Visiting Cars Land this past weekend, gave me the urge to write a few blog posts about the epic Utah road trip that Dan and I took last April. Disney really nailed it, because we kept saying how much the landscape in Cars Land, looked like the drive on our trip.
I've always wanted to go to all fifty states, although, I used to say that I wanted to travel to all fifty, minus one, Utah. It's a post for another time, but I have distant relatives in Utah that have created a lot of family drama and animosity. Luckily, as much as we traversed the state, we never came close to them, their area being near Salt Lake City. Nearly everything that I saw and experienced in Utah was amazing and beautiful., not excluding it's citizens.
Prior to hitting the road for Utah, we spent a week in Las Vegas at the Palazzo, so that Dan could work. I sunbathed by the pool and had Pina coladas, while Dan slaved away. We were in two different places starting out the road trip and Dan was a trooper, as I couldn't even help out with the driving. My motivation to learn to drive a stick shift will kick in if I get cast on The Amazing Race, I promise!
We had planned our trip to be three nights in Zion, followed by two nights in Bryce. However, how could we call it an adventure, if we didn't completely change our plans on a whim? More on that later, right now, we are still sticking to the plan...
We stopped in Saint George, the last big town before Zion, to buy a new camera at Best Buy and to get supplies at Walmart. This was my third time in a Walmart and my first time in one that had a gun section. It was all very fascinating to me, as that's just not something we have in Los Angeles. Not just the guns, but we don't even have a BIG-BAD-EVIL-WALMART anywhere near where I live. Admittedly, the prices were amazing and we stocked up on a bunch of snacks, some flashlights and the Milton Bradley classic, Battleship.
If I had realized how close Zion is to Vegas and how truly amazing a place it is, I would have visited years ago. It's only a few hours from the strip. If you're reading this and have not been, GO. Dan had been before and knew the drill. He booked us a room at the official Zion Lodge. The lodge is not only beautiful, but it was the benefit of a great location. It is just a few steps from the shuttles that take you into the park and to the hiking spots. This is like staying on property at Disneyland.
The first evening, we arrived a little late and went to the lodge to have dinner. I had a salmon dish that was utterly amazing. I don't remember what kind we drank, but Utah has some awesome local beer. The lodge is a special place to eat. We sat on the patio, under stars and it was so completely quiet and dark. Perfect for this city girl.
After dinner, we had a magical moment walking to our car. Dan reached out to stop me, because just feet in front of me, were deer. We were completely surrounded by deer grazing. They barely acknowledged us as we quietly observed them. Magic. We went back to the room, played Battleship and decided to forgo setting the alarm.
We woke up around eleven and opted to do some hiking. Dan did a great job at getting us prepared with a backpack full of water and some energy bars.We threw on our hiking attire and some sunblock, Dan bought a hiking stick in the gift shop and we hopped on the bus. The idea was to do a simple hike, especially since we got a late start and leave the bigger hike for our second day.
This was the first place that we threw the plan out the window. Dan, having done it before, convinced me to hike to Observation Point, the big hike. Had I know what I was in for, I would have psyched myself out. This is not a hike for the unfit or unprepared. We were unfit and moderately prepared. It's also not a good idea to set out during the heat of the day, especially on a hot, April day. There was a reason why we kept passing by people on the way down from their hikes, early birds, smart people.
The hike to Observation Point is listed as difficult hike and it's over eight miles round trip. Eight miles, when half of it is uphill, is a very long eight miles. The hike was clearly cleverly carved out by the same people who design Disney ride queues. It has so many switchbacks, that you always feel like you must be close to the end, but never are. It's maddening.
Luckily, the hike is filed with so many stunning views, that even though you are sweaty and miserable, you never regret the hike. It's worth the effort.
We found a bit of motivation to plow forward, when we met a couple on the trail who were far less fit and less prepared than us, so we wanted to keep ahead of them. We left them in the dust!
The hike took about six hours and we hardly saw anyone on the way down. Let me reiterate an important point, smart hikers, hike in the morning. We probably drank about fifteen bottles of water between us and had blisters and chaffing. Although we did it, but we should have been more fit and done it early, after having something for breakfast. The walk back to the shuttle bus was more of a limp. After showering, we headed into town for dinner.
There are no words to accurately describe how hungry we were when we sat down to eat at the Zion Pizza and Noodle Co. For once, our eyes were not bigger than our stomaches. Having only eaten half a power bar, coupled with a mega hike, we were ready to eat anything and everything. We ordered a pizza, each.
To put this in perspective, I can normally eat two-three slices tops and after the hike, I ate all but one slice chased down by half a pitcher of local beer. Then, we went across the street for ice cream cones and I didn't even feel sick from too much food. I can't remember the last time that I felt so ravenous. On July 4th, I plan to do a long hike and head straight to Coney Island for Nathan's Hot Dog contest, where my newfound strategy will lead me to victory. Sorry Joey Chestnut, but you've had a good run!
Since we had done the biggest hike, we decided to alter our vacation plans and head to Bryce in the morning, a day early. Zion was amazing and really could be a several day stop, depending on which hikes you do. The great thing is that the park is totally accessible for visitors that cannot handle the hikes. They have a free shuttle/tour route that takes visitors to the best locations and gives narration. We saw a lot of senior citizens, some with very young grandchildren and they were enjoying the National Park too, without going on intense hikes. I am relieved that on my next visit, I can forgo the hard hike and do some tamer ones!
This is a really great destination for families and the lodge has guided nature talks and programs for kids. I grew up with a family that was much more into hotels, room service and Hawaii than National Parks, I wish that we had done something like Zion when I was younger.