Zion: And We Did It All Without Hiking Poles

l'appel du vide n. (French) Lit. ‘the call of the void’; the urge some people get to jump off of high places when they encounter them

The next morning, we were up bright and early to get into the slots before the heat of the day.  From our camp, it was another 30 miles down a wide dirt road until we would reach them.  Since Reid’s car was more of an all-terrain vehicle (not top discredit Mortimer’s ability to handle a dirt road) and had far more space for four people in it than my car, qw piled into his Subaru Outback and set off.  Being dirt, 30 miles felt like forever.  Finally, as we neared the trailhead to the Peekaboo and Spooky slot canyons, we came upon a car pulled over and changing a flat.  I sympathized.  No sooner did we crest the next hill did Reid’s own tire pressure warning illuminate.  He got out and, sure enough, air was leaking out of the right front tire.

“It’s me.  I’m cursed,” I mourned, as they took of the leaking tire and put on the spare.  Bad enough I have bad luck of my own, without my very presence bringing it upon other people.

The worst part was that we were only three miles from he slot canyons.  We had come so far and had to turn around being so close.  Reid understandably didn’t want to push it any further on a dirt road with only a half size spare, especially considering he still needed to make it back to Salt Lake that night.  Instead, Reid decided he would come to Bryce Canyon National Park with us, and split off from there.  Chris rode with Reid to the park, while Mitchell and I hauled Mortimer and all the gear.  

Bryce Canyon is a small, out and back park like Arches, though it is far less interesting.  Since the road goes along the canyon rim, all the view points look pretty much the same.  Still, we drove out to the far end of the park, a place called Yovimpa Point, we were could see the canyon in it entirety.  Though I wouldn’t describe Bryce as particularly exciting, the gradient of blood orange to creamy colored sand up the canyon walls is a spectacular sight to see once.  

From there, we bid farewell to Reid and wished him luck in making it home on his spare.  I hoped they would be able to repair his tire and that he wouldn’t have to buy a new set.  That was his biggest fear, understandably.  It was a shame our visit with Reid had been cut a little short by the incident, but such is life, and I was sure it wouldn’t be the last time Chris and I would see him.  The three of us piled back in Mortimer and drove on through toward Zion, just under two hours away from Bryce.

Reid had warned us that we might not have much luck finding any free camping near Zion, but we were willing to try our luck anyway.  We headed down highway 89 until we reach a junction; to the right, we would hit Zion in twelve miles.  Straight ahead and we would reach the town of Kanab.  Reid had specifically mentioned that highway 9 would be tricky to find camping on, but we decided to give it a shot.  About five miles down the road and seeing nothing but gated, private land, we turned back to the junction.  If we continued straight toward Kanab, we would pass Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park.  If we were lucky, the campsite would be unmonitored like the one in Escalante had been.  Unfortunately, the campground was about twelve more miles off the highway from the turnoff.  But then we spotted a sign that advertised free primitive camping spots.  “Primitive” simply means no facilities and we could care less about that.  it was free.  We headed toward one of them, but found it to be nothing more than massive open patch of dry land overrun by RVs and campers.  Next one on the list was occupied by some camp of kids, or at least I could only assume because there were about 60 of them there.  We had one more option, but unfortunately, the “sand dunes” lived up to their name and the road was too soft for my car to make it through.  Luckily, however, right before the soft, sandy road was a wide pullout into some low trees where people had very clearly camped in the past.  And so we decided to make that our camp for the next four nights or so.

As Chris and I pitched our tent a little ways away from Mitchell’s, we began discussing how to bring up something we had thought a lot about the last few days.  After Zion, the plan was to head down to the Grand Canyon before going over to Las Vegas.  The Grand Canyon, however, would add a whopping 500 extra miles onto the trip and without having a space tire, that wasn’t a risk I was too keen on taking.  The only problem was the Mitchell really wanted to go.  But I had to adhere to my gut in this instance.  After all, my car, my rules.  The most frustrating thing on the road trip had become simply Mitchell’s lack of consideration to how stressful this road trip had been on me.  It’s easy to agree to a road trip when you don’t have to pay any mind to the consequences of the car afterward.  I needed Mortimer to last me the next foreseeable ten years.  

As we all began the dirty of gathering firewood and getting the fire going, Chris and I finally decided it was time to being it up.  We gently mentioned that neither of us really wanted to go to the Grand Canyon (“It’s a lot like the red rock canyons we’ve been seeing.  Just a little…grander.”) and we explained our reasons for not.  Knowing it wasn’t really much in his power to say whether we went or not, Mitchell consented, though he was clearly not happy about it, and a tension remained around the fire until we all went to bed.

The next morning, we left camp and stopped at a dinky diner at the 82 and 9 junction.  Our hopes were that this diner would act as our morning ritual destination for the duration of our time here, which would be longer than any place thus far.  Betweent he grouchy server, the weak coffee, and the overall lack of feeling welcome, we decided not. We’d have to find something else the next day.  

Off toward Zion we went. It was twelve miles down highway nine to the entrance and another twelve miles from the entrance to the visitor center where you park your car to hop on the shuttle to get into Zion Canyon itself.  When you factor in the winding road, the incredibly slow truck in front of a line of nearly 50 cars that refused to use a pullover, and a blockade at what is morally a two lane tunnel but becomes one lane whenever an oversize vehicle, like an RV or camper come along (hint: it’s always one lane), that latter twelve miles seemed to take forever.

Finally, we reached the visitor center, managed to find a parking place, ever surprised at how busy the parks still were even this time of year, and hopped on the free shuttle bus.  Today, we wanted to hike the Zion Narrows, which has been on my list of things to hike for years.  While a full hike of Narrows must be done top-down over two days, with a paid shuttle and a permit involved, we opted to skip out on saying we did the entire thing to do half of it form the bottom-up.  The bottom-up route begins in the park itself, and allows one to hike as far as one wants to before turning back.   It takes you into the highest and narrowest part of the canyon as well, so we weren’t to miffed about missing any of the sights near the top. 

We rode the shuttle to the end of the line, a stop called the Temple of Sinewava.  For there, we had to endure one mile of the crowded, paved Riverside Walk before the pavement ended directly on the banks of the Virgin River.  We stepped into the not cold but definitely not warm water and began walking upstream amid the masses.  Right away, Mitchell pulled ahead, eventually out of sight. Being a diver as his primary hobby, he was used to stepping on wet and slippery rocks.  I, however, being a clumsy big-foot that would probably fall off a mountain if it weren’t for the universe’s desire to continue watching my struggle, was not.  I took every step slow and steady, carefully shifting my weight against the current and ensuring I had solid footing before moving.  While the water wasn’t as murky as the Colorado River, it was silty from all the fine red and brown sand that gets washed down the canyon.  Even the sections that appear turquoise in color were still opaque.  That made finding footing even more difficult.  Each step was a blind one onto rocks that were variable slippery and moveable.  Sometimes, the very ground itself would drastically change, dropping off from shallow to deep in one step.  That’s how Chris ended up “balls deep” and Mitchell ended up chest deep.  I, miraculously, was the only one to neither fall nor submerge myself above the high thigh by the end of the day.  

As we made our way deeper and deeper into the canyon, the walls narrowed and the slot darkened so that only a little light leaked in from above and illuminated the sidewalls and slick stones on the narrow banks in brilliant colors.  The walls towered 1,000 feet above on either side.  That was the heart of the canyon, a beautiful section of rock and water I could have walked through forever. 

Eventually, the canyon began widening again and more life appeared on the banks: hanging gardens, vegetation, and even trees.  We began to realize we had passed through the majority of the canyon itself and decided that was a good time to turn around.  The three of us stopped at this point to grab a quick lunch and to let the circulation return to our feet in the sunlight.  Many of the people we had passed had been wearing rented wet suit socks and boots.  We were only wearing Keen or Tiva sandals with bare feet. We had also noticed that we appeared to be the only (and I’m not being hyperbolic for once) one in the whole damn canyon without hiking poles or walking sticks.  All in all, there had been far more people than any of us expected int he canyon.  At the beginning, there were expectedly masses that we figured would train out by the time we made it a mile or so up the river.  While the masses had thinned, there was still a crazy amount of people, and people one would not expect to make it that far upstream through cold water.  

On the way back, Mitchell had pretty much give up stopping and waiting for us periodically, but I was fine with that.  I was enjoying this hike and I didn’t want to rush myself through it (or fall in).  Plus, this was really the first time Chris and I had had the opportunity to be alone on the entire road trip thus far. It was nice to be able to hold hands again, not just for the added balance it provided, but because we had been refraining from doing so because Mitchell had told us before we left that it made him uncomfortable.  Considering he had lived with us in Montana for a month before we had even come on the road trip, it had been a long time since we had felt truly alone. 

The next morning, we skipped the diner and drove instead a few miles back onto 82 into the town of Orderville, where we had passed a giant pink lumpy building with a dinosaur on it called The Rock Shop.  Despite its main wares being very clearly advertised, there was a big sign out front that read “Espresso”.  In we went and met a lovely elderly man named Don who made us coffee, extra strong for Chris, and let us use the bathroom to wash up and even do some dishes.  If you’re ever in the area, stop by and say hi, because you’ll never meet a lovelier man.

Satisfied with out morning, we headed back into Zion.  Today agenda included hiking Hidden Canyon and, if there was time, Emerald Pools.  Hidden Canyon is perhaps one of the nicest hikes in Zion because it isn’t overly crowded.  Most people that get off the shuttle at that stop either go on the short walk to the Weeping Wall (incidentally the only place I had ever been in Zion before this trip), or to Observation Point.   Hidden Canyon seems to get overlooked.  It’s also advertised as a difficult hike, not necessarily due to its steep terrain, but rather because of the steep drop-offs into Zion Canyon you must hike along to reach Hidden Canyon Itself.  To the left are bolts and chains that run along that swirled sandstone and to the right is probably a 500 foot drop. 

At the end of this neat but short section of the trail, we reached the beginning of Hidden Canyon itself, marked by a sign that states, “End of Maintained Trail: Scrambling Required.”  Except someone had scratched in “extreme” in front of the scrambling bit.  It sounded like we were in for a good time.  Overall, it wasn’t bad in the beginning; a little bit of mild scrambling and more soft loose sand but nothing more.  Then, we passed a tiny little arch landmark, where most people stop the hike, and it got harder.  As we dove deeper and deeper into the canyon, the hiking got harder and harder.  The walls narrowed and the debris on the canyon floor got worse and worse.  All the rain and flash floods over the many years had knocked rocks and logs all through the canyon, rocks and logs that we now needed to traverse.  More often than not, it was incredibly fun, getting to use the logs as ladders and balance beams, hopping from rock to rock. It combined both my passions for climbing and hiking. 

Eventually, however, we reached a point that appeared to be impassable.  We had ran into another guy earlier who had reached this very point and turned around.  It was one giant log that spanned the distance between the ground and a giant rock, above which another rock was jammed between the two side walls.  Chris was determined to make it the furthest down this canyon.  We had been following a set of footprints up to that point that we add assumed were that one guy’s.  Chris felt that if he made it up that log, the footprints would end, so off we went.  Mitchell had elected to stay back below, knowing it was not within his capabilities to climb that.  I first attempted scooting up the log, but found that to be a failure.  Instead, I followed Chris’ route, which included climbing up onto a rock ledge, crawling across it one hands and knees because it was far to narrow and hold-less to side-walk across, and climbing up onto another ledge using Chris’ leg as a handhold.  That was where I stopped.  Chris used some fancy moves to get over a difficult gap I knew I wouldn’t be able to.  

As he disappeared over the boulder, I heard, “FOOTPRINTS!” And I knew that meant he was continuing on, never to rest until he could say he had made it farther than anyone.  Meanwhile, I started to backtrack down to where Mitchell was, but immediately got stuck not he ledge where Chris had used his leg to help me up.  Having no leg to hang on to, I had no hold and no way to lower myself onto the slanted ledge below.  If I simply dropped, my momentum would take me off the lower ledge.  All I could do was sit there, hanging on a narrow ledge and waiting for Chris to come back.  

As time passed, I grew more and more desperate to get down, trying everything and failing at everything I tried.  With each failure, I panicked little more.  What if Chris never made it back?  What if something happened to him up there and I couldn’t get up or down to tell anyone?  I started yelling his name to no avail.  Finally, after about 40 minutes, Chris came skipping back over the rock, to find me extremely pissed off and frustrated.  I was angry and upset for a while, but eventually the hike down erased all those bad feelings and we were alright again.  Chris had, indeed made it to the end of the canyon, where the route becomes completely impassable, and I was glad that he accomplished his goal.  I was only sad that I simply wasn’t skilled enough yet to follow him and share in the experience.  that the trouble with us being at such radically different climbing levels; I want si desperately to keep up even though I know I can’t and probably never really will when it comes to stuff like that.  I guess I’ll just have to keep pushing myself to stretch a little bit beyond those limits every time.

By the time we got back down to the shuttle, we decided it was a little too late in the day to attempt the Emerald Pools hike as well, short though it may be.  Instead, I skipped quickly up to the Weeping Wall while Chris and Mitchell waited for a shuttle.  It was nostalgia that drove me up there, considering the only other time I had been to the park had been with my grandparents and we had gone to that spot.  It’s not particularly exciting, only half a mile up a paved path to a wall that lease water with some moss and slime coming out of it, but I went there for my grandpa and for old time’s sake.  Afterward, we headed into Springdale, the town just beyond the visitor center on the outside border of the park, in hopes that we might be able to find a place to pay for a shower.  Even Mitchell was willing to join us thing time.  We found a gear rental shop that offered seven minute showers for $5.  When we asked the guy if it would be okay for Chris and I to just split a shower to save water and money, he merely responded with, “Don’t need to know.”

The next day we woke to rain. Fantastic.  I had looked at the weather forecast and saw that it was supposed to rain that day, but it wasn’t supposed to start until late in the afternoon.  And now the forecast had changed to all day that day and the next.  Geez, what was this, London?  I could only hope that the forecasting was a bit like Montana and subject to change back by tomorrow. It still meant that we could no longer hike Angel’s Landing that morning as we had hoped, but we did still have three more days in Zion so there would plenty of time to do so.  Still, it meant we needed to find somewhere that wasn’t our soggy tent for the day.  However, I was still remarkably pleased at how dry my little Eureka! Solitaire tent fared in the rain.  Even in a downpour like we had had all night, the only moisture inside the tent itself has been due to the condensation that collected on the rainfly. 

In our desperation to stay dry, we headed back to our friend Don and the Rock Shop.  He welcomed us in, gave us coffee, the wifi password, and, most importantly, a dry haven.  “You’ll have to move if my wife comes in.  She wouldn’t like it.”  It struck us as odd that such a kindly man could be married to anyone less kind than himself, but I guess such is the way the world works.

As the hours went by, we talked to him and found out that his shop had once been an old dinosaur museum, which explained the giant dinosaur on the top and partially why it was built to look like a big pink fiberglass cave.  Don and his wife had purchased it years ago and turned it into a rock shop.  We had seen all sorts of rock shops across Utah (one right across the road from Don’s, in fact) but one of them could possibly be as unique as hospitable as this one was.  But we didn’t want to wear out our welcome or put Don at odds with his wife whenever she might stop in, so we left to find a new haven.

Back at the junction was the Thunderbird Restaurant: Home of the Ho-Made Pies.  How very clever of them. Since it was about lunchtime, we figured there would be a logical shelter.  Things had been awkward between the three of us that day in particular.  Some comment during the car ride to the coffeeshop had everyone a bit riled up and I was determined to finally sit down and talk things through.  I was tired of the passive aggressive bullshit.  There was not enough space for that in my car.  Once we had finished eating, I finally sucked it up and uttered the dreaded, “We need to talk.”  And it became exactly what it sounds like: pretty much a “Mitchell I don’t think this is working out.  It’s not you it’s me, but I’m breaking up with you.”  Luckily he had been thinking the same thing and we already planning on parting ways from us in Vegas rather than continuing up to Yosemite.  Besides, he needed to fly out of Vegas anyway, so he would just be getting there a bit early.  Over the next hour, we all talked, bringing up the things that had been bothering us but had gone unsaid for so long now.  What we discovered was that much of the problem had come from miscommunication and assumptions.  How very human of us.  Overall, I had learned something I knew all along; things change the minute you live with someone.  My college roommates, for instance, for as much as I loved them drove me nuts 90% of the time (the downside of being a clean freak in college).  As much as Mitchell and I got along in out brief time of traveling in Europe, we learned entirely different things about each other by temporarily living together, which is completely normal.  Frankly, it’s amazing to me how seamless the transition was for Chris and I to move in together had been.

We left the restaurant all feeling better and decided to head into Kanab for the rest of the day.  We had seen that there was a library there, which meant a place to bum wifi and not feel like a pain in the ass.  We spent the next six or so hours there, looking things up and watching movies.  It was a nice dry reprieve, but it was still storming by the time we got back to camp.  As it was no use trying to start a fire, dinner became a couple cans of cold raviolis before we headed off to bed.  Mitchell quickly found his tent to be soaked on the inside.  Being an old pup tent I camped in as a kid, it wasn’t surprising that it didn’t have the waterproof technology mine did.  Regardless, Mitchell was confined to the car the night, for which I was actually sort of jealous.  Even though the inside of the tent was dry, I knew we would wake up to condensation wetting the top of my nice (read as: expensive) Marmot Hydrogen sleeping bag in the morning.  

Between the thunder, the rain hammering the nylon of the tent all night, and the coyotes yipping not far in the distance, I hardly slept a wink and thus I woke the next day cranky as hell.  And it was still raining.  The old pasta pan outside our tent from the first night had a good three inches of water sitting in it.  The rain had even carved out little river rivets in the sand next to the tent.  We were lucky we weren’t in a flash flood area, if nothing else.  We stepped out of the tent, onto the sopping blue pad we had been using as a doormat to try to avoid getting sand in the tent (a failed effort, I might add).  Hoisting my sleeping bag high above our heads, we dashed for the car.  Mitchell’s wake-up call was us flinging our wet selves into his nice dry space, but there wasn't much else we could do.

It became another maddening day of nothing.  So as not to bother Don for a second day, we headed straight into Kanab this time, getting ourselves some coffee from a little shop in town before going right back to the library.  We were nothing if not creatures of habit.  By the afternoon, Chris and I were going stir crazy, but the sun was starting to poke out.  Mitchell seemed content doing whatever he was doing on his phone, so we told him we’d be back in a bit, and left to wander around the town for a little while. Kanab certainly is a strange town.  It calls itself “Little Hollywood” because of the fact that over 100 western films had been filmed there.  That explains the many western themed stores int he area.  If you’re ever in the mood to become a cowboy, Kanab has just the outfitters for you.  We passed signs that said things like “abra-Kababra” and encountered people that encouraged us to open prank snake envelopes.  And of course, being Utah, there was no shortage on religion.  We were ominously reminded by a sign on the door of a bookshop, “Shoplifters are subject to punitive action, if not in this life, then the next.”

Since we still couldn't start a fire that night, even though the rain had let up finally, we decided to just eat out a cheap diner in Kanab.  We had hardly eaten out this whole trip and a nice hot meal sounded a lot better than a can of cold baked beans.  The meal was delicious and massive, and at least made us feel a little bit satisfied as we drove back to camp for another soggy night.  Mitchell’s tent was still too wet to sleep in so Mortimer became a tent yet again. The only glimmer of light we had was that the forecast finally predicted no more rain.  Feeling hopeful, we rolled back the tent fly halfway so there wouldn’t be so much condensation build-up.  That was our second mistake.  Believing the weather forecast had been our first.  We woke in the morning to find it had indeed rained again in the night, and with no rain fly over us, the sleeping bag was more wet than usual.  To make matters worse, I slept no better than I had the night before, leading to a compounding of my exhaustion.  Chris hadn’t fared any better, which was mostly my fault considering I get very huffy when I can’t sleep which then wakes him up as well.  Oops. 

It had, at least, finally stopped raining, just in time for our last full day in Zion.  While we would have liked to have packed up the gear that morning so we could at least camp on the other side of the park that night, we knew everything was far too wet to even think about that.  We would have no choice but to backtrack again that night.

Since we wouldn’t feel like a pain today, we stopped to get coffee at the Rock Shop that morning.  It was then that Don told us how thunderstorms were quite common down there in the desert, but they usually only lasted minutes to an hour.  We had lucked out in being there for perhaps the only storm of the year that lasted for two whole days, nonstop.

We had one more thing we wanted to do in Zion and that would be the project of the day: Angel’s Landing.  Angel’s Landing is a giant rock plateau that sticks up right int he middle of the canyon floor.  One of the original founders of the park said it was so high that only angels could land there.  Oddly enough, it actually lower than the canyon walls, but I guess just harder to access.  Eventually, they did managed to put in a path around the backside, tackling the steep ascent with a short stretch of the trail that contains 21 switchbacks, known as Walter’s Wiggles.

Due to our lack of sleep the last couple nights, Chris wasn’t sure he was feeling up to something advertised at strenuous as this.  I wasn’t feeling great either, but I was also incredibly stubborn and was not going to let the rain keep this from me.  Chris decided he would stay lower in the valley, maybe check out the Emerald Pools Trail, and meet up with us later.  I was reluctant, wanting to experience the hike with him, but in the end we agreed.  Chris got off the shuttle a couple stops before The Grotto, where the Angel’s Landing Trail starts.  Right away, the trail gets steep and stays steep.  It was nothing compared to Holland Peak, but it was steady.  Being in a lot better shape than Mitchell, I had no trouble, but Mitchell was lagging.  I’m not the type of person to hang back and wait for people when I hike.  Hike your own hike, and all that.  So, I blazed ahead, bulldozing up the initial switchbacks on the front side until the trail evened out and I found a lovely little cave to wait for Mitchell.  He caught up and we headed on together, right into Walter’s Wiggles, another section that I blazed up and waited.

The top of Walter’s Wiggles is not actually the end of the hike.  Though almost two miles to that point, really, it’s just the beginning.  There is a wide viewpoint and even some outhouses there (the cleaning of which requires the NPS to shut down the trail for half a day each week) but the trail goes on for 1.1 more miles.  That’s where it gets fun.  At the beginning of this section, there is a sign informing all hikers that there are steep drop-offs and that the trail had caused six deaths since 2004.  It’s meant to scare hikers, sure, but the only thing I could think was, “Wow, half a death per year?  What a low statistic.”

Past the sign, the people were lined up, slowly attempting to get up a section of sandstone on bolted chains, like a fairy of turkeys crossing the road.  For those of you who have never had a family of turkeys cross the road in front of you, they are incredibly slow and oblivious to the fact that you sit in a car that could very easily turn them into Thanksgiving dinner.  That’s how slow these people were going.  Eventually, I got tired of waiting and cut off the trail, climbing up the sandstone ledges myself.

And so it went for the remainder of that mile.  It was a slow and steady prod considering most people were acting like they were on the scariest trail in the world.  Some people even turned back because they couldn’t handle it.  On the whole, I found the whole thing rather unremarkable.  Very few places were even close enough to the edge to be any real danger at all.  That left merely a lot frustration as I waited impatiently in line on the one way trail that was already trying to accommodating two lanes of traffic.  Whenever anyone came down the other direction, the whole line would stop and wait for them to pass.  It was a terrible game of stop and go.  

At long last, we reached the top, where the Zion Valley stretched out for miles below you, all the way from the beginning of the Narrows to the visitor center.  It was a neat perspective to have on the valley, seeing the road we had been driving on form above, but I wasn’t blown away by the sight either.  Mitchell wanted to hang out on the top for a bit, so we did.  As we sat there, he met a fellow Aussie who was also on a road trip across the National Parks, but he was doing it solo.  As those two got talking, I sat there examining the top chains and anchors bolted into the sandstone, thinking about much Chris would love to rock climb up the face of this thing.  Eventually, I think Mitchell realized I was bored, and he bid farewell to new friend.  

When we reached the bottom of narrow chained section, about to head back into Walter’s Wiggles, Chris came careening up the trail.  Me, being unobservant as ever, didn’t notice until he collided with me.  He had done the Emerald Pools hike already and was feeling pretty good, except that he had hit his head on a rock by Emerald Pools.  He had come all the way up Angel’s Landing looking for some Advil that was in the pack I was wearing.  I couldn’t believe he had hiked all that way for some Advil.  Nonetheless, he was there now, and he wanted to finish this hike.  

“But I literally just did it!” I complained when he asked if I wanted to go, though he knew the answer to that.  A minute after he left, I took off after him, unable to resist the urge to push myself again.  Mitchell opted to wait back at the viewpoint for us.  

Chris and I climbed to the top way faster than Mitchell and I had, being less afraid to cut off trail and climb our way to avoid the crowds of people.  We spent a few minutes at the top, snapping a couple more pictures, then headed back down to find Mitchell talking with the Australian again.  The four of us all headed down the last two miles, Chris and I talking in front, Mitchell talking to his new friend behind.

Back at the car, Mitchell approached us.  “Uh, so it turns out [insert name of Australian guy I’ve forgotten] is going to the Grand Canyon right after this, so I think I’m just going to go with him and part ways now.”

“Oh,” I said, acting surprising though I wasn’t entirely.  I had overheard them talking on the shuttle.  “Okay, I mean that’ good.  You get to see the Grand Canyon after all.”  And Chris and I could finally have a bit of alone time.  It really was the perfect solution for both parties.   Mitchell collected his things from the car and loaded them into his new friend’s.  We said partial goodbyes, as Mitchell planned on being in Vegas after the Grand Canyon in a few days.  He had left his travel towel at camp and told us he’d pick it up from us then.  We said goodbye, for now, and parted ways.  It’s funny how sometimes endings can be so utterly unceremonious. 

Chris and I headed into Springdale, the town just on the other side of Zion to grab a quick shower.  The place we had gone to last time was closed, so this time we went to Zion Outfitter, paying $4 for five minutes.  Five minutes between two people is extremely short, but we had gotten pretty good at speed showers at this point, so we managed.  Then, it was back through the park and back to camp for one final night before moving on alone.  As we went to bed, I couldn’t help but feel like the road trip had taken on an entirely different tone now.  I felt optimistic about what was to come, but maybe that was just the real bed in Vegas calling my name.