Photos by Vaughn Huelsman
My feet entered first and I expected to land on the rocky bottom, but soon the frigid water enveloped my entire body. The stress that had been restricting me dissolved in the cleansing stream. At that moment, I felt something I’d been waiting to feel all summer: freedom.
As cliche as it sounds, my family trip to Zion really was an escape. It was a getaway from the monotonous hours spent studying for tests, doing paperwork for my summer internship and job, and worrying about everything from whether or not my hair was looking acceptable to what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. During the entire eight hour trip, my head bounced between these nagging thoughts and the discomfort I felt from the butt-numbing, cramped car.
Utah is usually blisteringly hot in July, but when we arrived at the campsite, the Sun was setting and there was a slight breeze that gently caressed my skin. After a few steps from the car, however, I received a message, and I knew that I could just ignore it and turn off my phone, but the fact that I still had an internet connection upset me. It seemed as though I couldn’t fully avoid my everyday life and the stress that came with it.
I put those persistent thoughts aside, and after setting up tents and getting out the supplies, my family and I found a small trail that led to the top of a little ridge. After a little climb, I finally had my first view of the grandness that was Zion National Park. I reveled at the vibrant rock formations around me that had been sculpted so masterfully by the Virgin River that now trickled down ever so gently into the canyon. It humbled me greatly and with each deep breath of the cool, fresh air, I began to put my problems into perspective and relax.
The next day, my family and I got up at the break of dawn in order to avoid the heavy tram and foot traffic to Narrows Hike. As the name suggests, the trail follows a narrow canyon through a low, quick-flowing river. We traveled the first stretch as a whole, stepping slowly on the rocky riverbed and stopping constantly for picture opportunities. However, when my aunts, uncles, and mom stopped for a lunch break, my cousins, my brother and I charged forward to see what lie ahead.
We took the trail up a while and we began to see hand-prints along the walls of the canyon created by the paste-like, red soil only found at this bend of the trail. I climbed onto a rock jutting out of the side of the wall in order to create a lasting print at a higher height than the others, but as I slowly descended back into the river, I failed to realize that the stream had gradually increased in depth. I burst out of the water laughing, and felt so energized that I swam all the way up and down the next bend in the river.
It was time to walk back, but this time it felt like a breeze. My legs kicked up a new, invigorated pace, and my shoulders no longer felt burdened by my loaded backpack. We got on the tram to ride back to our campsite, and as soon as I got on I closed my eyes. As I opened them to see the magnificent, glistening rock walls, I smiled, because for the first time in a long time, I felt exhausted, but not the slightest bit overwrought.