Thanksgiving in Zion

By Forrest Smith -

We did Thanksgiving a little differently this year. We haven’t been as excited about the entire thanksgiving feast the past several years, so we decided to more fully utilize that time off for an adventure. I think it was a pretty good decision. Instead of gorging ourselves on turkey, carbs and sweets, we booked a few nights at the Watchman Campground in Zion and explored some new areas.

Biking Zion Canyon Scenic Drive

Starting at our site in the Watchman Campground, We rode out the Zion Canyon Scenic drive on our bikes. Only (mostly) buses were allowed on it, and it wasn’t too bad pulling over to let them pass when needed (I was originally worried that it would be totally full of buses, and we would have to stop a lot – the buses seem to come every 5 or 10 minutes, which isn’t too bad, and occasionally things time out right so you are at a little turnout and you can keep pedaling while the bus passes). Our little one got a little tired, so we stopped at the Court of the Patriarchs and skipped rocks into the river. I actually rode out a little further, just past the Grotto. I think if we had taken a longer break, we probably could have gotten him out the rest of the road, since it wasn’t really too much further. I guess it’s good to have unfinished business though. It felt a little epic to ride out the road, and I’m already planning on a return trip at some point to finish it off, and maybe make a full day of it and hike some of the side trails. It was a fantastic way to spend Thanksgiving day.

Biking in Zion Canyon

Driving the upper reaches of Zion

It was a frigid morning when we woke up on Friday (as were the other mornings). We packed up our things super-quick, just to get into the car and on our way. I loved the drive just to the east of the Zion Tunnel. We had good music playing, we had finally warmed up, and the landscape was incredible – so many pockets and folds to explore. I’ll need to return so I can explore some of the side canyons and I’m dreaming of a longer backpack someday.

Driving through Zion

Snow With Coffee

As we drove from Zion to Bryce, the amount of snow on the ground increased quite a bit. By the time we stopped for gas just past Red Canyon, we were driving through a beautiful wintery landscape. I got myself a cup of coffee from the gas station store, and enjoyed a cozy little drive through the snow – something I haven’t done in many, many years.

Bryce and Playing in the Snow

Bryce was beautiful in the snow – unfortunately we missed the amphitheater view (the best view of the hoodoos) on the way out the road, and by the time we drove back through, it was too busy to find a place to park. It was still great to stop in at several of the other overlooks though, and just adding in some more unfinished business I guess. The highlight for Mason was actually just playing in the snow.

Bryce Canyon with some snow

Kodachrome Bike Ride

We hurried down the hill from Bryce and were off to Kodachrome Basin state park. We plopped open our roof top tent to dry it out from the previous night’s condensation, ate some lunch, and organized the car a bit. It was honestly just kind of nice hanging out in the trailhead parking lot while Mason rode his bike around. Once we took care of those household chores, we went for a nice little 3 mile ride through the spires and sandstone cliffs. We wrapped up our day with Pizza in Panguitch.

Kodachrome Basin State Park
Biking in Kodachrome Basin State Park

Dinosaur Feet

It’s a pretty incredible feeling to walk where a multiple dinosaurs also walked…190 million years ago. On our last day, we made a long, slow drive on backroads to the Warner Valley dinosaur track site. Definitely relived some of my dinosaur-crazed childhood there.

Warner Valley Dinosaur Tracks

Notes on Winter Adventures

Winter adventuring is a little different than other times of the year. It’s of course colder, but the bigger issue is the long night. A couple of thoughts on adventuring this time of year:

Drive during the Night: The nights are long, with the sun setting at 5 or 5:30 (and sometimes cold…as was very much the case for our Zion trip). On the second day, we drove over to Bryce and Kodachrome Basin, made a full day of it, and drove back in the dark, getting in around 8:30. We maximized our daylight, saw some new places, and it was a nicer way to spend the evening since I didn’t feel as though I was just killing time in the cold (as we did on our first night). I could see doing a whole trip like this. Moving from place to place every day – driving for a couple hours each evening to get to the next campsite. Playing all day, and then once the sun goes down, driving onto the next one.