Family Vacation to Mt. Zion National Park in Utah

April and I have just returned from a vacation with her brothers, sister-in-law, and parents to Utah. We were there five nights, and it was the best vacation I’ve ever had. April’s family is wonderful, the scenery was beautiful, and despite some delays getting home, it was overall a relaxing and enjoyable trip.

I have a lot of photos in a Google+ gallery, but I wanted to write about the trip as well.

Hike to Scout’s Point and Angel’s Landing

On our first full day, we tackled the most challenging hike of the week and ascended to Scout’s Point. We didn’t actually go all the way to Angel’s Landing, which would have been another half mile of much more challenging climbing, and the two miles and who-knows-how-many thousands of feet in elevation to Scout’s was sufficient for us.

This area was settled by Mormons in the late 19th and early 20th century, and the entire park bears their stamp in the naming of mountains and landmarks. Zion was their sanctuary, and peaks bore names like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Altar of Sacrifice, Western Temple, and so on.

I found it all a bit unsettling. There were people living in these canyons, valleys, and mountains before the Mormons arrived and brought “a period of great change” to the region. There were holy places, and beliefs, and rituals before everything was remade in the image of Joseph Smith and Moronai.

But despite the heavy-handed naming scheme, the park was phenomenal. There was an excellent shuttle system, the paths were well-maintained, there was hardly any litter to be seen, and all this despite over three million visitors per year. The only thing I would have really liked to change was how crowded it was, but even that was bearable since everything was so expansive.

Bryce Canyon

On Tuesday, we drove two hours to Bryce Canyon to hike to the bottom of it and back up. It was so dusty there that most of my pictures are pretty poor, but there were some really beautiful views from the top.

If you’re going to the area, I recommend you focus on Mt. Zion National Park. There’s nothing else to do around Bryce Canyon, so outside of hiking your time will be spent watching chipmunks play or visiting rock shops. It was really neat, though, and worth a day trip. All-told, we spent eight hours getting to Bryce, hiking, and getting back to our lodge.

Sunrise in Mt. Zion

On our last full day in the park, we got up early to visit the back patio of the museum and watch the sun come up.

As some of you know, my religious beliefs prior to becoming Christian had me very connected with nature, and I reflected on that old connection a lot throughout the trip. This land was foreign to me, and I struggled to understand why people would settle here. There was water and life to some extent, but compared to my lush Ozark hills, the entire area was arid and dead. I spent two hours watching the sun come up, and slowly people left to pursue their own interests until I was alone. I prayed and sought God, and I got a sense of the death that inhabits the desert.

Perhaps that is why our spiritual forebears sought the desert to meditate and reflect, though. In dying, we find life, and in that environment you can be removed from everything else. That remoteness just led to me feeling disconnected, though.

In some respects, I always feel that way. I think a lot of people long to feel part of something bigger, of a community where they know others and are known, and where they have a place and a purpose and a calling. I have the purpose and calling, but I don’t feel the sense of connection I would like. This despite April and me being members of a fantastic church where we have more friends than we’ve ever had before, and where we are very active and always engaged with people. I connect a lot, and on a very deep level, with several of them. But that sense of being on the outside persists.

I get along with April’s family very well, and that is what made this trip so good. I have come to feel like I’m on the inside of that group in a way I’ve never known before. It is humbling and blessed. And as I type this, our dog has come into the office to force her head under my hand, and I feel happy and loved.

Perhaps I’m just thinking about it too much. Or perhaps, as Melvin told me many years ago, this is simply the way it is for someone who is going to be a leader at work and in the church and elsewhere.

Community takes investment and vulnerability. I shall endeavor to cultivate both.

As I said, I stayed there for about two hours and took a picture every half hour as the sunlight crept down the mountainside.

Around 6:08 a.m.

Around 6:38 a.m.

Around 7:08 a.m.

Around 7:38 a.m.

And, on the other side of the museum, around 7:40 a.m.

As you can tell, the sky was just as beautiful as the mountains.

Coming Home

We flew from St. George, Utah to Denver to Chicago to Springfield. Our flight from Denver was delayed by about an hour, all while we sat in the plane, and the flight from Chicago was delayed by almost three hours total. We finally got home around 12:30 this morning, and I was back up at 6:50 a.m. to pick up Willow from Camp Bow Wow, where she spent the last seven nights. She seems happy to be home too, and our cats are certainly glad to see us.

And now I get to return to things like cleaning, and homework, and on Monday, to work work. That said, I’m happy to be home, humidity be damned. April and I talked a bit about home while we were in Utah; she declared recently that we are not going to leave Springfield, and I’m comfortable with that decision, but I’m still ambivalent about this town. I grew up here, for the most part, and there are a lot of things I don’t like about it. But every time I leave, I breathe a sigh of relief when I come home. This is my home. These tree-covered hills are my hills. I may dislike a lot about the politics, and the way religion is practiced, and some of the things we do at work, and so many other matters, but I love this land. Part of my heart is here, and that would be hard to leave behind.

Regardless, we would not want to move to the desert. Utah is weird. Between their liquor laws and the odd hours people keep (we regularly couldn’t find an open gas station, or anything else, before 9 or 10 in the morning, and some places were closed on random days for undiscernible reasons), the whole state seemed odd to us. Missouri is, strangely, more reliable.

It is good to be home.

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