Returning to a place you love can often be disappointing, with reality smudged by the glossy sheen of memory. Zion Canyon, however, was every bit as majestic as we remembered. I simply couldn't take enough pictures.
This shot was taken out the sun roof of my parents' new Honda Odyssey. (Yes, there are now three in the family.)
We didn't have a lot of time to hike our first evening since we were meeting up with Jason's former coworker, Tracey Dutson, at his home in Rockville. We chose to explore the Canyon Overlook trail, located on the east end of the Zion-Mt. Carmel tunnel. Here's Jason checking out the scenery.
Posing for a photo at the end of this half mile trail. An easy but rewarding hike with phenomenal views, it was hard to believe we'd never done it before.
One final picture of the day.
This easy one miler whetted our appetites for the next day's real adventures. Despite living in St. George for three years, neither Jason nor I had ever explored any of the main canyons requiring a permit. (We almost made it a couple of weeks before we moved, but the government shutdown closed all the National Parks.) We'd originally hoped to hike the Subway, but all the permits were taken just a few hours after becoming available online. Instead, we headed to the much less popular trailhead for Orderville Canyon. I'd insist that the hike was equally stunning, but having never hiked the Subway, that wouldn't be a very fair comparison. Even so, it's hard to imagine a hike being more beautiful. We didn't bring our good camera, so the photos don't really do the hike justice. Even so, here's a sampling to give you an idea:
After hiking in for about a mile or so through a sandy wash, we came to the mouth of the canyon.
Let's just hope I'm not standing quite as close to the edge as this picture makes it appear!
Here's what we saw looking down. There were actually some bolts to tie off on, but since we didn't have a long enough rope to rappel, we opted for the side path.
Whew! We made it to the bottom.
Believe it or not, we were really grateful for the warm weather with highs in the upper nineties. We started early enough in the morning to be cool during the first seven miles while the hike was dry, then felt grateful for the heat when we hit water during the final six miles.
Venturing out at the beginning.
We definitely chuckled because the ranger at the Visitor's Center highly recommended that we purchase a high quality topographical map for route-finding. But really, once you're in the canyon, it'd be pretty hard to get lost. Where else are you going to go?
Arches in the making.
Somehow nature makes me feel young again.
And in love. :)
The only other people we saw for the first eleven miles were some Boy Scouts that we ran into at the first rappel. We were venturing pretty swiftly, so they let us pass through.
Love the texture.
Were my wingspan a bit larger, I could reach both sides.
As soon as we hit water, the canyon became verdant and vibrant with life everywhere, ranging from swarms of butterflies to tiny tadpoles. (Plenty of other bugs and a dead snake too.)
I can remember doing a mental exercise during eighth grade English in which we had to imagine our perfect place, be it lounging on a sunny beach or snuggled up in our bedroom. This was mine: seated on a warm rock next to a burbling stream.
Time for our next rappel. Even though you could have downclimbed these with some expertise, I was glad Jason was prepared with a rope.
What I was not prepared for, however, was the amount of actual swimming we would do to pass through some of the deeper pools. At one point I remember doing the side stroke to get across. Here's Jason with the splash paddle.
Brrr! Now you can see why we were so grateful for the hot weather! I wouldn't want to do the same on a cooler day.
Even though the canyon became even more spectacular in this wet section with beautiful waterfalls and small pools everywhere, our cameras got safely tucked away in their ziploc bags. Here's the last major waterfall before the route joins up with the Narrows.
It was so strange to go from complete solitude to swarms of people making their way up the Virgin River. While I definitely prefer the quiet, it was still fun to soak in this popular energy.
Jason and I must not have been too exhausted from our adventure, because we immediately dried off and headed to the trailhead for Angels Landing. Because the trail is way too steep and dangerous for children, we'd never hiked it as a family and I was anxious to check it off my bucket list.
After lots of crazy turns through Walter's Wiggles, we made it to the notorious section of steep drop offs and metal chains.
Having hiked the trail before, Jason demonstrated how to hold on. I think he was a bit alarmed by the fact that I seem to lack an ordinary fear of heights. I think it's because my center of gravity is so low.
Our National Geographic topographical map actually did come in handy for calculating just how far up we'd come.
As anyone who's made it to the top of Angels Landing will tell you, the vista is well-worth the challenging journey.
So where were we hurrying off to? We were anxious to see our great friends, Cari and Doug Heizer in their new Washington home.
It's hard to believe how much their daughters Chloe and Sofia have grown. Taller and more mature, these ladies are just as beautiful and talented as ever.
Isn't Chloe a cutie? I remember tending her as a 3 year-old. Even now, Eli still writes her occasional letters.
Believe it or not, Sofia is now nearly as tall as I am. It's too bad we live so far apart--I'm know that Brooklyn would love to still be in the same Girl Scout troop with her old friends.
Speaking of old friends, we also visited our fantastic across-the-street neighbors, Karen and Daniel Scott (why didn't I take a picture?) and favorite Johnson family. The Johnson family is building a gorgeous new house in Santa Clara. Here's Thad with Kolter on his lap. I remember when Kolter was in Pre-K!
This was by far the best surprise. The Johnson kids (Kajun, Keat, Kes, and Kolter) all have a new baby brother: Kanyon. Guess you're really outnumbered, Kes!
The morning before we left, we made one last special visit to the Erin Kimball Home, a project that Jason worked on so diligently while in St. George. After being completely redesigned, the home now provides office and therapy spaces, along with supportive housing for victims of domestic abuse.
Jason and Sue Kimball in front of one of the Doors of Hope.
"Mother Earth" hangs not only in the Erin Kimball home, but on our front window as a smaller stained glass replica.
Jason looks so happy to see his work being used for such a great purpose.
All right, all right, I confess--I'm just putting up a zillion of these pictures because I love these doors so much.
But still, imagine being a battered child, torn away from everything familiar, then welcomed into this peaceful sanctuary. These Doors of Hope signal a new future.
Jason, thanks for the lovely trip to St. George. It was such a blessing to go back, if only for a few days. I look forward to opening more Doors of Hope as we discover our own future together.