An old buddy of mine from Georgia (who also hiked the AT in previous years!) Jacob (AKA Dirty Bird) moved to Utah to test it out, so we ran down to the desert to do some good ol’ backpacking and dirtbagging.
We arrived at Zion National Park to about 200 other cars in the visitors center. Regardless, we tried for a walk up permit for the West Rim Trail, which I’ve been trying to hike since I moved here, but alas there were no more walk up permits. The park ranger (lets call him Joe) sort of laughed at us for even trying, but gave us permits for the La Verkin Trail instead, then sent us on our merry way.
The La Verkin Trail isn’t a super long one–only 7 miles from the start to Kolob Arch (which was our turnaround point since the other trailhead was closed). I’d never heard of it, but was stoked to hike with weight on my back and to get away from the crowds. The first day was overcast at first, which was absolutely lovely. We saw beautiful sandstone walls, that only got more and more impressive as we went.
We took a water break a few miles in, since we were making excellent time. We looked up to see Joe the park ranger headed our way! He approached us, and I greeted him with a friendly smile. “Hey guys, can I see your permits?” he said. Puzzled, I said, “Of course, but I think you’re the one who gave them to us.” He looked up at us, and I saw no recognition in his eyes. I really don’t think he remembered us from mere hours before! He looked at the permits, and said, “Oh huh, that is my signature.”
We asked him about getting to Kolob Arch, the largest freestanding arch in the world. He told us, pointblank, that it was one of the most underwhelming things we’d ever see in our lives, but to feel free to take the .5 mile side trail to check it out. We walked away laughing at how jaded this guy must be! Working in Zion National Park and talking mad shit about the largest freestanding arch in the world…what WOULD it take to impress this guy?! We riddled off more amazing wonders of the world and took turns jokingly knocking em down. “Redwoods…BAH they’re underwhelming. Just trees, after all!” “Eiffel Tower….meh. I’ve seen taller structures.” “Yosemite… eh. The ocean is bigger!”
By this point the sun had emerged from behind the clouds, and it was getting warm. We got to the most spectacular view I’d seen in a long time, then hiked down into a gorge with ice cold water. There is nothing, and I mean NOTHING, better or more satisfying than a cold stream in the middle of a hot desert hike!
Zion is full of beautiful spectacles both large and small. This particular creek was home to silver toads! And yes I really mean silver…metallic, shiny beautiful silver toads sunning themselves on the rocks. On the way in we also found thousands of tiny black tadpoles swimming in the shallows of creeks, and along the trail were beautiful bushels of Indian paintbrush growing out of the rocks. Nature is the coolest.
We eventually kept going and made camp under giant sandstone walls, watching birds nesting on the cliffs.
The following day we went and saw the Kolob Arch, talked some shit about how underwhelming it was (just kidding. Joe, if you’re out there….we thought it was rad lol), then headed back the way we came. My phone died, but here’s a link to show you the Underwhelming Arch.
The hike back was HOT. I mean overwhelmingly hot. And to make matters worse, the whole day previous, I’d totally thought we were hiking on flat trail. Turns out we were on a slight decline for the first couple of miles, which made the last couple of miles back an incredible upward slog in sand with absolutely no shade, which was extra hard. I ran out of water right as we arrived back at the car. It was some wildly uncomfortable heat, but it was beautiful and magnificent and awesome, and I’d do it all again.