Zion’s National Park



We told the kids that this would be our “Summer of Camping.” All of our other trips were building to this one- 3 days, 4 nights. We packed like crazy, got emergency hair cuts for Cayden and Matt Monday morning (based off of a talk by the Stake President) and pulled out. It was early, we were fresh and the day was young. And then we realized we’d let the kids each drink their own bottle of juice while we were loading the van.  Novice mistake #1- Never load up on the drinks. We’d realized that when Cayden was 4 and we liked to fill up and get drinks on the drive back from Moab. Never do that. It seems tempting. Never do it. But…. these drinks were consumed before we even left the house. I didn’t even think ahead. We were energetically packing the whole house into a trailer and van. You want a drink? It’ll keep you happy? We have extra? Go for it.  

9 bathroom stops turned a 4 hour drive into an eternal one.  There is a quote that says, “It is better to travel well than to arrive.” They must not have had kids or had to worry about juice intake. Or maybe they did and they realized that “traveling well” makes all the difference. Let’s just way that we were SO GLAD to pull into our campsite.  And even more glad that the bathroom was around the bend (we were NOT going double digits for bathroom breaks). This place was gorgeous!


Alison put on shows while Matt and Cayden set up camp.


Soon enough we found a trail that led to the Virgin River. I told the kids that we WEREN’T getting in and we spent the evening just sitting on the banks, playing in the sand and thoroughly soaking in the scenery.


The sand was so fine, it was mesmerizing….


Megan and Jack at the edge, throwing little sticks into the river and watching them float downstream.


Jack with a walking stick, looking for a spot to cross.


While dinner was underway, Ashlyn unpacked her backpack of entertainment, the girls set up camp in the tent trailer and colored away.

DAY 2:

We walked to the Visitor’s Center from camp, picked up our Jr. Ranger packets and loaded up on the shuttle bus. The shuttle bus is the wave of the future- no looking for parking, no buckling car seats and a recording over the intercom tells you everything that’s cool about the park.  Genius!


Our first hike- Weeping rock. We started off the day in the shade.


It was an easy hike. And crazily enough- it was all we could handle. We tried to hit another hike (the Emerald Pools). We were in the high heat of the day but thought once we got to the pools, the kids could wade around and cool off.  About 1/3 of the way into the hike we realized we were wrong. It was so hot! We turned around, boarded the shuttle bus and walked back to camp from the Visitor’s Center. Matt and Cayden stayed at the trailer so that Megan could take a nap while the rest of us headed to the river. It was sweltering and the kids had been begging all afternoon (through the hike, through the shuttle ride) to go. 


It was just what we needed! 


Jack had to watch where he was walking because there were a few deep spots, but he was careful and I was always within a few steps.


Dylan was swimming around in no time!


Alison LOVED the water but was very, very, very careful. I think one foot was always on the riverbank or a boulder.


This was our favorite spot 🙂


After rinsing everyone off and changing we decided to find some petroglyphs. If they’re around I always try to hunt them down. I just think it’s so interesting! They aren’t on the Zion’s brochure, but during the video at the Human History Museum there was a mention so I asked the lady at the front desk. She pulled out a brochure and off we went!


They think the swirly petroglyph indicates that this spot lines up with a shadow created by a huge, vertical boulder during the solstice… which it does… Now that I’ve had a chance to look into petroglyphs at Zion’s I’ve found that there are a lot more that can be seen. Maybe next time we’re in Zion’s we can check out another one!


Even though there are a lot of cool hikes in Zions, I knew that I’d be disappointed if we didn’t make it to the narrows. This was our last full day. We left bright and early to beat the heat and started the hike. It was longer than I’d remembered, although my memory of the hike was from 15 years ago- our honeymoon 🙂 While we were hiking we saw the most beautiful spot. The kids needed a break so we headed to this sandy shore by the river. It was paradise! 


Matt and Cayden left to hike the narrows while I happily stayed here with the rest of the kids. They played in the sand, build mud pies, threw rocks, went wading and were still not ready to go hours later. 


It’s hard to tell in these pictures but the water was so beautiful.


There was a little pool for Alison and Megan to play in.


Megan was thrilled to have freedom- to dig and throw and splash- and especially to be out of the backpack.


Alison got brave and inched in up to her knees!


Megan playing in the kiddie pool 🙂


After Matt and Cayden got back, they joined the crew! After playing for ages, the only thing that convinced them to leave was the promise of playing in the river back at the campsite. 

We got back to the campsite, ate lunch and realized that this was our last day to take care of our Jr. Ranger packets. We filled them out and Matt took the kids back up the shuttle to fill out Ashlyn’s more complicated packet (since she’s older). I stayed with Alison (who was resting in the tent trailer with a show) and Megan (who zonked out as soon as she was in bed). I looked forward to some quite time while Matt had the other kids out. 

Now here I have to pause… one thing you may not know about Zion’s is that they have squirrels everywhere and they are not afraid of people. So as I was lounging in my camp chair, enjoying some solitude, squirrels started pouring into our campground. Okay, that sounds like hundreds, but it was seriously a dozen squirrels. They’d already gnawed a whole in our canvas garbage can while we’d been hiking so I was especially weary about them trying that again. Matt was off in the van so I couldn’t put it in there, and the girls were sleeping/resting and I didn’t want to haul in a stinky garbage bag into the tent trailer. My relaxing time became guard duty. At first it was cute…  they nibbled on a little grape that someone had dropped… but then I saw them jump up under the car parked at the neighboring campsite and I could to well imagine little gnawing squirrels wreaking havoc up in the engine block. 20 minutes later and that squirrels was still up in the engine. Can squirrels just chew right up through to the floor?

And then squirrels started inching forward under the tent trailer and started digging themselves halfway into the dirt and just staring – camouflage.  They kept inching closer to the garbage can. I put it up on the picnic bench- they can’t leap that high, right? Wrong. I had to move it onto the table. Those sneaky little squirrels were undeterred. I resorted to flicking pebbles to keep them away but I could feel my eyelids drooping. Every time my eyelids jerked back open, I’d see squirrels inching forward, toward me even- not the garbage. Bizarre! I seriously laughed. Where’s the food they’re looking for?!! I decided that I was being paranoid so I decided to close my eyes and enjoy my last few minutes of quiet time.  I woke up just as a squirrel jumped straight into my lap. I am not normally a screamer, but started screaming as loud as humanly possible and I could not stop. I jumped out of that chair so fast that the squirrel went flying.

Oh my word, I now hate squirrels. At that moment Matt had the kids at the Visitor’s Center buying little souvenirs and Ashlyn was picking up a little squirrel pin to remember our trip by. Oh yes, can’t forget those squirrels….

After everyone got back to the campsite we were off to the river. Cayden brought a camp chair to the riverbank and read- total relaxation.


Ashlyn and Megan playing together.


Dylan swimming up and down the river. He’s really a boy-fish.


Matt, for the first time, joined us in the water.


Alison loved being toted around!


You can see Alison just letting go…


One thing we learned- never jump into a river “knee-first.” I thought for sure Dylan had broken both of his knees- this part of the river did not have deep water. (He didn’t jump off that high branch above, but off the one right behind his back). His knees took the full impact. He couldn’t stand and was in agony. It wore off  in 10 minutes or so and he was good as new by the morning. It was a blessing for sure. I’m still nostalgic about that trip- it was so much fun and there are still so many things to do.  The favorite memory from everyone, though, is playing in the water.


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