A few weeks back, Kenton and I went to Zion National Park with his parents and IT WAS AWESOME. It felt happy like drinking a cool lemonade and listening to 'Footloose' by Kenny Loggins basically every second.
But it also felt like stepping into a place so holy I ought to take my shoes off.
I thought a lot about Zion in scripture while I was there. I mean, it's so majestic you can't not look to the Creator. Everywhere you turn your gaze, there's a new sight to behold, bursting with splendor and beauty too rugged and awesome to fully describe. Daily I considered the intense beauty of earth, and how remarkable it is that this place is just a tent, a temporary living place until God makes a new heaven and a new earth that will be even more ridiculously gorgeous and amazing than this one. When I'm in places like Zion, it's hard to imagine how God could improve upon his creation. Wonder like this fills me with awe and shuts my mouth. Yet, scripture promises that Zion, the new Jerusalem, will be even more fantastic:
Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
5 He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
MMM, THAT'S GOOD. Our earth, as beautiful as it is, does not fully host God's divine presence. Can you imagine what it will look like when it does?
Until then, we just keep chasing Jesus, bringing others into the family, and enjoying this gift of creation. No better place to enjoy it than Zion National Park. If you're interested in going, I've got some ideas and recommendations for ya!
things to do in zion national park:
We were only there for 4 full days, but each of us agreed we could spend about two weeks there and not get bored. There's lots to do and see.
1. OBSERVATION POINT TRAIL - Looking for a short, easy hike with lots of payoff? This little trek is maybe 2 miles round trip and definitely worth every footstep. The trail head is right next to the epic one mile tunnel under the mountain, so parking is super limited.
The trail has all kinds of fun features, like this super cool cave you hike through.
* Cave does not include cute husband.
Also, Maiden Hair Ferns are everywhere and it is a dream.
The overlook at the top boasts views of the entire canyon that will leave you feeling pretty dang small.
2. EMERALD POOLS - This is the perfect hike. It's easy (barely any elevation gain) and it's high return on a small amount of investment. Round trip it could be almost 2 miles, though you make it as short as you want. There are three pools to see, the first being maybe a 15 minute walk from the trailhead, which just happens to be across from Zion Lodge. You'll see gorgeous canyon walls up close, you'll feel water drizzling down from above, and you'll enjoy a cool oasis reprieve from the arid desert climate.
3. ANGEL'S LANDING - Kenton and I adventured to this one on our own one morning, and it is a cool hike, but it's not for everyone. The park rates it "strenuous" and they're not joking. I'm not too proud to admit that though both of us have conquered all 16 ridiculous miles of Long's Peak, we had to stop multiple times on this barely 5 mile round trip trek. The switchbacks are not forgiving and almost the entire trail is PAVED. I'm sure this is to prevent erosion and was a choice to wisely steward a high trafficked hike, but my gosh, that destroyed my knees on the way down.
On the Angel's Landing trail, you'll enjoy views of the hard working river that is continuing to carve the canyon, as well as epic scenes of the rock walls that propel straight from the ground into a blue desert sky.
Honesty time: we didn't enjoy the hike that much. Not because it wasn't beautiful or rewarding, because it was! The views are cool, for sure. However, the trail was PACKED and this is not a hike to be taken lightly, even though I bet half of the 4.3 million people who visit Zion each year probably decide to tackle this famous trail. We hiked on a Saturday, which is the worst day of the week to do a popular hike. Even with starting as early as we did, it was bogged down with other hikers. Normally, we'd be fine with that, knowing the hike's popularity and choosing to do it on the weekend. But this hike, as I said, is no joke, At some points, you face exposure on either side of the trail, meaning there's no wall next to you. You essentially walk a narrow tight rope with a drop off on either side. The park has installed chains to prevent disaster, but even with chains, sometimes it's pretty intense. We chose to enjoy the views from Scout's Lookout as opposed to reaching the summit, because honestly, the amount of people trying to cram through the narrow trail made me too nervous and would have added at least an hour and a half to our trek. So my Angel's Landing suggestion would be to go on a week day and go super early, that way you can really enjoy the beauty of the hike without the stress of so many humans on the trail!
4. THE NARROWS - I could talk about The Narrows ALL DAYYYYY. This hike is in my top 3 favorite hikes ever of my life. This made the trip. In this hike, you do a completely flat one mile walk into the canyon where the trail meets the river, and the rest of the 10 mile trek is in the river! And it was SO FUN!!!! Everywhere I looked was like eye candy. I mean the aqua color of the water and the pink/grey walls.... I couldn't stop staring. I won't try to spell it out, I'll let the photos speak for themselves.
The Narrows just blew my mind and made my heart feel light and bright like cotton candy. I was a little kid in The Narrows, just totally geeking out at every turn. The hike can be as long or short as you like, but those dorky neon shoes and neoprene socks are a must. The water is around 40 degrees and if you go early enough, so is the air. We opted for shorts and it worked out great, because by the time we hit the water it was warming up. But the shoes we rented (which can be found at a few different gear rental shops in town) are a make or break. I couldn't even feel the water, honest to goodness. I could have gone all 10 miles I was so comfortable and happy. My suggestions would be to wear sweat wicking layers, bring snacks and water, wrap your electronics in a plastic bag, and definitely get the walking stick with your shoes. It might seem extra, but it proved to be essential for maintaining stability in the current while walking over rocks. We even saw people grabbing huge logs and dragging them along to try to aid in their hike. Do the stick, do the shoes. And definitely do The Narrows. You'll be like:
Things to know about Zion National Park
We weren't there for long and we didn't do too many activities other than hike, but here are a few things to know before you go.
1. DESERT CLIMATE - This means pack layers. It's cool at night and hottttt during the day. We went late April and it got hot so I can't fathom mid summer temperatures. The arid climate makes it feel hotter than it really is. Maybe that's the Texan in me who's used to humidity, but I don't think it is. It's super dry up there. So you'll also need to bring this and this. Your chapped lips and dry skin will thank me. Wear this too, everyday, even with this on, which OBVIOUSLY you need too.
@NASA all I want is to be your brand rep. Is that shooting for the stars too much?
2. ZION NATIONAL PARK HIGHWAY - Or Highway 9, is epic. Grab the wheel, open the sun roof, FOR SURE listen to oldies, throw on some shades and get ready for this Utah red carpet to roll you through insane sights.
The road is long, curvy, and requires passage through two tunnels. Just driving through the park is an adventure, and there are trailheads and overlooks all along the road.
And don't ask me how we managed to get behind a vintage Chevy that just happened to perfectly match Zion. That's just God being sweet to his giddy-about-Zion-photo-happy-photographer daughter.
3. PLACES TO EAT IN ZION - We didn't eat at too many local joints because our lodge had a restaurant, but we did love Meme's. Get the salad with the cilantro dressing, omg. We also enjoyed Bit and Spur, which is saying a lot because no Texan really wants to eat Mexican food outside of the Lone Star State. We tried to get into Oscar's twice, but it was packed both times, which probably bodes well to the quality of grub. I snapped these shots outside of Meme's cute outdoor patio.
4. ZION MOUNTAIN RANCH - AKA my heaven. We loved Zion Mountain Ranch. We spent 4 lovely nights here enjoying the super comfortable beds, gigantic bathtubs, and farm animals (mini horses, bunnies, chickens, ducks) in abundance, and watching the bison graze. The restaurant is soooo goooood and the people are so nice. I didn't snap any photos other than a few iPhone shots at the ranch because I was too busy relaxing.
We decided that if you want to stay in a more secluded place, Zion Mountain Ranch or another lodge outside of the park (or even camping) is a great choice. The only caveat is that you have to drive (35 minutes) through the park (which is prone to delays on high trafficked weekends #tunnels) to get to the restaurants and shopping in Springdale. So if you don't mind getting real familiar with that long, curvy road through Zion, then you might enjoy a more rustic lodging option like Zion Mountain Ranch. But if you're looking to stay closer to the park, restaurants, and in-town activities, finding a place in Springdale is probably your best bet. That way you only drive through the park when you're going on a hike. It's also important to note that the only grocery stores are in Springdale, so if you're staying on the other side of the park, there's like one convenience store and that's it. Just FYI!
So to close, this trip was awesome. Spending time with Kenton's parents was so special, going to a new area of the US was totally cool, and the whole ordeal left my head spinning in a happy-struck-by-awe-never-want-to-leave-how-is-this-so-pretty-AHHHHYAY kind of way.
I had a missed call from Crystal, so naturally my heart sank a little.
This is a very bizarre facet of our friendship, but whenever I get a call from this dear barn bud, it's because something bad has happened. And it's very much likewise. We laugh about how she dreads phone calls from me because 9 out of 10 times it means:
World, meet little Annabelle, the newest and smallest addition to the Camp Allen herd!
She's already got one ear on me like she knows I'm trouble. She's not wrong. I'll be stuck to her tiny little side all summer.
She's momma's little mini-me. Major emphasis to little and mini, because this baby horse is 22 inches tall and 20 pounds.
This little baby had a very busy first 12 hours of life, what with learning how to get those tiny legs to walk ...
and learning how to eat ...
and learning how to smell funny things ...
and learning how to manage a stall full of horse obsessed bi-peds who won't leave her alone.
And maybe also how to deal with couple of stinky fellow quadrupeds who are so dang curious they about had anxiety attacks (okay so maybe only the curly headed one had the anxiety and the other one kept his cool).
They're like, "Plz let us in?"
Seriously, Bowie just whiiiiiiiiined and whined. He wanted to see the baby so bad. He truly has a nurturing side. He licks Howie incessantly and once we got him a toy chicken that played a recording of a chicken. Not a squeaker, a recording. He so tenderly carried that thing around, basically weeping, and finally went and sat by the door like he knew his little baby needed to go outside. It was tragic. So Kenton performed surgery on the chicken and removed the recording device so B would feel a little more permission to obliterate his chicken with joy. Mission accomplished. That chicken is now in Bowie toy heaven along with a fluffy hedge hog and camo armadillo. RIP B's favorites. Anyway, back to cute horses and the baby whose face is smaller than my hand.
Little Annabelle is so special. She's so teeny tiny, looks just like her momma Fergie, and has THE MOST RIDICULOUS MANE I'VE EVER SEEN IN MY LIFE. It is CURLY. Like, RINGLETS. This is a never before seen for me, and confirmed even more rare because my horse expert pal Crystal has never seen it on a baby either. This picture doesn't do it justice. The curls are so fuzzy/tiny and little girl wouldn't stop moving so I couldn't get a good shot. But trust me, if you were having a horrible day and then saw this curly baby horse mane, things would be looking up.
Isn't her little face precious? Momma does a good job keeping that face nice and clean too. And baby likes it :)
Speaking of momma, isn't she striking? She's so pretty, and it's so special that she's a rescue and is enjoying a second chance at life.
It's been a big day and little Annabelle needs to sleep, but doesn't want to lay down. So with a little help from her friends, it's nap time.
Naptime is a good time for momma to give baby some love.
If you've never felt a horse's muzzle before, imagine the a mix of velvet and suede, only softer and warm. Horses use their lips like fingers, so in the photo below, Fergie is loving on her little baby with the softest, most caring touch she has. And look! You can see those little curls in these photos too!
But nap time is also a great time for momma to rest. She's done a big job today, and she's tired too.
This feels too sacred to intrude upon any further, so we all step out of the stall and let mom and baby rest together.
Soon though, momma's back up, because her work is never done.
But little A keeps sleeping, which is smart because goodness knows she'll need her rest as I'll be back to see her tomorrow!
So much gratitude to God who embellishes seasons of sanctification, like living in a cabin in the woods for three months, with little snippets of radical joy, like the day I got to hold a baby mini horse not 8 hours after she was born.
And so much gratitude for my dear friend Crystal, who called me with GOOD news, and who openly invites me into a life full of animals that I have dreamt of forever, and have now been given upon saying 'yes' to God and joining my husband in a season of summer camp assignment.
Hugs all around.
I'm writing this one from the bottom of the bucket, y'all. You know when you feel so messy in your brain that you can't decipher what's logical and what's illogical? "Am I wrong to think this? Am I wrong to feel this? Is it okay to say these things? When was the last time I wasn't confused?" Another way to put it is lost. I feel lost. Kind of like Kenton's slippers right now. Seriously though, where are they? He's walking around searching and they must have fled the house or something because they're totally gone.
Actually, no. I'm not lost. I'm not lost because I know I've been found (Luke 15:24). But how do I push through this momentary disillusionment to get back to every day peace? How can I set aside the anxiety that has pushed me to the bottom of the bucket, especially when I can't even figure out if the objects of this anxiety are worth taking note of or not?
Step 1: Pray. Invite the Lord in. Surrender anxiety, thoughts, feelings, all the bottom of the bucket-ness.
Step 2: Talk to someone who knows me and have them tell me if I'm crazy or not. Get someone to speak truth to me.
Step 3: Meditate on/recite scripture to replace those anxious thought patterns in my head with truth from the bible.
Step 4: Repeat steps 1-3
Hey guess what? K just found his slippers. Roomba pushed them under a bed in the guest room in his quest to clean the house for us.
Yay. They've been found.