I’m not sure if it was Zion’s night breeze and the squeaking trees, the adrenaline that came with sleeping in the park and knowing what more was to come, or the Echo Canyon IPA from the park’s brewery – but sleeping was in short supply the first night of this adventure.
So the kids beat us awake. And they beat us to an early morning stroll to the banks of the Virgin River, which flows throughout the park and rims the south campground where we scored a one-nighter.
There, they got to sit and watch as a group of mule deer got together for breakfast. They watched as the deers’ ears swiveled with each passing sound and they memorized all of their movements to report them back to us.
“Over there is where they walked in.”
That’s the info we got as we walked back with the kids to see the river and hear all about the deer, which were seemingly everywhere. As we drove into the campground to find our spot, we rolled right past one next to our car. We spotted one walking into the park, and we saw a few along the hiking trails.
One even kind of loitered around the bathroom, because the bush next to it was tasty. To her, anyway.
Zion National Park gives them these real moments with wildlife that are difficult to replicate or even imagine when living in the city, outside of visiting a zoo. And while the zoo is cool and all –we took them recently and let them wander freely so they could manage themselves – it’s not nature.
“If you look away, it might be gone.”
That’s one of their takeaways from seeing animals up close in the wild compared to the zoo, where they know the animals will still be there waiting even if they run to the bathroom or check out a different exhibit. In the wild, they know if they look away they may miss the moment.
They were genuinely surprised at seeing a deer walking right through our campground, because they just didn’t think that was possible. And it was so cool.
And when a herd of bighorn sheep decided it was time to cross the main road that runs through the park, just after we drove through the gate, they were able to look on in quiet amazement after we pulled over to take a look. There had to be at least a dozen of them, probably more, that just needed to snack on the trees by the road and then wander across to see what the others ones tasted like over there.
It was a pretty cool welcome wagon for the start of a road trip adventure that’s rotating on an axis of the outdoors and wildlife, with a big helping of “Yes, go see what that is.”
Go see the river. Go find the animals and check out the dock on the lake and see where that dirt trail leads. Be part of everything around you, absorb it, learn about it, respect it and remember it.
Pretty sure they’ll never have any trouble remembering.