Zion National Park

Our stories are what we give someone after we’ve already given them everything else.
— Dr. Gary Cooper

I once studied under a poet who told me, “Our stories are what we give someone after we’ve already given them everything else.” I always thought that was beautiful: the idea that our story, our own personal history, is a sacred gift that we reserve for those with whom we wish to have an intimate relationship - with those we consider worthy.

In my various travels, I’ve continued to carry that notion with me. And, so, I’ve found myself developing into a sort of history student. I’m insatiably interested in the origins of things: from the food that I eat, to the clothes I wear, to the history of how the mountains I’ve climbed have come to grow from the ground. My summer of traveling across the country has taught me that even the ruthless, rugged mountains have their own stories; that we can have an intimate relationship with the world we live in; that it, like us, is fragile; that we must treat it well.

I’ve come to see that our fate is bound together.
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Zion National Park is a 229-square-mile national park located in the southwest corner of Utah, about two hours (driving) from Las Vegas, Nevada. The park features an elevation range of 3,666 to 8,726 feet, and is littered with slot canyons, waterfalls, colorful cliffs, and a diverse desert wildlife. The region’s running water and lush, green trees make it feel like an oasis. The region has a human history dating back to the Ancestral Puebloans (formerly known as the Anasazi), about two thousand years ago; there is evidence that the Paiutes were there approximately 800 years ago, and Mormon settlers arrived in the region in the 1860s. The canyon was given the name “Zion” by those Mormon settlers, though further information on the origin of the name has (so far) alluded me.

Zion is one of five national parks in the state of Utah, and it was my first stop on a 10-day tour of Utah’s Might Five. The park is a showcase of geology. The rock layers in the region have been uplifted, tilted, and eroded, forming a feature called the Grand Staircase, a series of colorful cliffs stretching between Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, and the Grand Canyon. The exposed rock forms in distinct bands, featuring colors ranging from chocolate to terra cotta to a brilliant purple. Traveling through the park truly makes a person feel small.

I sloughed through the water-filled slot canyons of The Narrows. I hiked and ran the trails up to Observation Point. I watched a brilliant, blood-red sunset from Observation Point. And, at 2 in the morning, I pulled over, laid on top of my rental car, and watched the Milky Way stretch out across the canyon. Zion might be the most beautiful place I went this summer, and it offers plenty of adventure to visitors: from hiking to climbing to canyoneering to sloughing through slot canyons.

Matt Patterson

Seattle, Washington