September 09, 2010

Summer Road Trip - Zion National Park & Las Vegas

My plan had been to do the Angel's Landing hike in Zion National Park. Now, I had read up on this hike and the best time to do it is not in the heat of August. It also gets really, really crowded. It also has some really dangerous and narrow parts, made much worse by crowding. Also, my friend April, who I was to meet up with in Las Vegas, warned me that a friend of hers fell to her death on this hike. So, to prepare and plan for this hike, I had decided, before I even started on this trip, to get up super early and get to the park early, take the required shuttle to the trailhead and beat the crowds. I do not prefer hiking crowded, dangerous hikes in the hottest month of summer in dry climates. I had set the alarm on my cell phone. But, you see, I have a problem with alarms. I have slept through many, many alarms in my life. I have missed many classes and many exams from sleeping through alarms in college. I worked 35 hours a week in college and I would get home from work around 9:30 or 10:00 at night and start studying until the early morning hours. Then I would depend on my alarm to wake me for my 8:00 or 9:00 class or exam because I always scheduled my classes as early as I could so I could finish as early as possible to get to work as early as possible. It is a vicious cycle. But I often sleep very deeply, sleeping through parties, thunderstorms and alarm clocks. My roommates would think my alarm clock went off and I was not at home and eventually, after an hour, the alarm clock would just shut itself off. So, I got a second alarm clock, set five minutes later than the first. When this did not do it, I got a third alarm clock, but still, this did not work either. Finally, my mother discovered the perfect alarm clock with the most annoying sounding buzzer you have ever heard. I have never slept more than twenty minutes through this alarm. It has never failed to wake me, even if twenty minutes later. So, I just set it twenty minutes earlier than the absolute latest time I had to get up.  Sadly, this alarm clock died about six months ago and I have never had the confidence that I will wake up in time since, usually producing a very poor night's sleep over worry that I will sleep through the alarm. Anyway, my cell phone alarm clock fails me this morning and I sleep and sleep. When I do wake up I am excruciatingly disappointed. It is nine o'clock, way too late to get ready, drive over an hour to Zion, hopefully get a parking spot, take the shuttle and make it to the trailhead. So, I immediately discard the whole notion. Now what to do? 
I am seriously considering just driving home. It is morning and I am kind of lonely. I realize that last night was the first night of my entire trip that I spent alone, unless you consider the red-eye on the flight from Salt Lake City, but I don't think that counts. Now, I like to be alone, I really require enormous amounts of alone time, which you think would make me "low maintenance" but, really, I require so much alone time that I think it starts to swing back in the direction of "high maintenance". It can be hard to plan things with me because I already have all my seemingly "free" time spoken for, filled up with my "alone time" things. But despite voluntarily spending a lot of time alone, I do not like to be lonely. You would think that someone who needs so much alone time would not get lonely, but we do and it sucks. I think this is one of the reasons why Paul and I are such a good match, we both like a lot of alone time, which we can have, together. So here, I am a bit puzzled by why I am feeling lonely. But I am. I am pulled because I want to continue to explore but I want to be home, in my familiar surroundings. I guess I am missing having meaningful, human connection, which I can't really have with strangers, if I were even "connecting" with strangers, which I have not done on this trip. It is kind of hard to do when you sit in your car driving most of the time.
I decide that I will not decide. I will start out on the road, in the direction of Zion National Park an hour away and if I don't feel like it then I will just keep driving in the direction of home. I am not on the road more than a few miles when I am struck by the views of huge golden fields. Wow, I am a bit mesmerized by them and then the later fields of tall, yellow, daisy-like wildflowers. Hmm... I see a sign for Zion already, not the heart of the park, but the northwestern section of the park, the much less visited section of the park, the much less crowded section of the park. I fight with indecision for what seems like several minutes, almost in a panic, and at the last second I take the exit for this part of the park and the fate of my day has been decided.
I stop in the visitor's center and show my yearly park pass and get a map. Then I start up the scenic road.
I decide to stop, at random, at a trailhead parking lot and go on a hike that sounds interesting. Zion National Park always amazes me with its huge red mountains and today I am hiking right towards them, among them, following along a shallow creek. The creek is very clear and makes musical sounds in the quiet of this place. There are many lovely plants and wildflowers blooming along the way. I also spot a lizard in the red sand. The trail meanders in and out of pine woods and often requires me to tip toe across some rocks to cross the creek, adding some nice variety.
Plant Life

The creek
Glow Sticks
Cabin in the Woods
River in the Woods
The trail is leading me directly into a narrow and deep valley, formed by the red mountains. There, is a rock "overhand" where water drips down, forming small glass-like pools. I am so taken by the pools that I don't explore the rest of this area right away. An older man is there with his older wife. He tells me, "There is an amazing view if you just step back here and look up."
"Okay, thanks. I will." I assure him. I am snapping away some photos of the pools for several minutes, maybe ten minutes or more. When the older man says, "Young lady, make sure you step back here and take a look up at the view." Geezus, I will already, can you cut me a freaking break? Does he want me to do it right then and there just to make him feel better? This man, whom I owe nothing, is not going to tell me what and when I should freaking do something. I want to tell him to go mind his own business, that pointing out something once is plenty enough times. But all I say is, "Okay" in a monotone voice and then, barely missing a beat, I go back to exactly what I was doing. He and his wife leave. I mean, the guy seemed really nice, but don't push your concern on me like that, there is nothing that turns me off faster.
Reflection in Pool
Okay, so when I was done and ready, I did walk back about fifteen feet to the place he mentioned and looked up. Yes, it was quite nice, but not so-freaking-nice-I-am-going-to-wet-my-pants. So, I hike back to my car and continue on this scenic drive through Zion. I saw some beautiful deep canyons and mountains and overlooks. Very amazing stuff and my day of travel was more inspired. Then, at the end of the road I made my way back down to the interstate and headed towards the heart of the park, except that I got sidetracked. I was so enamored by this lesser know part of the park that I wanted to see more "lesser known" parts of the park, so I decided to venture up this one long road through a remote area that passed in and out of the park like a sewing needle.
So, in a small town on a nearly unmarked road I made a left turn. It took me through some dusty, rural neighborhoods out into the dry countryside. I passed fields of dryness and some houses and pastures. People live out here, its amazing. Even the town didn't have much to offer. But they seemed to really love this place because it looked like they had put a lot into the comforts of their home. I drove toward multi-colored mountains and passed through acres and acres of dead trees, perhaps dead orchards that had withered to gray trunks and branches. The road climbed higher and higher and then, all of a sudden, where this red, paved road leveled out was an enormous golden field. I pulled my small purple car as far off the road as I could get it, but really, it was flat here so if a car did come they could easily and safely pass me. Besides, I hadn't even see one other car for many, many miles. Of course, as soon as I pull of, I get passed by six cars. I take a few photos and admire this cluster of the long stemmed daisies that is growing near the fence of the golden field.
Then I am off again, enjoying the amazing views. Eventually I read a crude sign that points me down a dirt road to the overlook that I have decided is my final destination. The dirt road takes me through a green mountain pasture with a few private homes. It is much cooler here, peaceful, remote but not lonely, clam and lovely. I envy the people that live here, even though it is so, so far away from everything. I pass a quiet campground and make a note to myself that I must come back here and camp. The overlook does have amazing views and I drink it in like I would water after a very long run on a very hot day.
I notice there is a group of about six couples, all kind of older, that are leaving. I overhear a bit of their conversation, but other than them there is no one else around. They are leaving and talking about what a great day they had. This reminds me of the time. Ok, actually, I have not forgotten about the time. In fact, I rarely forget about the time. But maybe it is more like it nags me about the time. I need to leave Zion National Park at a reasonable time to drive the two or three hours to Las Vegas so that I can get into town at a reasonable hour to visit with my friend April. So I finish my admiration of the overlook and decide that if I leave right now, I should get into Las Vegas by 5:30, plenty of time to visit with April, the mother of a young child, at a reasonable family hour.
So, I race down the road and back out to the highway. I race across the desert of Utah into the desert, almost wasteland of Nevada through nothing until I hit the lights of Las Vegas. I call April along the way and she does not answer, so I leave her a voice message informing her of my approximate arrival into town. Las Vegas is such a contrast to the last several days of my trip. Neon, traffic, highways and cement. I get off at my exit, near downtown Las Vegas and miss my motel. So I go to the next street and make a right to go around the block. There I encounter the homeless, drugged out population of Las Vegas. The street is full of shopping cart after shopping cart of the homeless. Ragged, tired looking people sit on the sidewalk looking like they had seen better days. I notice that my motel has tall bars around the whole complex. I pull into the motel and check in where an older gentleman kindly helps me from behind the counter. I go to my rather shabby room of the Comfort Inn surrounded by bars. At least there is a pool, also surrounded by bars in the middle of the large parking lot. I call April again and there is again no answer so I leave another message. Then I call her at home and there is no answer. I go to the pool for a short time to cool off and I keep my cell phone within earshot to wait for her call back. But it never comes. I go back inside and decide to get something to eat. I try to go to Capriotti's which is a small Hoagie chain from back home in Pennsylvania and they happen to have opened a small chain in Las Vegas, but I get there two minutes before they close. Disappointed, I was hoping to have a Bobbie for dinner (their special hoagie with turkey, cranberry sauce and stuffing on a hoagie roll) I go back to my motel and look up something else online. I end up at Thai BBQ which had high ratings on Yelp but turned out to be a joke. It wasn't too terrible but it wasn't too good either. On my way back to the motel I drive through downtown Las Vegas, past the old casinos of another glory time in Las Vegas' history. I see a person decked out like Darth Vadar walking down Main St. Really, it looks exactly like Darth Vadar is walking the streets, ah, only in Las Vegas.
When I get back to my room, I am feeling disappointed, forgotten and lonely again. I feel foolish too, for racing back to Las Vegas, which I generally deplore, to see my friend who seems to have forgotten that we made a date only yesterday to get together today. You see, when I make a date with someone I keep it. When I make time in my schedule for someone, I keep it. My time is so precious to me that it actually feels like a huge investment for me to give it up to spend with someone else. If I make time for you than you are important to me, I don't make time for just anyone. But not everyone feels this way and over the years, they generally have ceased to be close friends with me (or I with them, for that matter). So instead, I digest my crappy Thai food in a dingy motel surrounded by bars in one of my least favorite cities, lovely Las Vegas.

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