Zion National Park Casts a Spell

A Trot on Top
  |  Gorp.com
A caravan of horses taking visitors to the top of the canyon
The caravan of horses taking visitors to the top of the canyon

At the Zion Ponderosa Lodge, there is a stable filled with horses that are available for riding. I had never ridden a horse before so I was a bit apprehensive. Ever since I was a little girl and watched the movie Calamity Jane I always wanted to see myself riding a horse toward the sun over the huge, dusty canyons of the West. Cowgirl I was not. I realized this after less than an hour had gone by and my inner thighs and butt were getting stiff and shaky.

There is an art to trotting on a horse — something I don't get much practice with in New York City. Trusting the horse to not slip off some rather steep ascents was hard to do as well. And going down? Let's just say I closed my eyes and expected the worst. But, after being shown a few pointers on the proper techniques of riding, I got into a comfortable groove and began to relax a bit.

I had seen the basement of the canyon the day before and was now seeing the roof. We were on top of the canyon with visibility for miles and miles. It was also a chance to view the wildlife that inhabit the park. Mule deer droppings and tracks were everywhere and we actually spotted a group of them in the distance. Birds of varying types including the dipper, winter wren, and white-throated swift darted in to inspect our presence. Someone in our group also spotted the slithery trail of the poisonous great basin rattler — or at least that's what it appeared to be.

Fatigue overcame the horses, not to mention my thighs and legs from straddling the wide body of the horse for more than three hours, so we all headed back to the lodge. The lodge provides so many toys to use that the rest of the day was spent exploring the periphery of the park on ATV, practicing climbing on the rock wall, and relaxing my sore muscles in the jacuzzi.

After dinner, we heard that loads of snow was predicted, so instead of leaving early in the morning and risking missing my flight, we decided to leave that evening. We exited the park through the southern entrance into Springdale, the hub for most accommodations, dining, and outfitters. This is where most climbers, hikers, and other adventure seekers congregate. After finding New York style - pizza at a local restaurant, we hit the path again just as the sun was setting. It was the perfect exclamation to the end of the trip.

The evening's palette of golden, peach, and flaming orange cast art on the park's canvas of sandstone. Darkness followed, concluding the masterpiece in progress — for certain to be continued the next day as the park would breathe yet another day for those seeking adventure within its boundaries.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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