USA: Unexpected Zion

If you were thinking of visiting beautiful Zion National Park, you’d be making a wise decision to go. Just make sure you check a calendar. If it is a UEA day (Utah Education Association day – a.k.a. all the kids are out of school) prepare for a spectacle. Imagine if the National Park Service and Disney went into a joint venture; that is what you would encounter.

We arrived at Zion late enough in the season, we figured it would be wide open and deserted, ready for us to explore in solitude. One problem, we never checked the Utah Department of Education calendar. We arrived on a Thursday to overflowing campgrounds, parking lots full of buses and (no surprise!) RV’s. Kids of all ages were everywhere. I, as a Virginian who never heard of getting out of school for something other than Chicken Pox or a national holiday, immediately said, “shouldn’t these kids all be in school?” — apparently not on a UAE day.

Slightly disgruntled at losing my idyllic weekend in Zion, I forged ahead, imagining that the shear cliffs and cold water would keep the kids in check. Instead I encountered Mom’s carrying newborns in their arms on trails that seemed to drop off hundreds of feet, toddlers blatantly passing me on slick rock staircases, and elementary age kids playing in the 50 degree Virgin River. I had just busted into tears after walking 20 feet across an ankle deep portion of the river while attempting to begin the Narrows trail, and here these kids were mocking me by swimming in it.

Eventually I gave in and decided I had to embrace the experience. At a cliff side spring, I relished in one little blonde pig-tailed girl’s exclamation, “this is awesome, awesome, awesome! The most awesome, awesomest thing ever!”. As I went to bed that evening, curled up in my tent pitched at the bottom of a mesa in a campground nestled behind the Quality Inn, I had to agree. Awesome.

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