Morning Beneath the Patriarchs
One of the benefits in becoming as familiar with Zion National Park as I have become over the past half decade is the fact that I can go to the park and not feel the need to constantly chase new sights or places I haven’t seen. On my last real trip to the park in November of 2014, I spent two weeks hiking familiar and unfamiliar trails and generally wandering the park freely, as the winter chill had emptied the park of most of its crowds, allowing me the peace of exploring at my own pace in my own manner.
My first day in the park, I woke before dawn in my campsite at the Watchman Campground and simply started walking. Following the Pa’Rus trail and later bushwhacking along the Virgin River, I found myself at the Court of the Patriarchs shuttle stop right around the time the first light of the morning sun had started to illuminate the four mountains towering above the river. The late autumn had stripped most of the trees of their foliage, and the river snaked along lazily, its flow reduced with the lack of recent rain.
It was a remarkably peaceful scene, sitting there on the rocky banks of the river, watching the light drift down the mountain faces across the water. Deer and wild turkeys wandered slowly through the undergrowth on the far side, and there was little sound other than the trilling of the remaining birds, and the babble of the river’s waters lapping over the smoothed stones in the shallows.
Prior to that trip, I’d always felt consumed by the need to explore, to seek out new shots and experiences, but that morning, I let myself just enjoy the peace and beauty that the park had to offer. I spent the rest of the day wandering, finding small side trails and game tracks off the more well-trodden paths, exploring areas I’d never known existed, and generally appreciating my favorite park in a way I’d never allowed myself to do before.