Keep Wildlife Wild/Enough With The Selfies

Driving out of Zion National Park cars ahead were parked at all peculiar angles, blocking traffic. Doors were left open. More than a dozen people stood in the middle of the highway snapping selfies beside a stunned desert bighorn sheep. In trying to cross the road the ram’s attempt at survival in its rapidly fragmenting habitat was less important to these people than getting that ‘awesome’ selfie shot. I secretly willed the ram to turn his horns upon the tourists but instead he hung his head low in defeat and turned back to the hill he had scrambled from. Without a whisper of gratitude the people jumped back in their vehicles, engines roaring off to the next selfie opportunity.

I was stunned by the lack of concern people showed. Desert bighorn sheep are endangered. Life in the desert is precarious enough they don’t need people chasing them with phones and cameras. Instead of running after wildlife for a selfie, why not simply sit quietly and watch them. Spend a little time just being in their environment, in their presence.

If you’re wondering about this photo, I took this a few years ago when I was hiking in the east end of Zion. The photo is not quite crisp because it was taken with the zoom of my point and shoot camera maxed. I then arced around them and continued on my day and left them to theirs. It’s not a great photo but my memory of that meeting makes up for the shabby photo. A lot of my wildlife photos are subpar and I’m alright with that, even if it means getting less likes).

Imagining Parks Without Roads

After a 26-kilometre trail run across the east end of Zion I spent the following day wandering Zion Canyon. From the campground I hiked the trails and the road, foregoing the shuttle bus to the trailhead of the Narrows. It is quite a fantastic way to experience Zion Canyon and other than the shuttle buses the roads and trails running alongside it are quiet. There is plenty of wildlife and birds to see. Wild turkeys and mule deer wandered in the shade by the river. Great blue herons fished the pools.

What a shame there is a road at all crawling up Zion Canyon. Imagine if it all traffic was cut from Zion Canyon, including the buses and the only way in was to walk or bicycle. The same could be said for Arches National Park, the Island In The Sky in Canyonlands, Bryce Canyon and the South Rim of Grand Canyon.

Ambling canyon country never gets tiring. Life slows when we are outside. Thoughts clarify. Life is simplified. The calm we find outside we cannot replicate elsewhere. And the longer we linger out-of-doors the more of it we yearn for. The harder it becomes to go back to the confines of four walls. The paved roads of the national parks would make excellent hiking trails.

Zion National Park, Utah

One of our favourite features of Zion has nothing to do with canyons but rather with the way the National Parks Service manages visitors. From the two campgrounds, a bus shuttle takes visitors into Zion Canyon, depositing people at trailheads. We love being able to park our car for a week and still reach trailheads. What a shame more parks do not operate in such ways. Getting up early and cooking breakfast as the sun rises, feeling the heat of the sun chase away the cold of the night from our bones is one our favourite moments in camping. The trailhead for Kolob Canyon made for a most excellent breakfast/sunrise spot, though lacking picnic tables, we looked a bit disheveled – stove, frying pan and kitchen bin scattered in the parking lot.

We hiked beneath canyons a colour you would swear weren’t real. It was spectacular, especially when the trail ambled alongside Kolob Creek, passing stout old Fremont Cottonwoods. The swirl of colours was almost too much to fully appreciate: the red Navajo sandstone walls, the golden cottonwood leaves, the perfect blue sky, the crystalline creek. Such beauty. We found the arch which is suppose to be one of the largest in the world but we were more impressed with the girth of the ponderosa pines beneath it. We were also delighted to quietly watch a half dozen wild turkeys grazing. A loud “zip” could be heard as their beaks striped each blade of grass of seeds. Continue reading “Zion National Park, Utah”

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