Road closed

Road closed

I’ve been off the grid – truly – for the last two weeks while on vacation with my wife. One of the reasons we decided to move to Arizona was to be in proximity of the great National Parks of the West. We first explored these parks in 1978 when we took a six week camping vacation from New York City to California and back, staying in 11 National Parks. That we were able to accomplish that epic trip for the sum total of $500 – that included gas (which was, at the time, $0.53 a gallon), campground fees and food – is only an interesting aside. The trip fundamentally instilled in us a love for our National Parks which are truly, “America’s best idea.”

This road trip took us up to Zion, Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. We have been to these parks before, particularly to Zion which we have visited on 10 separate occasions. We never tire of visiting again and again, and since Zion was a good enough drive for our first day as we headed up to Yellowstone, we decided to stay there for two days and do some warm-up hiking.

But things don’t always turn out as planned.

We had experienced a little rain on the trip but nothing significant. But as we drove to Zion National Park’s east entrance, coming from Mount Carmel Junction, Utah, we were confronted by confounding words – ROAD CLOSED. It turns out that earlier in the day, there had been an epic microburst of a storm that caused dramatic flash floods in Zion Canyon. The main street of the town of Springdale – our destination and the gateway to Zion National Park – had turned to a raging torrent of water. And the Virgin River that runs through Zion Canyon had been running at 80,000 cubic feet/second; normal is about 450 cfs.The road was closed because large boulders had crashed onto the Zion/Mount Carmel highway, making passage to Springdale through the east entrance of the park impossible.


The photos above and below (courtesy the National Park Service) show the problem. And they give new meaning to the “DANGER – falling rocks” sign that was just a few feet away.


Passage was impossible, so we had to retrace our path back to Mt. Carmel Junction and then around the south of Zion, and approach Springdale from the West side. This was a two hour detour – an unwelcome event after about eight hours already in the car that day. By the time we rolled into Springdale, the rain had abated, the flood had receded and apart from a lot of mud on Main Street, we safely got to our hotel.


The next day the sun was out, and we enjoyed a peaceful and fulfilling day of hiking at Zion, one of our favorite places in the world. The photo above will show you why, if you haven’t been there. Such beauty and majesty. As we hiked on several trails that day, our minds kept coming back to the words of the Bible:

Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; let the sea roar, and all that fills it; let the field exult, and everything in it! Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy before the LORD, for he comes. (Psalm 96:11-12)

Indeed. Our trip to Zion was delayed, but when we arrived, we were all the more grateful for our safety (and that of others in the –thankfully no lives were lost in the storm) and the beauty of the Park seemed even richer. I will be posting more about our trip in the coming days. It was good to get to a place in the world where my cell phone did not have any coverage. More time to think, to talk with people I loved, slow down and consider my place in God’s great world.