Road trip to Zion

Zion National Park Travel Blog

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Road trip!

It always amazes me how much open space there really is in this country. As often as we complain about congrestion and crowds, in less than an hour you can easily find yourself in the company of nothing but cows and sagebrush. Not that I'd want to live out here of course, but it's there nonetheless.

Road trips are a neat way to travel. As cliche as it sounds, it truly makes the journey as much a part of the trip as the destination. Gradual scenery changes observed through the car window slowly prepare you for your destination. Driving to Southern Utah truly allows you to appreciate the diversity of this state. Green and brown ground and tall, snowy mountain peaks slowly give way to red and orange rock and flat plateaus and mesas. I could fly from Salt Lake to St.

Driving south through Utah
George and boom! just instantly be in the whole new environment. But driving, ah driving, gives you the breathing room to acclimate, to settle down and slowly allow yourself to absorb the new scenery, climate, and experiences. It's wonderfully peaceful and cathartic. Plus, long stretches of endless straight road is a perfect excuse to crank that old Eagles album and drift away on that "peaceful, easy feeling," counting the number of times you and fellow travelling cars pass each other. Look into their cars and wonder what takes them down this same road for these hours. Same path, different journeys, but sharing the same moments. Adam just rolls his eyes when I tell him this, but I think he gets it.

Four and a half hours later we pull into Springdale town outside Zion.

Approaching the red rock of southern Utah
It is about 5pm and dusk is settling in already. While the sun will not actually set for several more hours, it has already hidden itself down behind the tall, red cliffs. You know you've reached red rock country when the asphalt turns red. Even the streets can't help but absorb this beautiful atmosphere. Springdale is tiny and primed for tourists. At first drive through it seems devoted to the hotel crowd--and the gem collectors. We're not hungry so we decide to set up camp first and wander back to town for dinner later.

The entrance fee to the park is $25 and good for 7 days. Damn but it's gotten expensive to visit the national parks. The two main campgrounds are within feet of the south entrance. Watchman is first but the guard at the front said we might have a better time finding a spot at the South Campground.

Virgin River
Pulling in I am at once stuck by the openness of the campground. Being a Wasatch Mountain camper born and bred I find the fact that we can't find our own little seculuded spot among pines and pretend like we're alone. WE circle around, still hoping for a "perfect" spot. Eventually we settle on one near the back. Across from us is a small walking path. You can hear the Virgin River drifting past. We get everything set up in the red sand, careful to avoid the ants crawling everywhere. Little prairie dogs poke their heads out of little holes, watching. Adam yelps at one point. I look over at him and he is shaking off his foot. I didn't know what could have made a grown man yelp like that. Turns out a bite from a nasty, large fire ant does the trick.
One view from our campground...can you beat that?
Not all the crawling ants are harmless--good tip.

Only after we've set up do I actually look up and around me--and this, this majestic red-cliffed view--is why the openess of the campground doesn't even matter. This is why we drove 4 1/2 hours and paid 25 bucks. Being early spring the trees are barely starting to bloom. The delicate green leaves, so pale as they emerge from hibernating branches, gives the softest contrast to the deep red walls behind. Adam and I explore the campground. Down by the river banks are gnarled old tree branches, intertwining and hiding among the red sand. The river has an aquamarine hue that, like the trees, is very pale in contrast to the red sand. It's as if no other color dares to be as bold as the red, but the soft color complements couldn't be better planned. Adam bought a new HD video camera, and he's like a kid on Christmas morning with it. Everything in Zion is already picture-perfect, and Adam loves the excuse to shoot everything he can (including me taking pictures of my own).

By this time we are hungry and head back into town to grab dinner. Springdale has an artistic, nature hippie, underbelly. There are little galleries, an independent coffee house, its own microbrewery, and Oscar's, a wonderful little restaurant where we chose to eat dinner. Inside it is smokey, not from cigarettes but from the kitchen. There are only a handful of tables and we manage to grab one in the back. Funky paintings, stained glass on the walls, and tiled tables all complement the brightly colored walls. There are more tables outside than in and in the summer I image it is packed with people enjoying the warm nights. We each ordered the local brewery amber ale, and it wasn't bad for small Springdale. I got fresh halibut fish tacos and Adam ordered the biggest burger I'd ever seen. The food was as wonderfully tasty as we'd hoped. By the time we left Oscars it was dark. We headed back to camp, built ourselves a fire, (and by we  I mean I gather some kindling and watch while Adam builds it), and just sat back. It was cloudy so there were no starts to be seen, but it was quiet and peaceful. Looking around the open campground you see the flicker of other fires and the quiet hum of conversation. I feel lucky to live in a state that has this experience to offer me.

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Road trip!
Road trip!
Driving south through Utah
Driving south through Utah
Approaching the red rock of southe…
Approaching the red rock of south…
Virgin River
Virgin River
One view from our campground...can…
One view from our campground...ca…
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Zion National Park
photo by: rsvpme