It was the first stop on our five national park road trip. We had just left from Vegas, which really isn’t our style but we thought we must see it at least once, and were arriving in Zion national park after crossing over the Arizona/Utah border. Excited to be in the first of the mighty five, we chatted about what we thought the park might look like. I said how when I picture Utah, I think of red, towering, piling rocks. Just as I said it, we saw red mountains and hills appear and it just so happened that was the Utah border, in all its red glory. There was an immediate shift, of color and of energy. I lightened up from the night before where I felt berated by the energy of mob like crowds and my body began to twitch in anticipation of the adventures that awaited us.
We could imagine all we wanted but our minds could not conjure just how grand the Zion canyons would be. Beasts of red and speckled green from all the trees that thrived even amid the desert ecosystem. One of the first things we learned is that the Paiute Indians called Zion, “Straight up Land” and we laughed because it couldn’t be more accurate. There’s a shuttle system that takes you on a narrow road through and you could barely crane your neck enough to see the tops of the mountains on either side. These shuttles were crowded with people just as excited as us. Their smiles shone bright. There’s an unspoken connection between nature explorers. You’re here for the same thing, to explore beauty, connect to the world and yourself, and love life.
Zion was more crowded with these cheery smiles than we expected. At points Disneyland like lines that waited to take you through the shuttle system since cars weren’t allowed, which I think is a great idea to minimize emissions. The energy was so pleasant we didn’t mind the crowds so much and we were able to get away from the crowds to the best of our ability, sleeping in the expansive public lands that seem to cover all of Utah, hiking Hidden Canyon, and going higher and higher and higher.
We decided that our one big hike in Zion would be Observation Point, it’s a little less popular than Angel’s Landing but it’s longer and sees the entire canyon from a bird’s eye view. An 8 mile hike, the first 4 miles were all on a complete incline. We were in awe of all the different types of geography we saw within those four miles. From switchbacking up cliff sides, to walking through water filled canyons and geologically formed arches, to open mountain valleys and finally shale, narrow trails that when combined with wind seemed almost too risky.
As we climbed higher, the people started to lessen, the rocks were treacherous and the wind howled in our ear. It was terrifying and exhilarating to hear what we couldn’t imagine other than wind gods blowing over the sheer cliff we were hiking along. We hugged the mountainside, walked single file and watched every step we took because even though it was a well traveled trail, one wrong step would be one big mistake. Sometimes the dust drilled into our eyes and at one point it coursed so loudly and strongly I heard my boyfriend from behind me yell “Dori, get down.” For a split second, I felt like I was on an active battlefield. When we got to the top, none of this mattered and in fact it made it all more worth it. As it often seems that the things that scare us most, give us the greatest sense of accomplishment, fulfillment and gratitude.
Now my boyfriend loves to create echoes. Before I knew him, I never met somebody who liked to yell ‘yeehoos’ or yip and holler as much as he did so he could hear the earth call back and feel how grand of a place we were in. Everywhere we go, he gives his all in one moment and calls out to the earth. And I’ve never heard it call back as loudly as in Zion, as the high cliffs and canyons bounced back his yells so many times. But the more amazing part was how immediately and how many calls from other people he received back. The seemingly quiet hikes in the sacredness of nature turned in one instant to a call and response cacophony of a collective and connected group of exploring strangers. It was like he gave these people permission, a reminder that it’s okay, it’s fun, it’s perfect to yell all you’re feeling about this place into the air! To let go.
So Zion is somewhere you must see. To feel the grandness and to overcome the fears that reap the rewards and the views on the other side of your comfort zone. To feel the ground and the riskiness/worthiness of climbing so high. Trusting yourself to do so. And when you go, don’t forget to yell your echoes. Don’t forget to let go and tell the world what you’re feeling. You don’t even have to say a single word. And I think you might find the earth will yell back and everyone else will agree.