Now back in the shadow of Zion National Park, I have to say, it feels good to be back. As I have moved at a fast clip through Southern Colorado, down the Green River, and across the southern state of Utah since July, this stop has been a bit of a “carrot” at the end of the stick. I have looked forward to just “parking it” for awhile. No more route planning, campground research, navigating unfamiliar territory, hitching and unhitching. Just a couple of weeks to relax, visit with friends, and make my favorite time of the year, the autumn season, stretch as long as possible.
I’m not usually a fan of “repeats,” but there are just certain places that feel so good, the desire to return starts nagging at the first sign of a season change. Wintering in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico has that effect on me. Zion holds a similar seasonal lure. Surrounding areas offer familiarity, comforts and conveniences like movie theaters, casual restaurants, markets, propane, and a dump station…all within a half hour drive of one of our most majestic National Parks with a plethora of hidden hikes and the mother of all “bike paths,” riding the scenic drive while closed to all vehicular traffic (aside from a few shuttle buses.)
I am all for “going where the weather suits my clothes” as much as any full timer. But this time in Zion suits my psyche. It’s a time to fire up my best friend, Mr. Buddy Heater, put on some soup to simmer, and enjoy the change of seasons. Though the red and oranges of the maples are starting to fade, the cottonwoods are just beginning to reveal their true colors beneath their cloak of chlorophyll. It’s like a little panacea before I have to face things less pleasing to me, like the holiday season and the Health Care Exchange.
I love the crisp mornings of preparing for a hike. Hot, steaming oatmeal with crystallized maple sugar on top to start the day. Stepping outside the Winnie on the Mesa to see a dusting of snow on the distant mountains. Goosebumps on the naked skin of my legs, bracketed by a warm fleece jacket and wool socks. Soon, we will be off on the trail, shedding layers in the warmth of the radiant sun reflecting back from the face of the red rock cliffs.
By noon, we find ourselves atop some remote vista with views of evergreen topped peaks, varnish-stained red rock cliffs, and a palate of autumn reds and golds in the canyons below. Perched on nature’s finely sculpted furniture, I enjoy my al fresco meal of choice, crunchy peanut butter on multi-grain with marionberry jam. Conversations turn to negotiations of an appropriate turn-around point. How much time do we have to explore and still make it back in time for an early dinner to accommodate the ever-shortening hours of daylight?
Autumn is my absolute favorite time of the year, and Zion is a place that wears it well. Growing up in Texas, we were lucky if we got 3 to 5 days of fall in between the two main seasons, “green and brown.” Living in New York, the fall colors were beautiful, but it was an ominous warning of what was to come. My first year living in Manhattan was “the snowiest on record.” So southern Utah is the “Goldilocks of Autumn,” juuuussst right!
It’s nice not to have an “agenda” this year. I completed “Zion’s trifecta” this same time last year (Angel’s Landing, the Narrows, and the Subway,) so I have put away the bucket list for this visit. I am just happy to be immersed in the vibrant colors of fiery vermilion cliffs, verdant evergreens, golden cottonwoods, and that infamous reddish brown two-lane once again.
I rode the cusp of Autumn until December 1st last year. I won’t make it that far this year due to other personal commitments. But I plan to “make hay while the sun shines” for all the remaining halcyon days…