Big Adventure : Road Trip West Pt. 2

Muted colors fill the frame of the image which shows flat, tan colored land, gray sky masking the mountains in the distance.

Cloudy gray skys darken the landscape to dark greens and deep golden colors. A mountain range covered sparsely in trees fills the middle of the photo.

Day Four

Up early, I hoped my next stop would be Bryce Canyon National Park. I’d planned to visit Bryce and forgo the much busier Zion National Park. Eventually I’d end up camping on a ranch just outside of Hurricane, UT and not far from the main entrance to Zion. On the drive I continued to take in the shifting landscape, now filled with mountain peaks in the distance and ranches along the highway. Colors becoming more yellow and less brown. With it the weather was changing as well.

Lunchtime was on the horizon as I pulled off the highway in Center City, Utah. Winds had picked up and the weather forecast included dropping temperatures along with the potential for snow overnight. I decided to have lunch at Centro Woodfire Pizza while I determined if I would head east toward Bryce Canyon or not. While I waited for a table I wandered down the block to Artisans Gallery where I ended up in a delightful conversation with the folks working. Our conversation turned to the weather and my dilemma of deciding if I’d head east to Bryce Canyon or south to Zion. The wind had picked up and was nearing 20 mph in Center City. The folks at the gallery advised me that the winds would be stronger at Bryce. I thanked them for the information and headed off to eat. With a full belly I climbed into my car having decided I’d press on toward Hurricane, UT and the ranch campsite I’d booked for the night. In the morning I would have some time to visit Zion before continuing west.

As I neared Hurricane, the winds continued to increase in speed and the weather forecast now included potential for a mix of rain, hail in addition to snow overnight. The idea of driving approximately 5 miles down a narrow dirt road that isn’t passable when wet – according to the listing – wasn’t appealing after four hours of driving in strong winds on top of a couple 10 hour driving days. The time on the road was finally catching up with me.

Sitting in a parking lot, I looked for an AirBnB that was open and not overpriced for a last minute, late season booking. Thankfully I found a bunkhouse style place in town not far away. Again, I grabbed only what I needed for the night and made myself at home while the winds and rain picked up outside. The temperature was dropping making me happy with the choice I’d made. As tired as I was, I’d have been cold and not slept well no matter how warm my camping gear.

#43 of my 2022 52 Hike Challenge

Trail/Park: Pa’rus Trail, Zion National Park

This hike took place on the traditional territory of the Nuwuvi (Southern Paiute) and Pueblos. I respect the histories, languages and cultures of these peoples, whose presence continues to enrich our vibrant and changing communities. Join me in learning more about the tribes and these lands, by following the links provided.

Trash Collected: 0.5 pounds

Day Five

In the morning I opened the shade of the bunkhouse, a light coating of snow covered everything. It was already melting, soon to be gone. I’d decided to make a run to Zion National Park for a couple hours before I made my last push to Los Angeles. The park’s location makes it incredibly popular with lines to get into the park being really long. If I had to park outside the park gates, which isn’t uncommon, I’d need to abort my plan for lack of time.

Highway 9 weaves east from Hurricane to the entrance of Zion National Park past the towns of Virgin, Rockville and finally Springdale. The area near the park entrance is filled with shops, accommodations and restaurants. As I cued up in the lines to access the park, the number of cars was nothing compared to what I’d expected. I was hopeful the weather had held folks off until the skies would clear later in the day.

At the entrance station I got my day pass and a map. I headed to the main entrance parking, knowing I didn’t have much more than an hour before I’d need to be heading back west. I felt lucky to find a parking spot not far from the Zion Canyon Visitor Center. Making my way toward the information desk, I found a park staff to answer my questions about trails appropriate for the time I had available. One of the recommendations was the Pa’rus trail which follows the Virgin River from the campground leading to Canyon Junction. I decided I’d go as far on this paved trail as time would allow, turning back when I’d reached midway on the clock.

The canyon is stunning on its own with the towering range on either side. The weather had left the morning with hints of sun between windswept clouds still dropping light rain showers. The tops of the range still held a dusting of the previous night’s snowfall. Fall flowers provided a bright contrast to the incredible colors of the landscape. I was surprised to find prickly pear cactus in bloom, the bright magenta fruit nestled between the cactus spikes. The river was flowing brown and fast from the previous night’s precipitation. I was able to take advantage of the dramatic sky to get photos of the canyon’s iconic views before turning back toward my car. As I neared the Visitor Center, the rain started up again as if a message my time was up for this trip.

Over the next six hours I followed Highway 15 southwest clipping the northwest corner of Arizona, on to Las Vegas where I grabbed lunch and a coffee for the road, then on along the Mojave National Preserve. I hadn’t been on this stretch of road since I was a child making the trip from California to the Midwest to visit family. The distance between Las Vegas and San Bernardino, CA providing the contrast of desert floor sprawling between low peaks, bright colors against long stretches of sandy ranches.

As I drove into the suburban sprawl around Los Angeles I was reminded the mountain ranges of the west go right to the edge of the ocean. Valleys with homes tucked all along the Pacific, everyone looking for the ocean or mountain view. Late in the evening I finally parked at my destination, my mind filled with all I’d seen over the past few days. I’d traversed seven states and nearly 2,000 miles. The trip giving me a growing list of places to visit when life would allow for me to slow down and enjoy the drive.

Next Post Preview: Ten days of family, food and hiking in Southern California to enjoy. Come back to see the big and little adventures which made up the next part of my western U.S. adventure!

GEAR: Granite Gear Blaze 60L backpack,Marmot Kompressor Pack, Vasque Ultra Dry Waterproof Hiking Boot, Oboz B-Dry Bridger Mid Waterproof BootMountain Hardware Stretchdown™ Light Jacket, Mountain Hardware Stretchdown™ Pant,Merrell Women’s Siren 3 Mid Waterproof, REI Co-op XeroDry GTX Jacket, REI Co-op Magma 850 Down Hoodie,REI Co-op XeroDry GTX Pants, Icebreaker Women’s Merino 200 Oasis Long Sleeve Crewe Thermal Top,Icebreaker Merino 200 Oasis Thermal Leggings,Gnara Go There™ Pant,Chickfly Merino Eucalyptus Leggings,
SPOT GEN3 Satellite GPS Messenger, Dueter Dirtbag, Kula Cloth, Leki Women’s Micro Vario Cor-Tec TA trekking poles, Nemo Dragonfly Ultralight Backpacking Tent
, Nemo Sonic™ 0 Down Sleeping Bag,Paria Thermodown 30 down quilt, Exped Ultra 7R Mat, REI Flash 3-Season Sleeping Pad, Thermarest Z Lite™ Sleeping Pad,Thermarest Z Seat™,MSR Pocket Rocket Stove, TOAKS Titanium 450ML Cup with Lid, MSR® IsoPro™ Fuel.

Want to know more about my gear selections? Head on over to Gear & Gadgets or check out my posts titled “Gear in Review”.


Photo of a group of hikers on a sunny day in a field heading towards a wooded area. The photographer has taken the photo from behind the group.

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