When you research information about visiting Zion National Park, all the websites will tell you it's great to visit in the winter because there are far fewer visitors. They neglect to mention an additional fact: this does NOT apply to late December through the new year!
On a whim this past Christmas Eve, my girlfriend and I ventured over from our part-time home in Kanab, Utah. We entered via the east entrance, and headed towards Springdale, only to discover all the main trailheads and the visitor's center to be completely jammed up with visitors. There was no parking space to be found.
Since we had no particular agenda for the day, we quickly retreated through the Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel. We spent the afternoon wandering around the Pine Creek wash and the Cascades spur trail, looking for solitude and the "intimate landscape". We found both.
Despite never getting more than a quarter mile away from Highway 9, which runs through the park, we only saw four other humans over the next three hours of exploring. And this lone leaf, frozen on the rocks along the edge of a small, ice-rimmed puddle, was exactly the type of composition I was looking for. Soft, muted, delicate... quiet.
Our western US national parks are most often thought of and sought out for their sweeping views and majestic rock formations, but it is these minuscule components that make up the grand landscape. One only needs to take a few steps off the beaten path to find them.
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Dimitri Vasileiou • Editor