I thought spending most of a week without television or Internet access would make me lose my mind, but it was actually very nice. It helped being someplace insanely beautiful with plenty to do.
We spent the bulk of the trip at Zion National Park in southern Utah. We’d picked it at random as a destination on a previous vacation and just fell in love with it. It’s kind of like the reverse of the Grand Canyon where you spend your time at the bottom looking up. For an acrophobic like me, that’s a real advantage. (It also seemed to be Zion Pride Week, with an unusually large number of gay and lesbian couples wandering around.)
It doesn’t seem that big, but there’s an amazing variety of little micro-climates in the park, which makes for a whole bunch of very different hiking experiences. They range from very easy, like a paved walk along the Virgin River, to the strenuous and terrifying, like Angel’s Landing. (I’ve never made it to the top. It involves mountain goat paths and a chain in case you panic and fall, which I would.)
We spent a day over in the western part of the park, Kolob Canyons, and did the Taylor Creek Trail, which was long, sloppy, and totally worth it. Most of the time was spent on trails in the central part of the park, hiking, reading, and just gaping at the amazing views. We passed on Angel’s Landing this time around, but we did try a little-used trail in the eastern part of the park that had great views of the Checkerboard Mesa and a really pretty waterfall.
For a small town in rural Utah, Springdale has some pretty amazing food. If you’re ever there, you should really go to the Bit and Spur at least once. It’s got a sort of fusion Mexican menu, and just about everything is good. Be warned that desserts, while delicious, are humiliatingly large. People will stare.
Like many parks, Zion has adopted a shuttle system to reduce the pollution in more sensitive areas. It’s a really efficient system, and it’s had some interesting side effects. Apparently, the mountain lion population has staged something of a comeback since the traffic was restricted, or at least they’re more active. That means there are fewer deer, which looked much more robust on the few occasions when we saw one. The turkeys are still in good shape, and it was always fun to here them gobbling outside the window. It was like a poultry wake-up call. We didn’t see a porcupine this time around, but we adjusted to jet lag better and weren’t wandering the grounds at 3 a.m.
After Zion, we went to Las Vegas for a couple of days, which made for a really disturbing contrast. Zion is a very quiet, happy, reverent place, and Vegas clearly isn’t. Going someplace like Vegas after being someplace like Zion, you feel like you’re systematically destroying the planet with every step you take. We got over it, of course, and had great fun mocking the hordes of testosterone-soaked frat boys (of any age) who overrun the place. I could go a long time without seeing a drunken, cigar-smoking dweeb in a track suit, let me tell you.
Eating in Vegas used to be a struggle until someone recommended Chinatown. We usually have really good luck there, and the prices are low, so if a meal doesn’t work for you, you don’t feel hopelessly screwed. (That’s a fairly common experience in casino dining, especially since everyone who ever had a show on Food Network started opening restaurants there.) I could go a long time before I drink another bubble tea, too.
The best part of Vegas was spending too much money at Alternative Reality Comics. (I’m a very low-stakes gambler. I try and make the same five dollars last as long as it can, and when it runs out, I quit.) It’s an excellent store, and they were having a 10% off customer appreciation sale, which led me to overspend even more. Beloved finds include entries from the Treasury of Victorian Murder series, the second issue of Lackluster World, Me and Edith Head, and one of the Erica Sakurazawa manga collections (which I can’t seem to find anywhere in West Virginia).
We were really ready to come home by the time the trip was over, and the dogs and cats were delighted to see us. But really, if you’re ever in southern Utah and have a couple of days, swing by Zion. It’s amazing.