Zion! Day Two

After an amazing first day in Zion, full of hiking and exploring I was ready to see more! Today was backpacking day - my first time backpacking by myself! I was nervous and excited to try a solo backpacking trip, especially so far from home. But I felt ready and since I'd been traveling and camping by myself the last few days it didn't seem as big of a deal once it was finally time to backpack alone. I've dreamed of a solo backpacking adventure for a long time and I was ready to test my skills in the backcountry of Zion. 

Originally I had planned to hike to Observation Point first thing in the morning. However, since my backcountry plans had changed the day before and I now was going to have to drive an hour to the northwest portion of the park near Kolob Reservoir, I figured it wasn't the best idea to hike 7 miles with 2,700 feet of elevation gain the morning before I hike 5 miles into the backcountry with 30 lbs on my back. I decided it was best to save time and energy for that so I reluctantly did not get to the top of Observation Point.

Instead, I spent the morning having a leisurely breakfast and coffee while enjoying my last morning at Watchman Campground. I then decided to check out the Zion Human History Museum to learn more about the people of the park. They had the standard exhibits and a 22 minute film about the park but what I didn't expect to see was an gallery featuring art inspired by the park. As an artist who has recently rediscovered my love of painting and who is still struggling with even calling herself an artist, it was inspiring to see such beautiful works of art in a place I was falling in love with. Ever since I started painting again I've been afraid I'm not good enough or that I'm an imposter and I can't actually do this and what if I fail and look stupid. Standing in that gallery full of watercolor, acrylic, and oil paintings, for the first time I felt like my artist dream was a possibility. Here these artists had done it, they are doing it. If they can do it, so can I!

And then to realize that if I would have decided to hike to Observation Point this morning, I would have missed this gallery and missed this realization made me even more emotional and thankful that I listened to my gut and took the time to have a slow morning. This was exactly what I needed. I wasn't meant to hike Observation Point this day. I was meant to see this gallery and reaffirm my goal of being an artist.

Certain artists in particular spoke to me. Roland Lee's "Goosebery Mesa" was the first piece to make my heart skip a beat. Suze Woolf's "Zion from the Rockville Bench" made me appreciate how a simple brush stroke can convey so much emotion. Rick Kinateder's "Great White Throne, Winter Dusting" brought tears to my eyes. 

All of the paintings on display are available to view online at Zion Natl Park Forever Project. Every artist featured was participating in the 10th Annual Zion Plein Air Invitational on November 11th.  I would have loved to see the artists creating their works of art in person. Perhaps one day I will be an artist at the Zion Plein Air Invitational!

Virgin River

I left the Zion Human History Museum feeling inspired and full and excited to see what was next in my adventure and in my life as an artist. I walked the Pa'rus Trail along the Virgin River, back to my campsite for the last time. It was an absolutely perfect fall day with a gentle breeze, beautiful fall colors bursting all around, and the gorgeous red rock walls of the canyon was showing off. I didn't want to leave this beautiful place, it had given me so much in such a short amount of time. But the trail was calling and I needed to get a move on to get to the West Rim Trailhead near Lava Point.

It took me about an hour to drive the 40 miles around the park, up the Kolob Terrace Road to the trailhead. I nervously checked my gear - making sure I had everything I needed. I packed and then repacked my pack, double checked my map, food, and water situation. The springs were dry so I had to pack in all the water I was going to need for two days of hiking plus water for cooking. My pack was heavier than I thought it would be, which usually happens, but I swung it on my back, grabbed my trekking poles, locked my car and headed to the trail! Ready for my first solo backpacking trip!

Zion Wilderness

The first mile I was elated and I felt great. My legs were strong after 3 days of hiking. It was a beautiful, fall sunny day and I was backpacking in Zion! Once again gratitude welled up inside me and I thanked God for allowing me to be here and I thanked myself for being brave enough to go after my dreams. At one point I even told myself out loud how proud I was and how much I loved myself. To be hiking on the West Rim Trail was truly a dream come true. 

West Rim Trail

The sights from the trail were beautiful. This particular stretch of trail might seem a little boring to others, especially when the trail dropped down into Potato Hollow and those beautiful canyon views were obstructed but I was loving every minute of it. A couple miles in I was stopped in my tracks by a vista that opens up to Wildcat Canyon. I let out an audible "Wow!" before realizing a nice older couple had also stopped and were enjoying the view. We chatted for a bit, traded some hiking stories, recommended other trails, wished each other well, and soon I was back on the trail. 

Wildcat Canyon

I made it to campsite #7 with plenty of day light left. The hollow was filled with aspen trees but all of their leaves had already fallen. I could imagine how beautiful this place would have been a few weeks before with the golden aspen leaves twinkling in every direction!

By now the winds were picking up. The forecast called for a cold night, in the 30s with high winds. I was prepared for cold weather and I wasn't afraid of a little wind but I did not know what the night ahead of me had in store. I explored my campsite a bit, set up my tent (and then chased my tent across the meadow below when a gust of wind took it for a ride), and got ready to make dinner. As the sun was setting I put more layers on. I set up my stove, boiled some water for my mac & cheese, and prepared my sleeping pad and bag. I had hoped to lay out under the stars for a bit and enjoy the dark night sky.

Campsite #7

However, once the sun went down and the winds picked up even more, it was so cold that I couldn't stay outside my tent. My plans for laying under the stars and looking for the Milky Way would have to wait for another trip. It was too damn cold! And that's coming from someone who likes the cold. The wind was whipping so hard that I could not stay warm outside, even with all of my wool base layers, wool hat, gloves, mid weight jacket, and heavy down jacket over all of that. I scarfed down my dinner faster than I wanted, drank some water to rehydrate myself, cleaned up camp, hung my food in a tree, and jumped into my 15 degree sleeping bag to warm up. Luckily I also brought hand warmers and that helped keep me nice and toasty in my bag. The sun set around 6:30pm and the only thing I could do was lay in my bag and stay warm. I would end up staying in that bag for 12 hours until the sun came up the next morning.

West Rim Trail - from Lava Point to campsite #7

Date Hiked: October 30, 2018

Total Miles: 5 miles

Elevation Gained: -650 feet

Rating: Moderate

Total Time: 2 hours

Land Acknowledgement: Ancestral land of the Southern Paiute and Puebloans


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