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Solo Vibrant Voyages

How a visit to Zion National Park changed my perception about nature

Have you ever been so certain about something only to find out that you were totally wrong? Well that happened to me last November and made me rethink about a lot of things! I am a nature buff. And whenever I have to close my eyes and describe nature or visualize it, the things that come to my are forests, greenery, mountains, and water bodies. The emphasis here is greenery. Last November, I got a chance once again to attend the Google Connect Live 2019 conference. You can click this link to learn more about the event. I had extend my stay as I wanted to visit a few more places on the west coast during this trip. After the event, my first stop was Las Vegas! I visited Vegas for 4 days and out of those, I spent 2 days with my friend's family. I really did not have a concrete plan as to what to do but I was looking to do some hikes! lol (I know so funny... Vegas and hikes!) I was looking on the web for a few day trips and my friend highly recommended a visit to the Zion National Park. But I was not one bit enthused because Zion NP did not fit my limited visual version of a National Park. Red rocks and barren land... What could possibly be beautiful?! But after listening to his description and that he wouldn't mind visiting the park over and over, I decided I must visit. So I booked a day trip on TripAdvisor for the following day. This was basically a round-trip transportation via luxury coach! There were 9 people and 4 of us were being dropped at Zion and the rest were heading to the Bryce Canyon National Park.

The second I stepped out to the parking lot and looked around, my jaws just dropped, eyes popped out, and I was just dumbfounded by my surroundings. I wanted to kneel down ask God for forgiveness because I was so wrong about Nature. Here I stood like a minuscule fool amidst the magnificent red rocks and chocolate brown cliffs trying to take in as much of the beauty I could. With a big grin on my face I headed to the visitor's center. Here I boarded the free Zion Canyon Shuttle which connects the Zion Canyon Visitor Center to 9 stops at various locations on the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. I was very happy to see that these buses were wheelchair accessible, had lot of room for backpacks, climbing gear, and bicycles. No pet, but service animals were allowed on the bus! 😀 During my visit the Weeping Rock Trail, Hidden Canyon Trail, and Observation Point Trail were closed due to rockfall. Since I had only 6 hrs at the park, I had to choose the remaining spots carefully! My friend had highly recommended Angel's Landing and Emerald Pool trails and the Narrows. I thought I would have time for just that (was being over confident here!). So I started there.

I got down at stop 6, The Grotto. At this point one can do 3 hikes - Lower Emerald Pool, Upper Emerald Pool and Angel's Landing. After reaching the starting point of the trail I learnt that the Lower Emerald Pool's trail was closed. So I started hiking towards the Upper Emerald Pool. It was an easy hike but with my lack of fitness and improper footwear, I was slow but steady.

The views on the way were so gorgeous and I kept feeling so glad that I did this trip! Haha. However, the view upon reaching the Upper Emerald Pool wasn't all that great. I thought the water would be Emerald green, but there was little water and it was just black. Probably because it was late fall. After clicking a few pictures and drinking some water, I started to descend and hiked towards Angel's Landing. I was really lucky with the weather because it was not scorching sunny, instead pretty cloudy and this made my hike easier! It was a long hike and about to get crazy and a little disappointing. What's the crazy part? The series of never-ending 21 switchbacks!! Pheew. Man... my thighs, knees, ankles, and feet  were aching,  my heart pumping, and I was gasping for breath as I made my way up to Scout’s Lookout. The disappointing part? The trail further up to Angel's Landing was closed.

Well, I was happy I made it this far up in one piece and thought this was the best place to have lunch and enjoy the views from here. As I was eating my veggie subway sandwich, a curious chipmunk came over. I stretched out my hand with some food. This was a brave little one! It came over and took the food from my hand. Later another one came along! I must say it was one of my best lunches so far! What breathtaking views one could get from here. There was some unexplainable beauty in those red rocks standing tall and with so many trees around, it was hard to believe this was a desert! Can you believe that all these canyons have been formed over 250 millions of years through erosion, river carving, tectonic uplifts and more?! And its still being formed thanks to the Virgin river that continues to carve it's way through the canyons.

After lunch I looked at my watch and realized that I had 2.5 hrs more at the park before I had to head back to the parking lot where we would be picked up. One important thing to keep in mind is that there is a time difference of 1 hr between Las Vegas and Zion! My phone's time automatically updated, but my watch couldn't sync - no network! So I had to be super careful while seeing my watch and knowing how much time i had and then my phone! Oh I forgot to mention another major goof up of mine! I left my wallet back at my friend's house!!! I had just $2 with me the entire time! Beat that!

Typical first time visitors (like me), come to the park for two things - Angel's Landing and The Narrows. I knew very well I can't do the Narrows because I dint carry my hiking boots with me during this US trip and I did not have the right clothes and gears. Further more I dint have money to rent them too! What a bummer! But I thought I have come this far, let me at least go and see where the Narrows are. So I took the shuttle to the last point, stop 9 - Temple of Sinawava.

The drive to this place itself was so picture perfect! This is the place where the canyon walls close in as you begin your hike towards the Narrows. It was so peaceful, very few people around and it was quiet, I could hear the river streaming by, birds chirping and even saw some wild life - deer and its fawn. I could hike only so much as the trail ended and the river filled it from side to side. I enjoyed the Riverside walk trail.

It's about a 15 minute drive back to the first point and the whole journey was so scenic. I was trying to slow down time as I looked out of the window and saw the dramatic clouds drooping over red rocks making it a grand final spectral for the tourists, clicking countless pictures at every bend and curve along the way. My God... how wrong I have been about the beauty of nature! My takeaways from this day trip was a new found respect for nature and be more open minded about exploring places. I really want to come back and visit this place once again, this time perhaps stay a couple of days and explore the park completely and yes, definitely do the Narrows!

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