My long, personal nightmare of seemingly endless vacation is almost over – I should be starting a new job with the Social Security Agency at the beginning of July. With that deadline to free time approaching, and the prospect of having income, I decided to go for a quick trip to Utah. I’d seen amazing pictures from some of those parks, and it seemed like a relatively easy trip to organize quickly (as opposed to a through-hike, which would probably require a shuttle and food and a map or whatever). My plan was to spend a couple days in Zion, Bryce, and then stop in at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. All these places are roughly a 2-hour drive from one another, so it was pretty easy to hit them all with a minimal amount of driving.
Being a cheap bastard, I snagged a flight with Spirit Air. I knew they had a terrible reputation, and I knew I would have to bring my own food and water, but they next best option was at least $100 more, so I figured I’d try it out. What I didn’t know was that they are one of the ONLY companies (along with Frontier) that charge for a carry-on bag. And they charge up to $100 if you don’t pay in advance. Instantly, I hated them, and I hadn’t even gotten on the plane yet. But apparently the gods were smiling on me that day – not only was I able to bring my tent stakes through security (I spent about an hour researching whether or not this is allowed, and all I could find was: “probably not”), but they also let me bring my enormous backpack on the plane, AND I got an aisle seat. And although I lost some of that karma when a REALLY HUGE guy sat “next” to me, I’d say that was probably worth the $100 that I saved. And I managed to get away with the giant bag on my flight back, too. So either the carry-on charge thing is just a scam, or I got really lucky.
My first stop was Zion, where I arrived at 8am on a Friday only to discover that all of their campgrounds were full. At 8am. On a Friday. This was my first introduction into the overly crowded and overpriced system of our National Parks. The next day, I would spend about 30 minutes waiting in line to get into the park, and then spend another 30 minutes in line waiting for the shuttle bus. But I don’t want to rant about that too much, because the place was stunningly beautiful. My pics are going to be super crappy, but basically every time I looked around, I saw something amazing.
Here’s the view from near the top of Angel’s Landing, a hike not recommended for those afraid of heights. You can see the road and the shuttle buses below:
Here’s Echo Canyon, a completely different sort of view:
Because the campground was full, I ended up driving about an hour out of the park to a reservoir, where there was sketchy (but FREE!) campsites. That night I learned that EVERYONE in Utah has an ATV/four wheeler, and they all go riding in the woods on Friday nights. I also learned that the temperature drops to 40 degrees at night, and that I lost my blanket somewhere between DC and Utah.
If you get a chance to go to Zion, definitely do it, but try to avoid the weekends. Inside the park, I recommend hiking Angel’s Landing and Echo Canyon. The Narrows is probably the most popular hike, but I thought it was kind of boring. It’s worth checking out, but I wouldn’t recommend spending a ton of time and money getting water shoes and walking poles and crap just for that one hike. And I bet the Emerald Pools hike is super cool after a bit of rain, but it was pretty dry when I was there.