Adventure and photos by Laura Nettleton
For us adventurers, we find power in the quietude of the outdoors. The rustling of leaves. A chirp of a chickadee. The howls of hungry coyotes under the pale moon light.
These moments are what we seek—a stillness only found in the rawness of nature, beckoning us from the busyness we escape. But there are times when these things seem insignificant, lost in our own memories with no one to revisit with and reflect upon. Just as we are replenished in the solitude of our travels, so do the famed words of Christopher McCandless ring true, “Happiness is only real when shared.”
So here’s to a trip shared by two best friends, reuniting over a half marathon in Zion National Park to celebrate ten years of friendship. The following may not be the best of the best things to do in the area, but they are moments that perhaps you and your best friend can embark upon, uniting in adventure and reminding us all of the important idea that a life shared is worth living.
We couldn’t get enough of this place. Located about fifteen minutes from the east entrance of Zion National Park, Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort is a hidden gem among all the other places you can stay in the area. Away from the busier streets of Springdale, this family run ranch gives hospitality and glamping a good name. Friendly, easy on the wallet, and with a newly revamped restaurant on site, Zion Ponderosa made the trip. Stay in a Cowboy Cabin, seen here, and you’ll get the perfect balance of cuddling up to your bestie in a queen size bed (or your bed of choice) and the wildness of the lands of Zion.
Not every adventure needs a reason, but if there is one to visit Zion, check out Vacation Races. Not only do you get a crazy cool medal, but this race was well-run, efficient, and eco-friendly. Despite having rain and snow the day of, it was clear race officials had plan B, C, and D in place. Have your choice of color in race shirt, a good selection of finisher food, plenty of port-o-potties at the start, and your best friend along, and this race will be hard to forget.
Not for the faint of heart, Angel’s Landing boasts 21 switchbacks and a five mile round trip hike. If you want to reach the top, you’ll have to get passed the Step of Faith and follow a chain upwards for the last half mile. If the sheer drop-offs don’t get you, the groups going up and down at the same time might. If you wait too long to hop on this hike, you’ll be fighting to hold your ground on a chain with sandy footholds beneath you. A good cheer from your bestie is also suggested. It’s definitely worth the panoramic view and the slight increase in heart rate.
4. The Narrows
During the colder months, if you want to hike deep into the canyons of The Narrowsand experience a different view of Zion, you’ll want to bring or rent waders since the water can at times get chest deep. Otherwise, after a quick jaunt, you’ll be at the mouth of The Narrows where you’ll get a glimpse of canyons to come and witness new shades of Zion.
5. Café Soleil
The winter winds and brisk nights of March and the colder months will bring new cravings to homemade soup and coffee. Check out Café Soleil in Springdale right before entering Zion and you’ll be happy you stopped.
Zion is filled with tunnels and winding roads, forcing you to slow down and take in the views. If you’re lucky enough, you and your friends may get a glimpse of the park’s bighorn sheep.
Look closely and you may see some paintbrush plants growing alongside of Angel’s Landing. It’s a nice touch the trail gives you after some skips in heartbeats.
If you’re visiting Zion, don’t forgot Bryce Canyon. A few hours away, this brilliant red and orange hued icicle land will make you want to keep hiking. Perfect for yoga poses and quick hikes too, Bryce Canyon’s sculptures are ones you’ll want to see up close and in person.
Zion is painted in magnificent colors. You’ll see some of the most vibrant of oranges, pinks, yellows, and reds that will surely redefine your dreams. This park is one you won’t forget, and if you have a friend along, you’ll be reminiscing the memories you made here for years…together and shared.
Laura calls Austin, Texas home, though her upbringing brought her all across the country. From fishing the Stillwater of Montana to sailing about Lake Michigan to catching fireflies in the dusk of Missouri's summer nights, the outdoors is Laura's most permanent home. If it means the heart rate increases, most likely Laura is doing it. For her, the outdoors is akin to a sanctuary—empowering her mind, body, and spirit. Because of this, Laura truly believes in the power of the outdoors in helping to transform lives which is also why Laura currently works as the Director of Development for Explore Austin, a nonprofit that pairs outdoor adventuring with a six-year mentorship and leadership program for underserved youth. Today, Laura spends most of her time running, lifting weights, cycling, camping, climbing, and more.