We started our day at Zion with a ranger-led talk on the history of Zion Canyon. The ranger is a middle school teacher from the area who works as an interpretative ranger on the summer. He talked about the first pioneers to settle the canyon and how the name Zion was coined, and whether the canyon really lived up to the name. Considering the rough history of some of the early settlers, who routinely lost home, crops and family members to flash floods, rockfalls or other trauma I can understand where the doubt might have crept in.
In the 1930s, the CCC built rock and gravel abutments which changed and stabilized the course of the Virgin River, allowing for the development of the park. I can’t thank those men enough. The road and the area is continually challenged by flash floods, but their work allowed the Park and the opportunity Dan and I had to hike into the Canyon today.
After our tour ended, we followed a lovely handicap-accessible path, the Riverside walk, from the Temple of Sinawava into the Canyon along the Virgin River. From there, we hiked in along the river bed for 90 minutes, awed by the sheer scale and incredible beauty. The constant availability of water means than the Canyon is lush and green even in the midst of the desert heat (106 degrees today). Hanging gardens grow from nooks and crannies in the Canyon walls where soil has built up over time, and trees line the banks wherever they can find soil enough to grow. We followed the river, crossing from side to side, wading up to our waists at times, to continue in and the Canyon deepened. The park rates the hike as strenuous, not for the altitude gain, but for the need to continually traverse in the river atop slick rounded rocks. I was glad to have brought along a hiking pole, which really helped me balance when crossing against the swift current.
We were lucky that in the morning, the number of hikers was fewer and for the most part, they also hiked quietly, absorbing the beauty. By the time we reluctantly decided we needed to head back, the crowds were much thicker and more boisterous. Family groups lined up to let kids jump into the river pools from rocks high above, or swim in the deeper channels. I was amazed at the diversity of visitors in age, ethnicity, spoke language and ability. I heard English, Spanish, Japanese, French, German, Italian, and I think Korean spoken, and heard some I didn’t recognize as well as what I think was English with an Aussie accent.
It was an incredible day.