Just outside of the main entrance to the park, there is a small town called Springdale, where you can find all the hotels and shops. It's a cool little town. If you keep driving, you pass Rockville [population 273] as you head up into Kolob Canyon in the Northwest area of the park. Following signs to the West Rim Trail Head, we climbed a narrow, nineteen mile, two-lane road that turned into rocks and dirt and got very steep near the top. My little rental was not built for that kind of road. Poor little Nissan Versa.
At the top, we found a small, primitive campsite with young families setting up tents, an outhouse, and a five-car dirt parking lot. We claimed a spot and got out, finding the trail head sign. "West Rim Trail - Zion Canyon 13.5 miles". No problem. We are way up in elevation near 8,000 feet and we are hiking to the floor of the canyon. It should all be downhill. Right?
We got our backpacks on, locked and loaded, and set off on the West Rim trail. We were treated with spectacular views right out of the gate, since we were up so high. All I had to do was turn my head to the right to see mountains and vertical rock structures for miles.
We had a nice, steady pace for the first few miles. It was still morning, but the sun was starting to beat down on the desert floor, so it was a welcome break when we headed into some forest shade. Until the climb started. "Wait a second!", my mind protested. I thought this was all downhill. How can we be climbing if we are at the top? I was not acclimated to the altitude, heat or dry air (the humidity here in Ohio has been relentless) so breathing was a bit of a struggle.
But on I climbed.
Finally at the top, I found a shaded, fallen tree to sit on and ate part of my lunch. We had gone just over 6 miles, so I gave myself a pep talk. Almost half way there. Only 7 miles to go. All downhill from here.
We continued along the ridge as it turned into afternoon. We ran into a few people who were lugging gear to their campsites, which looked like an unpleasant task. Although camping up there must be quite an experience. I could feel how off-grid we were. No cell phone service. No water. Nothing but back-country and blue sky.
Left foot, right foot.
I remember hitting the eleven mile mark on the Garmin and thinking, praise the LORD less than an hour to go. A little over two miles. I can do this.
Then around mile twelve, we came around the west side of the mountain and suddenly had a view of Zion Canyon. There she was. Angel's Landing surrounded by the Virgin River. But it didn't look like it was a mile away. It looked far away. My heart sunk. How could this be? We're supposed to be almost there.
I had three liters of water with me, but had been drinking it as though I had less than an hour to go. Now, it looked as though we had several hours to go. I started conserving. Small sips. I finished my lunch. All that was left was a few pretzels.
Do you know the feeling of wanting to be done with something so badly? I wanted to be done. Take my sweaty boots off. Put my feet up. Blow my nose. Have a huge, ice cold drink.
But I wasn't done so I had to keep moving. Left foot, right foot.
Having something familiar within view was helpful, but it felt like as I moved forward, the end of the trail moved farther away. Mercifully, it truly was all downhill switchbacks at this point with gorgeous views. I tried to stay focused on that, on all the positives. The progress we'd made. The badassery of this back-country hike. My legs' ability to keep me moving. Left foot, right foot.
Then, as it often seems to happen, we were suddenly at Scout's Landing. Woohoo! I'd been here many times before, from the other direction. I knew this place. I could picture refrigerator canyon and the switchbacks leading down to the road where we would catch our shuttle.
Here's what I know. Very often, the paths we choose are longer, more challenging, and scarier than we ever thought they would be. Restoring health and fitness can be like that. Getting emotionally healthy after being lost for a long time can be like that. Getting sober. Quitting drugs. Losing weight. Restoring self-worth.
What I learned on the West Rim Trail is we don't get to know what's going to come up on our path. We don't even know how far or long it will be. I had to rely on what I DID know:
My legs are strong.
When I get weak, God has my back.
I am filled with divine confidence.
Every step forward matters.
Left foot, right foot.
What you focus on grows.
Eventually, I WILL finish.
And I did. The quick two miles from Scout's Landing was partly shaded, crowded with hikers, and completely down hill. The hike turned out to be 18.2 miles. Almost five miles further than the posted signs said, and I think the farthest I've gone since the Grand Canyon.
Here's what I love about taking on any challenge in life. When I'm in it, it's hard. But when I'm done, oh the happiness! Not just for finishing, but for having the courage to begin in the first place.
It may not look like you thought it would. It may be longer than you ever imagined. Don't let that keep you from finding your path. Don't let that keep you from trying.