The shuttle busses in Zion and Grand Canyon surprised me. There are shuttles in Bryce, too, but we were there a few days before they starting running for the season. I had never seen a park shuttle before, and had the idea that they would be big, noisy, and crowded, with complicated schedules. Boy, was I wrong! The shuttles are wonderful: clean and quiet, with schedules and stops so simple even a navigationally challenged person such as myself could easily figure them out. The Zion shuttles stop right at the lodge, with routes that take them from the little town of Springdale just outside the park all the way to the Riverside Walk Trail that begins at the Temple of Sinawava (a Paiute word roughly meaning Coyote God).
The Temple of Sinawava, despite its evocative name, is not a temple, but rather the entire northern end of Zion Canyon. It is a natural amphitheater nearly 3000 feet deep. Hanging gardens sprout from the vertical walls. The Riverside Walk is a wide, well-maintained, accessible path along the North Fork of the Virgin River. The Walk ends at the one-mile point, where seasoned and properly equipped hikers can continue through the canyon narrows, as the “path” takes to the river itself.
What more could a person ask of a day hike? The sheer cliffs of Sinawava, the lovely cottonwood trees dressed in spring green, a cerulean sky, sun on my face and the love of my life as traveling companion. Heady stuff.
The Riverside Walk was alive with smiling people on the day we were there. It was an international, intergenerational bunch, all basking in the gifts of sun-kissed breezes, limpid pools, color-striped and speckled rocks, panhandling squirrels, grazing mule deer and a shared celebration of our improbable, joyous existence.
Several guys worked on a portion of the trail while we all paraded by. A boisterous group of 5th-graders from a local school overtook us. Two girls fell into line behind me, then gradually edged up so we were walking side by side. “Like your backpack,” one said. “And your sunglasses,” said the other. “Yeah, they’re cool,” said the first one. We walked, talked, and giggled all the way to the end of the trail. Anyone who likes to bitch and moan about today’s young ‘uns should have been with us on our road trip. These smart, friendly, engaged girls were the rule, not the exception. We met a lot of kids who didn’t act like anyone over sixty has the plague!
Signs warn: “Do not feed wildlife!” I saw a seventy-something, elegantly clad Japanese woman look at a squirrel, peek around as if to see if any rangers were observing, then pull a peanut from her pocket. The squirrel had seen this show before, and sat motionless, eye on the nut. She moved very slowly, bent and stretched out her nut-filled hand to the squirrel, who delicately accepted the gift. A happy smile transformed the woman’s face into that of a girl. She put a hand on either side of her face, beaming.