22 July 2014

Zion National Park and Springdale, UT--aka OMG, I'm never leaving this place!

While being on vacation, and on this trip in particular, my plans have changed over and over and over. I have something set in my mind and when a new day comes around, it all changes. I think I have decided I really like it that way. It seems to turn out for the best, regardless of what I do. This last change came when I decided I was going to head home a day early and directly from my brother's house. We rode out together at a little after 6:00 am, me turning north at the 57 and him turning south.

My brother, Dan, on his Suzuki Boulevard 800. I look positively silly when I ride this bike--probably like I would look if I rode a Clydesdale.

My plan was to beat the heat--at least as much of it as I could. Though I took a lot of breaks on my last day of riding to California, the heat was brutal and I realized I was exhausted from hours on the bike in over 100 degree temps. I wanted to be through Las Vegas by 11:00 at the latest--I didn't want to be there in the afternoon during high heat. The morning ride up the 15 through Barstow and Baker was relatively cool and comfortable. It started to warm up north of there, but remained relatively comfortable. The forecasted high for Vegas was 112 degrees, and I waited to get hit full force. Fortunately, as I was coming into Nevada, cloud cover began. By the time I gassed up in north Las Vegas and got back on the freeway, I was getting rained on lightly. I felt very fortunate!

The world's largest thermometer--sadly, it wasn't working that day. Baker, CA

I mentioned in an earlier post that I had seen next to no adventure bikes. Well, that all changed Monday as I was heading north and east. I saw so many of them that day, I lost count. And one bike, a beautiful black Triumph Tiger 800 played leap frog with me three different times. The last time he passed me, just north of Vegas, I just burst out laughing in my helmet. He rode about 5 mph faster than me, but I stopped for shorter lengths of time for gas and cold drink breaks.

Well, hello Zion!

I got off the 15 just north of St. George, and took highway 9 to Springdale, UT--the southern entrance for Zion National Park. As I got into town, my low gas light came on, and I quickly spied a Chevron station and headed in. The station didn't have pay-at-the-pump, so I went inside to give the cashier, Will (it'll make sense why I know his name in just a moment) my credit card.

"Hi! I'd like to fill my tank on pump #2, please."

Will, looking outside asks excitedly, "Is that you on the scooter!?!"

I, feeling like he made that comment like my friends and I do, and not actually mistaking my bike for a scooter, nevertheless said, "Yup! That's me on the motorcycle."

Will, turning back to me wide-eyed, "WILL YOU MARRY ME???"



He smiled, pulled out his phone and said, "I have to show you pictures of Sir Winston Something-or-other."

He showed me a pic of his BMW motorbike with his dog on the bike--doggles, scarf, and all.

I asked what Sir Winston was--thinking he was referring to the bike--and he told me he is a Sheltie. I still don't know what kind of bike he rides.... Anyway, Will was so excited I was there on my bike, that he insisted on showing me a route that he loves which would take me out of Zion, through Escalante and Capitol Reef, and back up to 70. He said it would definitely add time to the trip, but that it was well worth it.

I said goodbye to Will and cruised into the park. I asked the ranger if there were any campsites left, and he told me he thought there might be a couple. I found the campground, rode in, and rode around looking for a sight. As I was riding around looking, a man flagged me down and asked if I needed a site. He said he just slept in his truck, so if I wanted to, I could put my tent wherever I wanted in the site. As I've told this story to a couple of people, I have been asked if I didn't feel weird about some random guy offering to share a campsite. The truth is that from across the campground, where he first saw me and waved me down, he could not have known I was a woman. In all my gear, with a full face helmet, and no longer having a ponytail streaming down my back, I look nothing like a female.

So, I unloaded the bike and put up the tent, all the while chatting with Bobby. He was a nice guy who lives in St. George, and seems to spend a lot of time in the park. After asking about other trips I had done on the bike, he called me a crazy woman and asked if I was Scottish. I was completely unoffended and laughed. My Scottish friend, Ian McLeod later reminded me that it is true--Scottish women ARE crazy!

My shared campsite, with Bobby's chair and watermelon, and of course, Dog.

I had planned to stay one night. A couple of hours of being in the park and hiking--in my motorcycle boots!--and I decided I needed to stay at least three nights (another change in plans) and go into town and buy some proper footwear for the area. This I didn't mind doing at all. Springdale is a sweet little town, and I had no problem supporting the community.

The next few days would find me hiking, eating local food, hiking, meeting new people, hiking, drinking local beer, finding peace and stillness, and falling in love with the area. I smiled and laughed a lot. I told stories, and listened to other people's stories, saw magnificent scenery, toured a brewery, cooled off from days of 100+ degree days in small swimming holes and in the rivers themselves. It was three wonderful days, with the only downside being an uncomfortable conversation I had the last morning before I left. (This will be discussed in a future post concerning traveling alone as a woman.)

Dinner one night with Wasatch and Squatters beers!

The second day I was in Zion, I left the park at lunch-ish time, having hiked a good six miles that morning already, and looking to sit quietly in the heat of the day and have a beer. As it turns out, right outside the park is the Zion Canyon Brew Pub. I sat at the bar, ordered the Red Altar Ale and perused the menu which offered very few items for a non-meat eater. I totally got over that fact as the server walked out from the back with my beer and I began smelling it from 8 feet away. It smelled wonderful and tasted even better. And, at a low alcohol percentage I could have had it all day long... until I was introduced to the Zion Canyon Brewing Company brewer, Jeremy Baxter, who convinced me I should try a different one the next time. Of course I was glad to try the stout, and to be invited to check out the brewery if I got a chance.

I take a lot of selfies on my trips alone, but a nice guy offered to take this one in The Narrows. It was a hot day and this was the perfect hike to do, once I got far enough out that it wasn't mobbed with people!
This is at a small waterfall in The Narrows. Gorgeous!

I did that the next afternoon! It was hot outside, and I thought it might be nice to head inside where it might be a bit cooler. Nope! Somehow, it was warmer, and the humidity was insane. Still, it was a great space, creating great beer, and there was a pleasant surprise beyond that. As a local, I asked Jeremy what I should not miss while I'm in the area. Though he mentioned a couple of things there in Zion and Springdale, he also mentioned a spot called Goblin Valley, which I would be riding near on my way back into Colorado. He had a computer in the brewery and brought up pics of the area and maps for me to see. It felt so decadent looking at things on that computer screen--I had done everything on my tiny little iPhone for three weeks!

After a bit more hiking that evening, more ZCBC Red Altar, and a restless night of sleep, I woke to find a family of deer in my campsite. The two babies were so cute and skittish, but mama was friendlier than wildlife should be.

I had strong words for her, she stared me down and put me in my place.

I stepped away to take pictures and she examined my map.

Eventually we called a truce, and she wandered a few feet away to munch while I continued to examine my map, and what would be my course for the day to get to Goblin Valley.

Before leaving, I needed to do some maintenance on the bike, and found a nice flat paved parking lot to do it in. Once again I had to tension my chain. This was becoming a daily thing and really starting to annoy me. Now I think on it, I have a good 10-12,000 miles on it, but riding on a failing chain sucks! Still, I got it tensioned and lubed, and loaded to go. I rolled out of the park to the east, heading towards Red Canyon, Bryce, and Escalante, feeling a little deflated. I wasn't interested in leaving. (sad face!) But it was time, so I rode through the park one more time and took a few parting shots of some of the most beautiful scenery I have had the privilege of enjoying.

The varnishing on these formations is beautiful, and I've been informed it makes a nice little tiny ledge for climbing. I can't wait to go back and climb....

Don't worry, Zion, I'll be returning.




  1. Oh Zion! One of my favorite places. Didn't get there nearly enough this summer. Looks like you had a great time!

    1. How could you not be there every weekend?! Utah Shakes may be in my plans next season....