Summer is ending soon, but that doesn’t mean the fun should! Join us in Zion National Park this fall and make your “summer vacation” last just a bit longer! It’s time to sit back and relax (or lean forward and pedal your heart out) and pretend like you’re a kid at summer camp.
It’s not often that we find ourselves within a group of people we don’t know, but all with a similar interest: a desire to explore by bicycle. Many might find a two-hour ride in a ten-person passenger van with a group of strangers quite uneasy or claustrophobic. As the initial shy kid at camp, these thoughts crept into my head while packing my bags to meet my group on Day 1. But I quickly forgot about that when I caught sight of the scenery just outside of St. George. Cue entire van jaw-drop. I’m a Midwesterner who’s accustomed to rolling green hills, cornfields, and forests, so this new landscape had me clutching my iPhone in camera mode the entire shuttle to Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park. After prancing around in the sand like a little girl at the beach (note: there are no bodies of water here), I met back with the group for a picnic before our ride. Food always has a way of bringing people together, just like it did at camp when I was ten and I was beaming ear to ear and chatting away.
After twenty-six miles through a vast desert landscape, I satisfied my inner child-like craving to visit with the ‘farm’ animals at Zion Mountain Ranch before sitting down to dinner with my new friends (the other guests, not the animals). Chickens scurried over my toes, horses tried nibbling my fingers, and a foreign sense of delight swept over me as I felt like I was back at the summer state fair. Except the chaos of the fair was nowhere to be found, and the sunset in the distance was starting to blanket the Ranch in hues of blue and pink—a sight that I didn’t appreciate enough as a child.
As we rode west closer to the entrance of Zion National Park on Day 2, I could tell I was going to have a hard time focusing on the task at hand: staying in my lane. Sloping towards the sun on either side of the rust red road were petrified sand dunes and towering mesas. My mom’s voice popped into my head a few times, “Keep your eyes on the road, Ashley.” I wanted to look at everything around me, it was all so stunning! But I thought back to when I was a child with skinned knees from tripping over my feet because I was too busy looking at everything around me. So I slowed my speed, and stopped from time to time to soak it all in. Trust me when I say you’ll need to do this more than just a few times!
Both Day 2 and Day 3 offer our guests the chance to explore Zion National Park and the quaint town of Springdale on their own before closing out the weekend with a victory lap through the canyon. After hiking to what felt like the clouds (Observation Point) on Day 3, I was able to see the entire canyon from a bird’s-eye view, vastly different from what I perceived the canyon to be on the bike the day before. While I chomped on my more sophisticated sack lunch at the cliff edge, I could see hikers attempting Angel’s Landing, the Park shuttle buses unloading the morning’s first explorers below, and vultures circling even further above our heads. Climbing trees at camp served me well as a child, because I was now able to experience the same feeling, only now (safely) at 6,500 feet.
To say that this weekend fulfilled some sort of childhood dream is an understatement. My group, the guides, and this place left me feeling energized and inspired. By the end of Sunday, I wasn’t ready to leave Springdale. However, I refrained from the kicking and screaming I may have done when I was younger and quietly packed myself back into the van.
“In every walk with nature, one receives more than he seeks.” -John Muir
Muir was an incredibly wise man, and the founding father of our National Park system, and he hits the nail right on the head with this quote. I’ve always enjoyed spending time outside, but I didn’t expect for this trip to bring me back in time and relive some of my greatest childhood experiences. So go ahead, order that ice cream cone in Springdale and buy a silly souvenir to remind yourself of when you were a kid again for a weekend!
Ride the spectacular Zion National Park