Readers share their stories of Zion National Park
From awestruck to lovestruck
I visited Zion when my family moved to Utah in 1986, when I was six years old. I didn't return until April of 2007. I went with my girlfriend, Lindsay, and once we arrived and saw what it had to offer I felt like a moron -- for 21 years I had lived a scant 4 1/2 hours from this natural wonder, and I had never visited. I also felt very much in love, and as Lindsay and I stood on the Emerald Pools trail, watching the Zion cliffs march into the sunset, I had fantasies about proposing to her. But we had been dating for a mere six months: not near enough time. I had the spot pegged, though.
We returned almost a year later, in March of 2008, and this time I had a ring in my pocket. On the Emerald Pools trail, as the sun set and the stars came out, I knelt on one knee and asked her to marry me. She said yes, and eventually, in a haze of emotion, we staggered to the Bumbleberry Inn for a late dinner. The waitress gave us free pie as a "just-engaged" present. We got a similar 10 percent discount off our Narrows river gear, too.
Our wedding will take place in May of this year, and after we're husband and wife, we're leaving again for Zion. Our families are arriving from across the country for the wedding, and we want to show them the park while they're here. After all, few people are lucky enough to live within driving distance of this magical place.
-- Luke Johnson, Salt Lake City
Zion, the outdoor classroom
A good college friend and I frequented Zion National Park during the spring breaks, backpacking the Kolob Arch area. During the day, we'd explore side canyons (one special one we found we termed "Christmas Canyon" with its touch of snow on red rock and the new green of spring) and sprawl out on big rocks while reading books and soaking in the sun. By sunset at our campsite, we'd climb up a nearby perch with a view of the canyon and practice studying for the Graduate Record Examination with flash cards of new vocabulary words and such. If we missed a word, we'd take a shot of tequila with lemon and salt, which couldn't have done much harm as we both attended grad school and can even recall many of those vocabulary words (perspicacious and benighted come to mind).
-- Janae Wallace Boyer, Salt Lake City
Sing, sing a song
The last time our family of eight took a vacation together, before the children started marrying off, we camped at Zion National Park in June 2001. We hiked to Angel's Landing and found one other couple on top--tourists from Germany, but they spoke English.
Our family was so awestruck with the beauty of God's creation as seen from the top of "Zion," we asked the other couple if they minded if we sang a song. They said "go ahead," so we sang all four verses of the majestic hymn by Stuart K. Hine, "How Great Thou Art." It's a song of praise to God for wonders in nature, for God's son dying to take away our sin, and the joy of anticipating Christ's return.
When our "Horn-octet" (as we called ourselves back then) finished singing, the German couple complimented us.
We were feeling pretty satisfied until the man asked, "Was that a lullaby?"
-- Ken and Marcia Hornok, Taylorsville
Training for a big one
This past summer my friend (age 64) and I (age 60) came to know Zion National Park intimately. Throughout much of the summer we got up early once each week and made the hour drive from our homes in St. George to Zion to hike to the top of Observation Point, a difficult eight-mile round trip hike. On two different occasions in August we even hiked it twice in one day! What would make us do such a thing, you might wonder? It started a couple of years ago when I was trying to figure out how to celebrate my 60th birthday. I wanted to make it memorable, so I decided I would celebrate by hiking rim-to-rim of the Grand Canyon in one day, a 24-mile trek, on the actual day of my birthday (Sept. 15). My friend was crazy enough to say she wanted to do it with me. Living close to Zion gave us the perfect place to train. We both fell in love with the Observation Point trail, and we never tired of its beauty. It was the perfect place to train.
On Sept. 15 at 6a.m., under a full moon, we began our hike from the north rim of the Grand Canyon. Fourteen hours later we triumphantly arrived at the top of the south rim. We felt great, and we attributed our success to our weekly hikes at Zion National Park. It will definitely be a birthday to remember!
-- Shari Klarich, St. George
Finding faith in the wild
In 1980, my husband was in an alcohol treatment center in St. George, Utah. The details of how he ended up there are long and complicated and not pretty. The good news is that he has been clean and sober for 18 years.
One day while he was in treatment, his counselor suggested that I "take the day off." I was tired and confused and didn't understand this new "world" I had been thrown into. The counselor assured me that he would take care of my husband and that i should go do something for myself.
I had never been to Zion Canyon. I had a beautiful little 300 ZX at the time and I drove to Zions with the radio playing deep and penetrating songs. I was putting much thought into my future decisions. The sun was beautiful and the sky was bluer than I had remembered possible. I was enjoying the music and the gift of freedom this wise man had bestowed on me.
When I drove through Zion Canyon, I was awestruck. I was mesmerized. I got out of the car and let the beauty, the music and the sunshine heal my battered soul. And it did.
I go back to Zion often now but I have never forgotten that first drive through the awesome beauty that restored and healed my soul and made me smile and bask in gratitude and reverence for God's creations.
That drive may have literally saved me, my marriage and my outlook on God.
-- Alice Johansen, Springville
Lapping with the lion
Because of my schedule while working as a 17-year-old kitchen helper at Zion Lodge, I often had days off that were not the same as those of my close friends. Thus, on one particularly hot day 1953, I decided to climb the trail to the Canyon's West Rim alone, foolishly without taking along any water. Extremely thirsty after passing the trail to Angels Landing, I spotted a drinking fountain built by the CCC crews in the 1930s but to my disappointment no water appeared when I desperately turned on the tap. Continuing on while becoming thirstier and hotter by the minute, I started to realize that I was in danger of dying by heatstroke even if I turned back.
Just then I saw a trail sign saying that a spring lay just a short distance ahead. Using all my remaining willpower I rushed ahead, but to my surprise, as I suddenly came upon the small pool of water coming from the spring, just a few feet across from me an also surprised mountain lion was taking a drink. He quickly ran away so I immediately kneeled down to scoop up handfuls of the lifesaving but bug-filled water.
Refreshed, I crossed the West Rim Plateau to the viewpoint overlooking the canyons to the west and then returned to the spring. But as I started down the trail, just about 10 feet above me at the edge of the plateau rim the mountain lion, seemingly having lost its fear of me, raced across. Despite having heard that mountain lions never attack people, I picked up the largest rock I could find while quickly making my descent. In retrospect, in light of more recent stories about fatal human-mountain lion encounters, perhaps I was foolish but lucky in continuing on rather than turning back after my unexpected encounter with my wild friend.
-- Larry R. Stucki, Salt Lake City
In the years immediately preceding World War ll they used to present the "Passion Play" at Zion Park on Easter Sunday. It was staged on the mountain side east of the road going out of the park towards Springdale.
The final scenes -- The Crucifiction and Resurrection -- came after dark and were lighted by huge flood-lights. The effect was very impressive.
My family would drive from Panguitch to Zion Park each Easter to see the play.
-- Maitland Spencer, Cottonwood Heights
Sun, stew and sock hops
I have fond memories of spending time in Zion Canyon as a youth. We often took a picnic lunch and spent the day hiking and enjoying the early spring beauty of Zion, with all the foliage a luscious light green, when everywhere else was still in winter drab.
I attended high school and college at the Branch Agricultural College in Cedar City when the faculty members, students and townspeople performed an Easter pageant at Zion for a few years. A whole cast, including chorus and orchestra, practiced and performed in the beautiful red rocks of the canyon.
In 1941, before World War II began, several teachers would take the freshman class to Zion for an overnight camping trip. We ate Mr. Manning's mulligan stew and had a sock hop at the chapel in Springdale, as well as sunning ourselves on the warm ledges.
-- Marolyn Siddoway, Holladay
Last trip to Zion
In the fall a few years ago, my 86-year-old father, my brother and I visited Zion, camping out in the Watchman campground. After camping in our tent for a couple of nights I asked my father if he would like to stay in the Zion Park Inn for our last night, as I had a certificate for a free night there. My dad said, "it is so beautiful here, I want to continue camping." We enjoyed another night tucked in our sleeping bags. My father died the next summer so this turned out to be our last camping trip together. I will always remember our last camping trip. I will especially recall my dad's desire to sleep on the ground in a tent, surrounded by the magnificent cliffs of Zion.
-- David Folland, Sandy
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