Hatching the Zion plan wasn't necessarily long in coming (especially after the day that Rich sweetly reminded me that we should go to The Grand Canyon and see what was up as it's only an hour and a half from us...Wha? When did it move that close? I quickly deduced from that fact that Zion and Bryce must be rather close as well, and I'd never actually been...Thus the Zion Plan.) I piped up rather boldly during a gathering at my house that I wanted to go to Zion and that I was prepared to go it alone...and before long, I had more than a few willing participants. Amy (one of my bff's) Tom (Rich's bff) and Rich (my...well, I'm not sure the letters for that) Which also resulted immediately in hilarious emails being fired off to the group as we planned our trip.
Now. I am a huge planner. I love to plan trips...and most of the time after extensive planning, actually taking the trip is secondary. When Rich threw his Tilly hat into the Zion ring...he immediately bought up the best books and began the hiking and site seeing research. He also offered his truck. So, by these two things alone we can now deduce that Rich is generous and he is a planner. He is a generous planner. He is also both passionate and thorough when researching (like me. I wonder if we should assume at this point that our friends are equally appreciative of our skills? It's better than thinking we just annoy everyone around us) But, this left me absolutely nothing to plan. So I ran with planning food instead. I love to camp. I love it. I enjoy everything about it (including the lack of showers...though, if you must know, I did wash my hair a couple of times with some very cold Utah water because that and mascara are the two things that help keep me feeling normal) and there is also a part of me that believes that you don't necessarily have to suffer with a lack of food when camping. We had a lot of food. Good food. And water. I always make sure that there's a lot of water. Being from Arizona will do that to a person. There is usually someone stuck somewhere that's only had a small cup of water...and I do not relish dehydrating in the desert.
I booked a campsite in Zion at the only place you can online. I figured for our first trip, we should be near all the action (I though that later when we go up we'll kind of know the lay of the land) Plus? It's very cheap to book a site in Zion. And they seem to fill up fast. Upon arriving in Zion after driving most of the day...we crossed The Virgin River into a vast canopy of trees totally surrounded by mountains and found ourselves in the only site that had no trees in it. It also happened to be home to a lot of ants. Two small and rather dusty Army men (of the plastic variety) one was a sniper and had already lost the bottom of one of his legs and the other one had been searching for mines apparently. And very angry deer (of which Amy was assaulted by during the night while trying to get back to our site after visiting the Comfort Station...Comfort Station apparently means "bathroom" in Zion Camping Language.) And a small flood that was easing it's way towards Amy's tent at one point (a misdirected natural spring?) Whatever. We unpacked, fed our hungry selves...and sat down to enjoy the evening. I suppose the one advantage of camping in a treeless site is the fact that you can see all the stars in the sky. You also get a larger than normal concentration of wood smoke settling down on your tents.
What is it with people and fires when camping? Most people are driving hybrids or cars with low emissions, eating organic foods...hiking...and yet, it gets dark and they chop wood and light a fire. To do nothing other than sit in front of it. In 65 degree weather. And drink beer because they're now so hot. There was actually one point in the trip when Rich and I were walking with our headlamps on in the dark to the comfort station, right next to each other and I totally lost him because of the wood smoke. Thank goodness we're both of the chatty variety or I may still be wandering around the park today...amongst the angry deer and overly aggressive park squirrels (people. Please do. not. feed. the park animals. I know they're cute, but I lived in fear of being bitten on the hand by something. There was a rather graphic poster on the diesel park buses that said I would be. And then I would loose my hand. And really? What kind of vacation has good memories if you end up an amputee?) However due to the wood smoke, in fact, have emphysema or some other horrible breathing malady now. (Also? The people with the hybrids do not know how to use their car alarms. Evidenced by the fact car alarms were going off all day and night kind of resembling some sort of car opera or car mating calls. Beep beep...arrrgh!)
Did I mention that we only slept in our original campsite for two nights?
Men. Hunters. Gatherers. Superior campsite finders. Finding a camping site that rivals the one I booked online does not hurt my feelings. Not one little bit...Especially when you're hiking next to a river and notice a plethora of tents. Men. Driving through a first come first serve area only to discover the perfect site right next to The Virgin River so that we may listen to the water make it's way downstream all night while we're sleeping is amazing. What hurts my feelings is camp hosts that suddenly come upon you and inform you that you may only have two tents in a site..."only 2. And, we've already given tickets to people whom are belligerent about it." Both the camp host and his dog are glaring at you by now...
Well. It's enough to make you belligerent indeed.
Especially if you've only just gotten a rough night's sleep and you're facing down you first set of hikes. Or, if you're only just drinking your first cup of coffee. Or if you happen to glance to either your left or your right, in front of...or behind your little treeless space and see that your very small 2-person tent and the two 1-person tents you and your team pitched leave a smaller foot print than the tents that most people have, that are not only sporting 2 or more "rooms" in them...but a portico, a screened in front room and a jacuzzi. It is insane, and constantly had me questioning exactly what was so different with these people's tents than their homes...other than an apparent lack of running water...and why were they camping anyway?
Which means, you grumble (or take out your frustration by twittering...like Rich did...) pack up a tent that was put up less than 12 hours before, and try to figure out where the extra one person is now going to sleep. Due to the fact that some very nice neighbors moved in and let Tom set his tent up in their site later that day (causing our none-too-friendly petty dictators...I mean, rangers to drive by with the realization that we had thwarted their efforts to ticket us) until we found more suitable alternatives in the form of a better campsite upstream with rangers who were thrilled to have us there (same park, no? Five minutes up the road) and assured the men that not only could we set up 3 small tents...but we could set up a stage and do a show for everyone.
No one but me thought that was a good idea...
Which means, we gladly packed it all up...grabbed our Army Men (no man left behind after all...it is at this point that I must inform you that the Army Men were also the subject of a rather elaborate diorama later in our trip, although I did not take a picture of this. Next time perhaps we'll bring Uno to entertain ourselves during our downtime.) and drove 5 minutes one way upstream...set up camp and set off for our plans of the day. But, huge high fives go out to both Rich and Tom...who were giddy with excitement about our new digs. And really. The only thing the old site had going for it was the fact that it was close to the Comfort Station.
As it is, these campgrounds aren't too big, so the new Comfort Station wasn't too far away. Note to Self: IF you want to camp in Zion National Park...make a reservation for one night only, and then get up early and stalk the first come first serve camping...pray that someone is leaving a wonderful site and snatch it up quick.
Also...don't forget Uno and a smoke mask.