“Zion” comes from the Old Testament. According to Christianity.com:
The ancient Hebrew word Tsiyon (Zion) is “a Canaanite hill fortress in Jerusalem captured by David and called in the Bible ‘City of David.’” Zion can refer to one of three places: the hill where the most ancient areas of Jerusalem stood; the city of Jerusalem itself; or the dwelling place of God. (1)
It’s the city of God. It can also mean heaven.
John Wesley Powell – the first man to explore the entire length of Grand Canyon in 1869 and went on to explore other significant places of the Colorado Plateau – first called the area that became Zion National Park “Mukuntuweap,” meaning “straight canyon” in Paiute. This area was inaugarated as Mukuntuweap National Monument in 1909. However, the Monument became a National Park in 1919, and was renamed Zion according to words Mormon Pioneer Isaac Behunin once said:
“A man can worship God among these great cathedrals as well as he can in any man-made church; this is Zion.” (2)
It’s a 229 square mile federal preservation in southwestern Utah. Its main feature is the Zion Canyon, which is really the canyon where the North Fork of the Virgin River flows out of the high country of the Kolob Terrace. The Park encompasses other features which, I dare say, are less remarkable, but still remarkable.
However, I’m not here to play guide. I just want to share an impression of this special land as I was taking the photo above on Monday the 1st of August…
I’d slept like 1.5 hours the night before. I get like that before long hikes that start early. Why? Don’t ask.
However, at 5:30 the coffee hit me right. By 7:15 my friend and I were at the Zion Visitor Center to board the shuttle bus without masks. By 8 we were ascending the trail to Angel’s Landing. We would have done most of this trail anyways, but, the day before I’d won a permit to finish the last portion of this famous hike which requires holding on to chains with steep drops on both sides. It’s not terrifying, but I see how it could be to some.
The chained portion was nice. I’d done it 15 years before. I’d do it again.
However, the real highlight was continuing on the West Rim Trail past the turnoff to the landing, and going higher. That’s where the big photo at the top of this post was from. Taking it was, well..
Look, I’m not saying the photo is stunning. Others have done this part of the mountain more justice than me. I’ve taken better photos of other things too.
At the same time, seeking out the proper light in that moment was why I love photography. It’s why I love the Southwest, and Zion.
All fatigue from little sleep was gone. All was happiness. Wind cooled my sweat while the Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s version of “America the Beautiful” played in my mind. This choir being in Utah has allowed its members to be inspired by some of America’s best beauty, and when it spontaneously plays in my mind, it means I’m having a great day.
Red, orange and white rock run with speckles of green trees growing in the most astounding places and give form to a canyon of sheer, deep and narrow walls that awes the imagination. It too is sensory overload. Add moving shadows to flicker Zion’s colors, and it can seem grander than the Grand Canyon.
The below photo was what I really, really wanted to get right from this hike. However, the light was too strong. The bright light makes the shadows and colors too dark. What you see is the result of some effort in Adobe Light Room, and it’s not that good. I would have stayed longer for the softer light near sunset, but I was out of water. So down the switchbacks my friend and I went. We got back to our cars close to 5 pm. That’s almost nine hours hiking and shooting, and I would’ve like more time.
I was considering doing this hike again the next day or Wednesday. However, Zion’s heat, rain, crowds and traffic got to me. I left Thursday the 4th. But realizing how easy the interface is to procure $20 campsites through recreation.gov, I’ll be back soon enough when the heat wanes. There’s still a lot more I wanna see.
I understand why Zion dethroned Grand Canyon as the #2 most visited national park in 2021. (3)
However, I am still biased. I regard Grand Canyon as #1. I put Yosemite at #2. Zion is #3, and #3 is going to see my face again before the end of the year, if the Good Lord is so gracious.
Below is the list of America’s Top 10 most visited national parks from the Communist News Network’s above link:
1. Great Smoky Mountains National Park: 14.16 million
2. Zion National Park: 5.03 million
3. Yellowstone National Park: 4.86 million
4. Grand Canyon National Park: 4.53 million
5. Rocky Mountain National Park: 4.43 million
6. Acadia National Park: 4.06 million
7. Grand Teton National Park: 3.88 million
8. Yosemite National Park: 3.28 million
9. Indiana Dunes National Park: 3.17 million
10. Glacier National Park: 3.08 million