Story & Photos by: Jess Downer, Renata Stone
"The battle we have fought, and are still fighting for the forests is a part of the eternal conflict between right and wrong, and we cannot expect to see the end of it. So we must count on watching and striving for these trees, and should always be glad to find anything so surely good and noble to strive for." - John Muir, November 23, 1896
The glory of our state's nature is undeniable. From the peacock tones of Bear Lake in the North to the vast, rusted canyon walls of Zion in the South, and the plentiful protected natural spaces in between, the state we call home is, perhaps, the most naturally blessed in all of our great Union. Five national parks. Seven national monuments. Three wildlife refuges. 43 state parks. 12,700 square miles of national forest. For many of us, these places are the primary reason we call Utah our home. For others, vistas of the Wasatch and jaunts to endless natural wonders are an inextricable part of the experience here. Each of these wild places has been granted to us by Nature. And none should be taken for granted.
It took 140 years and unprecedented public-private advocacy and partnership to enshrine our sacred public lands in lawful protection. Still, there are those who would care to see those protections eroded, and an emboldened political movement at the highest levels to make it so. From the sponsorship of rules (by our own state's congressman) that would ease the exploitation and sale of our lands, to the silencing of the national park service by executive order. From submitted resolutions that repeal the national park service's authority to manage private drilling at national parks, to our own governor's signature on a resolution urging the president to rescind our newly formed Bears Ear National Monument (a place of tremendous historic, cultural, and natural significance). It should be enough to respect and appreciate what is commonly sacred. But it is not. Thousands of years are required for certain trees to reach full grandeur, but it takes only a few moments to cut them down. Our love for wild places is being tested, and it may be our greatest test since the age of enlightenment in forging the national parks.
Those who have been elected to represent us must be made to respect our connection to a uniquely beautiful land. We are not the resistance, we are the will. We healed the ozone layer. We rang the bell of marriage equality. We marched millions strong. We created the national parks. If our representatives resist, they must be bent to our will. We hope that this edition of the Weekenders inspires you to seek out our natural places of worship. We hope you leave your car well behind and lose all five bars of cell service. Get out, smell the wild sage, and feel the faint heat of a colorful early morning sun. Then use your voice and join in the eternal conflict between right and wrong.
Zion, UT, 5 hours: Isaac Behunin, Zion's first European settler, said of the place "these great mountains are natural temples of God". We're pickin' up what he threw down. I don’t know if there is such a thing as a spiritual place. But there are places in this world that cause a stirring in the human soul. They silence you and settle the noise in your mind. They stoke the embers of passion and quietly remind you to yearn. Zion is this. To get there, point the Subey south on I-15 for 4.5 hours then take a left. You'll know you're there when your jaw drops.
Check In: Zion Villa's "True North", Virgin, UT — The numerous small towns within a skip of the park host all sorts of hotels, motels, and Holiday Inns. If solitude is your thing, a quick Airbnb search will deliver any number of cabins, villas, and hideaways to suit your taste. Our vibe was mountain cabin meets yoga retreat. Amenities included roaring fireplace, laughter, and hot tub with a [hot damn] view.
Eat Out: Deep Creek Coffee, 932 Zion Park Blvd, Springdale, UT - As with many of our Weekenders, meals were more often enjoyed in a wooded meadow or 'round the cast-iron pan than at a local eatery. But that's not say there aren't savory treats a-plenty to be had. The highlight for us was a warm, lazy morning spent on the patio of Deep Creek Coffee with homemade breakfast treats and a dark roast.
Spend Pesos: Zion Adventure Company, 36 Lion Blvd, Springdale, UT - Gaze all you like from the road, but Zion is best explored up close. The fine folk at ZAC have all of the information and gear to set you off safely and expertly equipped for whichever adventure you choose.