Friday, October 3 — We were on a total high when we left Bryce Canyon. Windows rolled down, we were on top of the world when Harry saw signs for homemade jerky. We pulled into the Mt Carmel Junction gas station / curio shop / jerky depot. We pulled away sans really expensive jerky but with a valuable tip on how to find free camping on public land “just down the road”.
A Road Called Ponderosa
Following directions I’d written on a paper napkin given to us by a certified “local”, we drove west on route 9, turned right at the bend in the road and continued up the really pretty but very windy mountain road. According to my napkin, the turn-off for Ponderosa should have appeared within twenty minutes. Excited to camp off the beaten path we kept driving. When the sun started to set we decided that the directions we received weren’t very accurate and that we might not ever find Ponderosa Road. Feeling discouraged we turned around and went back down the mountain.
Ponderosa Resort Campground
We arrived at the Ponderosa Resort Campground in the dark and discovered that it was crowded and expensive. It didn’t help that it was a Friday night so the weekend crowd was there in full force. We hunkered down for a quick sleep and hit the road first thing in the morning.
Zion National Park
We accessed Zion at the east end of the park which meant we had to descend into the canyon on a narrow, windy, curvy road. If that wasn’t stressful enough we also had to drive through the mile long Zion – Mt. Carmel tunnel. Talk about intense! The tunnel was narrow and dark and a mile never felt so long. Harry was definitely white-knuckled behind the wheel but he did a great job getting us to the bottom on the canyon.
Ideally one would never visit a national park on a beautiful, sunny weekend, and we knew better… yet here we were on a Saturday, surrounded by a bunch of people when all we craved was solitude. At least it was October and not August. We took the required park shuttle into the heart of the canyon and did a few short hikes. Our favorite experience was eating lunch away from the crowds on the bank of the North Fork of the Virgin River, just the two of us.
Zion is an incredibly beautiful and interesting place to visit. If you haven’t already been here I highly recommend this national park!