Sometimes you just have to put down the phone, get off social media and leave town for a few days.
That’s the thought behind the trips I’ve taken to national parks in the past two years with friends from college. Last year, it was camping in Glacier and this year, my first excursion to Zion, with a quick stopover in Bryce Canyon.
While the trip to Glacier involved my wife and two college friends, the roster was slimmer this time around. It was just me and my freshman roommate, Brad, due to the entanglements of everyone’s lives.
It seems like it gets harder every year to assemble friends from college as we spread around the country, buy houses, get married and do the other typical things people do in their late 20s.
Either way, it was a guys’ road trip and weekend down to the southern reaches of the state for a Monday through Friday break from the world. We had managed to snag a campsite in Zion and were excited to set up a tent, go for some hikes and relax.
Having Brad as a travel companion usually works out well. For one thing, we lived together for an entire year in close quarters and didn’t kill each other. We also have the same cavalier attitude toward planning trips — talk about it a couple of times, gather up what seems like everything we’d need for the trip and head out.
Did we bring absolutely everything we needed on the trip? We did not. But I’ll never admit it to my wife (who abhors the way we plan for trips.)
After a day of setting up camp, getting acquainted with the park and drinking a couple of beers with our feet in the river, Brad and I tackled our first major hike on Tuesday — Angel’s Landing.
I’m no great fan of possibly falling from great heights and the fact several people — the most recent this February — have died on the hike to Angel’s Landing made me cautious.
Once on the narrow trail, which requires chains and a bit of focus to navigate, I found it wasn’t as bad as I’d feared. The biggest challenge was maneuvering around hikers heading in the opposite direction and waiting for your chance to advance.
The view from the top was worth the hints of danger along the trail. It’s not often you get to look down on a Peregrine Falcon from above.
The following day, Brad and I tackled another unique challenge — the Narrows. The hike up the Virgin River was open a bit earlier than usual due to low water and we rented the neoprene socks, waterproof boots and hiking sticks to make it a bit easier.
Entering the river with the walls of the canyon towering overhead is an incredible experience. We spent nearly seven hours hiking up and back down the river. The water never got above our waists and the hot temperatures — 96 degrees in the sun — made up for the chilly water.
Like the other spectacular sights in Zion, the Narrows lived up to its reputation before experiencing it. Nature has a way of delivering on the spectacular that man-made constructs never do. Just ask my wife, who on a trip to Paris was roundly unimpressed by the Eiffel Tower.
The day after getting our feet wet with the Narrows, Brad and I took on the East Rim Trail, which ends at Observation Point. The slot canyon midway through the hike was a highlight, as was the spectacular view at the turnaround, where you look down on Angel’s Landing and the rest of the valley below.
Three days, three strenuous hikes while sleeping on the fairly unforgiving ground at the campsite — not to mention the fact our tent tried to blow over every night in the rolling canyon winds — and it was time to head for home. We stopped on the way back for a hike in Bryce Canyon and scout out the park for a possible return visit.
Just like that, however, it was back to reality and work on Monday. It was nice to feel recharged and ready to work — but I can’t wait for the next camping escape.