I travel for work a lot. Somedays my introvert self takes over making me want to quit it all and curl up on my couch and binge the latest show forever. But then I resist, and I make plans. Before my recent, and now becoming annual sojourn to Las Vegas for a work conference in April I planned to spend exactly 36 hours engulfed by nature. That is after a brief detour to In-and-Out for lunch.
Immediately after landing in Sin City I hopped in a rental car and drove to Zion National Park in Utah. That day I crossed three time zones, four states and before arrive to the park. I didn't do much research ahead of time about Zion. I knew there were a handful of trails of varying skill level and that seemed to be enough for me to go.
Arriving at the park in the afternoon was definitely for the best. Between 10 am and 2 pm there is little to no parking available in the park. Arriving late in the afternoon allowed for me to drive right in and get my adventure started. Another thing I hadn't looked into is navigating the park shuttle. Fortunately it is beyond easy to figure out and was very efficient.
I booked a super classy motel in the adjacent town of Springdale for the night. It was perfectly perfunctory. It had a clean bathroom, the okay bed and that's all that mattered because I was so exhausted from the day. The following morning I woke up still on eastern time. After answering a few work emails, finishing packing I stopped in at the "continental" breakfast provided, ahem, majorly lacking- all I wanted was some fruit for my hike but there was none. Only carbs, chocolate covered carbs and coffee. Coffee and toast in hand I headed for the park.
I wasn't prepared for how busy Zion would be. My first afternoon I hiked an easy trail to the Lower and Upper Emerald Pools. Most of the trail is paved and was moderately busy. Once you move on to the Upper Pools or Grotto trail which is not paved it is a little less crowded. The morning of the next day was empty, well almost. That morning I walked the Riverside walk along the Virgin River. I'd hoped to walk a little way into the Narrows, the most famous trail in Zion but was prevented because of the recent rain. Instead I hiked Angel's landing for as long as time allowed me.
I wasn't prepared for how small I would feel with in the valley between these tall cliffs. You look up and see this towering majesty around you, the sediment lines in the rock and how the river and water is still carving out the rock. Brings to mind that we are never finished as a person, our journey is never complete.
Timezones are hard and because I keep thinking Las Vegas was in the same timezone as Zion (it's not) I left earlier than needed to arrive back before I could check in to my hotel. Insert quick detour to the Valley of Fire, a Nevada State Park.
The perfect two hour filler trip, VOF was optimal because I could do a lot of the sights from my car. I hiked a little bit through the very fine red sand, which promptly made it's home in the soles of my shoes. Lightly scrambled up some red rocks, facetimed with family looking over the painted valley and then called it a day and headed to the Strip.
A word on adventuring alone, do it. Figure things out for yourself, ask questions, decide what you want to do, go as far as you want and then turn around and walk back. Being alone in a new, different, strange place is empowering, challenging and if you let it, uplifting. Take a selfie, take a Snapchat selfie-video. Set goals for your trip and make them happen. Take this alone time and get to know who you are without your normal life pressures molding and shaping you.
You got this.