Free Entrance Into Magnificent Zion? Yes, Please.

I’ve traveled about and visited National Parks all over this great country, but I’ve yet to find a place that captures my spirit quite like Zion National Park. From the breathtaking scenery as you drive into the charming town of Springdale to the magnificent views at the summit of Observation Point, nearly every sight is stunning throughout all four seasons. You can safely bet I’ll try to get anyone within earshot to take advantage of the National Park Service Free Days this year and visit this Southwest jewel or any other National Park close to you, for that matter.


I first visited Zion when I moved from Iowa to St. George, UT twenty years ago, and I still have yet to hit every trail in the park, such as canyoneering through The Subway and Mystery Canyon or backpacking overnight on the West Rim Trail. My first experience was in the Zion Canyon area, where I would snap photo after grainy photo on ancient 35mm or disposable cameras, hundreds of photos tucked neatly into boxes in my bedroom closet.

Me and Zion, ages ago

The beauty of Zion is that it’s truly a park for everyone of all ages and shapes and sizes. I started my son on the Emerald Pools trails when he was four years old and sporting his CatDog trucker cap and kid fanny pack, and now I take my daughter along with me. Whether we wander down the easy, paved Pa’rus Trail and the Riverside Walk to the canyons of the Narrows or test her limits and hit the Upper Emerald Pool and Kayenta Trails, there is always something for the little ones to do. Plus, from the spring through the fall there is a shuttle system that takes you throughout the Zion Canyon. No trying to find parking spaces at each trailhead. Word to the wise: arrive early to find a parking space near the Visitor’s Center. This is one busy park.

For those more conditioned (and not afraid of heights), the views from Angel’s Landing and Observation Point are spectacular. Pack snacks and fill your water bottles at the free water filling stations in the park, then hit the canyons. Be sure to take a picture of the switchback system named Walter’s Wiggles as you make your way up to Angel’s Landing.

I could go on for hours about the activities available within the park. Biking, climbing, backpacking, canyoneering, river trips, wilderness hikes down the Narrows (which is phenomenal), Ranger-led activities for kids and adults, the list goes on. Instead, I’ll keep this short and sweet and leave you with some my pictures through different seasons in Zion.

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Go grab your gear, stuff it into your backpack, and get outside! While you’re at it, check out Cotopaxi, an outdoor company doing good for people and our environment




Vacation: A Three-year-old’s Pics

I let Maya use my old camera for a couple days (until the batteries died) during our camping vacation in Flagstaff and these are some of her photos.  Let me just say that she loves dogs– I probably included only half of her doggie shots.  Everyone was more than happy to let her take pictures of their beloved poochies.

I thought it would be fun to see the world from her level.  As soon as this insufferable heat diminishes, we’ll spend more time outside so she can play around with the camera.

Camping Vacation with Maya: Take II

For the first time in two years, I am venturing out of the city limits and into the cool(er) mountain air for a long weekend with my kids.  Now, as a few of you may recall, I attempted this sort of camping “vacation” in July of 2011 and it was, for the most part, an utter fail.  My darling girl was 20 months, had no fear, and was a sprinter.  For those of you sane people in the world who have no children, the rate at which a toddler can run is 3.0 x 108 m/s or the speed of light.  Whichever you prefer.

A toddler + a boundless outdoor space = one infinitely stressed out and weary parent.

We ended up in a hotel room after the second night and then I sped back home first thing the following morning.  I vowed to never do it again until she was older.  Well, she’s three and a half now, so she’s technically older.  She no longer runs like a crazed lunatic as soon as my hand is disconnected from hers, so I’m hoping this will go well.  Is she ready now?  I don’t know.  I think the real question is: am I ready?

I’m making a pre-schooler play list and checking it twice.  Coloring books, crayons, paper, and finger paints.  Got it.  A few favorite books.  Yes.  Thomas the Tank Engine pillow and her favorite blanket.  Check.  And I can’t forget her “new” camera.  She’s an aspiring photographer and there will be an abundance of bugs, flowers, and animals to capture on film as only a child can.  Butterflies, trees, and a beautiful trail along a river will keep her captivated in Oak Creek Canyon.

It’s time to give it another shot.  I love to play outdoors and so does she, so the camping aspect makes perfect sense.  (Not to mention it is significantly cheaper than hotel rooms, which is vital to a single mom on a tight budget.)  To save a bit of time and possible frustration (should Maya revert to her toddler days), we are staying in a tee-pee, which Maya calls a tee-pee-pee, at a KOA.  The camp comes loaded with a splash pad, a bouncy house, a playground, mini-golf, and a little barrel train that hauls the kids around the campground.  She was a bit too small to truly enjoy the activities last time, but I think this time she will be at the perfect age.  There are always other kids running around, so I’m guessing she’s going to have a ball and, for once, I can kick back and chat with Josh without interruption.

This is, of course, mere speculation.  All hell might break loose once again and my soul will be stomped on and crushed into pulp by she who is called Maya.

The only other issue that remains: will my nineteen year old survive without constant connection to his laptop or should we acquire xanax for him before we leave?  He used to be my camping and hiking buddy, but now he’s tethered to all things virtual.  The fresh air, exercise, and sunshine will serve him well, for his body and his brain.

Have any of you had successful camping trips with your wee ones?  Any words of wisdom you can offer?