The kids had a four day weekend over President’s Day, so we decided to head down south and take advantage of the mild winter weather and cheap hotel rates. (Really. A place called the Bumbleberry Inn gave us a room for $45 a night. Wowsers.)
Highs were in the low 60s, and it was great to shed our coats and go “walking in the top of the mountains,” as William had been begging to do.
Best of all, it wasn’t overbearingly crowded. In summertime, Zion Canyon feels like an amusement park, with hikers shuffling through on each other’s heels. During our winter stay the park wasn’t anything near empty, but it was uncrowded enough to give us some nice solitude on our hikes. Brian has declared that he never wants to visit Zion again in the summertime. Hear, hear.
The downside of the warm weather was muddy trails. But Eleanor found this rather thrilling. She purposely trod through the thickest, stickiest ruts, singing “Mud! Mud! Mud! Mud!” at the top of her lungs.
She was such a good little hiker — halfway through our first hike, she turned to us and cried, “Do you know what? I haven’t whined a single time during this hike!” It was true, she hadn’t; Brian and I hadn’t even realized it before she pointed it out. After that, whenever she was about to get cranky on the trail, we reminded her of how she didn’t whine, and she quieted down.
Mud! Mud! Mud! Everyone’s shoes got a nice little coat, as if we’d all been dancing in a bottle of Burnt Ochre.
One of the trails we chose had a lot of spur trails and no directional markers, so we ended up going the wrong way, all the way to the top of one of the little valleys in the Court of the Patriarchs. It was still beautiful, even if the trail eventually disappeared.
Jeffrey loved the Emerald Pools, so much so that he did not heed our warnings about hiking with wet shoes. Alas and alack.
Brian’s dad, Randy, joined us for the Emerald Pools hike (he had caravanned down with us, in order to visit extended family in Cedar City) and was invaluble when it came to holding children’s hands on the steep parts of the trail. At one point, he was occupied holding both William and Eleanor’s hands, and an older, white-haired gentleman who passed us took the time to tell Randy that “you should enjoy them when they are so young like this — they grow up so fast!” Apparently, the white-haired man was under the impression that Randy was the children’s father! Randy decided to take it as a compliment to be taken for a 32-year-old, although when we later bumped into that white-haired man again, he took care to say “Come along, grandchildren” in as distinct a voice as possible.
The only real challenge to the trip was finding places to eat for dinner. Most of the cheap restaurants in Springdale were closed for the season, or only serving lunch. But a exploratory drive to Hurricane revealed a Chinese buffet place that was, we thought, a perfect way to ring in the Year of the Tiger. Plus, they had Jell-O. You haven’t really lived, cuisine-wise, until you’ve watched your seven-year-old try to eat Jell-O with chopsticks.
In the evenings, we holed up in our hotel and watched the Olympics while munching on microwave popcorn. I don’t know if we got very much rest, sleeping all together in the same room, but we certainly returned to Salt Lake feeling much less stressed.