I have a complicated relationship with Zion National Park. My one and only trip to the park came in January 2014 and I haven’t been back since, nor do I have any plans to return soon (though with some persuasion I can see myself there near the end of this summer).
A friend of some friends has a house in St. George (or rather his family does), so on the 3-day weekend created thanks to Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, off I went to southern Utah with Ben, Ryan, Nathan, Miles and Emily. Saturday morning Ben and Ry planned to bike the half Ironman course and then meet up with the rest of us at Zion. I was fine with this even though I didn’t know Miles or Emily at all, and Nathan and I had only met last year on a similar trip. (It basically turned into a weird double date, but Nathan and I had a blast.) No matter the context of the trip, it was a chance to go to another national park, one that I had heard about endlessly. I was very excited.
But I was underwhelmed by Zion. Dare I say it’s overrated? (I do dare say that. I say it a lot actually.)
Most people hear that and think there’s something wrong with me. Zion National Park is gorgeous and I know there are many great hikes to enjoy; I really do believe those things, even if we didn’t do the most amazing hikes. Overall the park just didn’t click for me. The walls are steep and sheer and have that beautiful orange-red color I can’t get enough of, but everything felt repetitive. I missed the variety of parks like Yellowstone and even Arches. For whatever reason I didn’t build a connection with this magnificent place everyone else lauded and got starry-eyed over. For me it was missing something, and I still don’t really know what.
I still had a wonderful day. I still marveled at nature. I still loved every second of my time in Zion. It just wasn’t what everyone told me it would be. So I guess that’s my fault; maybe I let people talk it up too much. I suppose I relied too much on what other people would say that visit would be. That trip taught me a lot about travel and nature though. You can’t let other people define your experiences. You can never expect to have the same journey of feelings that someone else has about a place. And just because you had a different experience or feel a different way about a place doesn’t diminish anyone’s enjoyment of it.
I’m hopeful that when I do return to Zion I’ll be able to enjoy it in a new way and see it through new eyes. Even if I don’t, I just have to remember that it’s okay to not connect with every place in the same way and that likely wasn’t the only time it would happen with a national park. That’s what makes it great to be alive and to be different: We all experience this world separately and that means everyone and everything is a little more beautiful.