“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.”
When John Muir wrote those words about our national parks, we’re sure he wasn’t talking about Zion National Park during Memorial Day weekend. As we left Best Friends Animal Sanctuary and headed west on Highway 9 towards Zion, we imagined sandstone cliffs, beautiful waterfalls, and peaceful canyons. Instead, we found crowds, traffic, and noise. Lots of noise. Nature’s peace certainly did not flow into us as sunshine flows into trees.
Welcome to nature, people. Welcome to nature.
Now don’t get us wrong, we are thrilled that people are taking advantage of this national treasure—especially with this year being the 100th birthday of the National Park Service—but trying to navigate around badly parked cars just to get in line to hike single file up a trail with hundreds of other people is not our idea of enjoying nature. So we took a few pictures and continued west through the park, trying not to run anyone over as we escaped the crowds.
Perhaps the most memorable part of our Zion experience was navigating the Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel. This 1.1 mile tunnel was built in 1930, before caravans of extra-large vehicles frequented the park. It wasn’t built to handle the RVs of today, at least not two of them at the same time going opposite directions. After an increasing number of accidents inside the tunnel, the National Park Service implemented a new process in 1989.
Nowadays, if you are driving an oversized vehicle through the park you pay a $15 fee to make the tunnel one way just for you. Yes, that’s right, just for you. Rangers are posted at both ends of the tunnel to do traffic control.
We must have arrived at the east end of the tunnel the same time an RV was arriving at the west end of the tunnel, because we had to stop and wait for them (and the 90 cars following them) to pass by. Finally it was our turn. We made it through without incident, and were glad to have no oncoming traffic. The tunnel was dark and narrow and winding, but when we emerged at the other end we were treated to some beautiful views.
Of course we didn’t have a plan for where we were going to stay that night. Suzanne had read about a potential boondocking spot just west of the park near La Verkin, Utah, so we headed there to check it out. We’re always a little uncomfortable turning off of main roads onto unknown dirt roads while towing The Bullet (a 30-foot trailer takes a lot of room to turn around if you hit a dead end), but we decided to go for it and were rewarded with our most beautiful campsite yet.
Ahhhh….now this is our idea of enjoying nature. Fresh air, beautiful views, and not another soul in sight. We even had our own river.
In addition to the peace and quiet, we also had a good wi-fi signal from this spot. And, we weren’t too far from a grocery store. So why would we ever leave?! Alas, the temperatures started climbing to 90-100 degrees daily and it got to the point where we really needed air conditioning. Our generator can only do so much. These temps called for full hook-ups and running the AC for more than a few hours a day. So we moved 15 miles further down the road and settled in at Sand Hollow State Park near St. George, Utah.
Sand Hollow State Park is a fairly new campground and we enjoyed our time there. It’s very clean, the sites are well spaced out, and the campground sits right next to a beautiful lake. Sadly, however, this was the last place we were all together as a family. A few days after leaving Sand Hollow we had to say goodbye to Noah very unexpectedly. The weeks that followed were a bit of a blur.
We visited Las Vegas and Lake Mead, and we made a brief stop in Upland, California, to see Suzanne’s brother Sean and his family. But staying in one place for too long gave us too much time to think about our painful loss and the empty dog bed in the RV. So instead of visiting friends and family in Southern California as planned, we packed up our broken hearts and hit the open road. When we left Upland we headed north on 395 towards Lone Pine, CA, and that’s where we will pick up with our next blog post.
At some point in the future we will write more about Noah and the Noah-sized holes in our hearts, but for now we will leave you with a picture of our sweet boy and several pictures from those weeks after Sand Hollow. We’ll see you on down the road.
The Hoover Dam
Suzanne’s adorable niece and nephew—Naomi and Sebastian—and their dog Papaleta