Saturday, May 28, 2011
If you're into traveling and beautiful places, this pass is a great deal- $80 for a year gets you in to ALL the national parks and monuments for FREE. It could pay for itself in no time if you just hit a few of the bigger parks. We ended up hitting the big parks during their promotional free week, but we used the pass at a lot of other parks, and I know we'll continue to. I'm happy to support the parks anyway, even if they did threaten to shut down on us.
Smooth running public transportation is really impressive to me, and not something you see very often in my home state of California. Imagine- clean buses with friendly drivers coming by every 15 minutes....did I mention it was FREE? After several thousand miles behind the wheel in the previous few weeks, I was very glad to leave the driving to someone else. This ingenious set up not only reduces traffic and parking problems, but allows tired drivers to toast their good fortune with a glass of wine while visiting all the cute shops.
The shuttle system runs on propane so you don't have to smell diesel fumes. You can hop off, go for a hike, and almost all trails lead to another stop. No worrying about backtracking, missing the bus or it being too crowded- just catch the next one in 15 minutes.
The trails were all well maintained, but like the rest of the place, full of people. There was no litter though, and they had recycling facilities all over the place. Another impressive thing is that the park does not sell bottled water. Even with recycling, the number of plastic bottles that need to be dealt with in such a popular park is ridiculous, so they just said "no more." You can buy stainless steel water bottles and refill your own for free with spring water, but no single use disposables are sold anywhere in the park. Good for them for taking a stand.
Of all the national Parks I have visited, at Zion in particular, I noticed a really large number of people out on the trails who didn't look like typical hikers. We passed by tons of very elderly people and people of all ages and sizes who didn't appear to be outdoorsy types. It actually made my day to know these people were out there with their canes and inhalers and getting some exercise and a dose of nature though. It was a very encouraging thing to see indeed, although one gentleman had me a little concerned for the condition of his heart as he puffed and stopped, puffed and stopped. All I remember from the mandatory CPR class I took is that chest compressions alone are better than nothing, but no one needed emergency rescue services that day. Also, with the handy warning signs about falling to our deaths, my Boy Child decided to stay on the trail without any reminders.
We hiked until our legs hurt. A good chunk of time we were craning our necks looking up and ooohing and aaahing over the massive rock formations that left us feeling very small in the scheme of all this great big beauty in the world.
At night, we ate like burly men, slept like logs, and were woken with a big, loud and unexpected thunderstorm. I have since learned that you should seek the shelter of your car if lightning is less than 7 miles away. At our last count, it was 3, but thankfully we all survived, and the dusty tent got a good rinse before we headed to on.
As we drove away, we all agreed that southern Utah is simply beautiful- the whole bottom half of the state is pretty enough to be a national park. The parks themselves are gems- so diverse and amazing, they left me feeling rather poetic. I didn't take time for writing a haiku about how we humans are all different and lovely too, but I did ponder it. As free ranging homeschoolers, I think my kids have a good opportunity for clarity and openness to finding their own individual paths, without worrying if their life's landscape looks like anyone elses. For me, it reaffirmed that my own life deserves trust and freedom too, and with them, wonderful things will develop.