drives in the country”
    When I was in AZ I made that drive a number of times. It is certainly is one of the most beautiful drives in the country. Came close to wearing out a camera between AZ and Alberta.

  4. mhj

    Yes, it would have been better w/o development and the town of Sedona is t-shirt heaven and there are too many new agers. But people bring good restaurants, a med center, and some good movies. It even brings Democrats to Northern AZ.

    But those gorgeous red rocks are right where god put them, the night skies breathtaking, the trails remain beautiful and there are lots that are not overrun with people. All it takes is to leave the town behind, get out of your car and hike Broken Arrow Trail. Or if you have forgotten your hiking boots take a drive up 179 and hook a right up 89A to go up the canyon – one of the most beautiful drives in the country.

    It would be foolish to dodge Sedona because you don’t like the t-shirts.

    1. The drive up Oak Creek Canyon is great any time of the year. Sedona is loaded with great art gallaries and jewelry shops. There are also expensive trinkets for the house available. The food runs from okay to 5 star. There are hikes all over, but they all cost money now. Slide Rock is fun if you are young and the water is high enough. If you are old or the water is low, give it a miss, but there is nice state park there now. Yes, there are a couple of t-shirt shops for the low-rent tourists, but just drive by them. 🙂

  5. Sedona is beautiful, but a few too many new agers. I live in uber liberal Madison, I like a break when I vacation. For years my extended family would have a reunion on Martha’s Vineyard, I got no break there!

  6. Read the Monkey Wrench Gang before you get a houseboat at Lake Powell

  7. feynman 5/16@1117

    I would have loved to visit Sedona 50 years ago. There is an area which should have been protected before all the development. I spent some time there in 2006. The development encroaches on its grandeur.

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