By Jen Pennington/Photos by Robert J. Pennington
Recently my husband and I took a chance and decided to stop in Zion National Park at the last minute. We love Zion. Bob is very familiar with the Park having done many hikes and photoshoots there. It’s where nine years ago, he walked me three miles into a deep slot canyon and proposed to me. Afraid, I might not find my out, I like to tell him I had no choice but to say yes. It is indeed a majestic and magical place. Filled with wonder everywhere. There’s not a bad seat in the house.
We’d been traveling through Vegas and Henderson, Nevada and on our way back thought, let’s give it a shot. Thinking that we wouldn’t even be able to get a room at the lodge, we called anyway. To our delight, they not only had a room but since we were in the off-season, we got a cabin for $40 off and the room came with free breakfast at the lodge dining room the next morning. The cabins were very clean and the walkways wind beautifully through paths of native plants. With over 40 cabins, 75 hotel rooms and 6 suites, the place can fill up fast and forget about trying to be spontaneous in Spring and Summer. The visitor ratio alone is worth it. In 2010 the park saw 364,740 visitors in June. In fall, it’s an adult paradise, with about 145,072 visitors in November. Not many kids, but a whole lot of photographers, and who can blame them. See just one sunset while the moon is peaking above a canyon wall, and you’ll be hooked.
I was also extremely surprised to find out all the truly sustainable things the Park’s concessionaire Xanterra was doing to improve the sustainability quotient there and at their other facilities. Better composting facilities including their sister locations at Mt. Rushmore, South Rims Phantom Ranch and Yellowstone have seen three million pounds of biodegradable landfill waste being turned into inert organic matter to be used in gardens. In 2009 they banned the sale of bottled water in Zion. Instead they installed water filling stations with some of the purest tasting spring water found in the Park or in the world for that matter. They also practice sustainable wine, beer and cuisine sales, typically using locally grown, organic produce. Xanterra also installed a 10,000 watt Photovoltaic system on an administration building with a 5,000 watt system on an employee housing building to aid with power for the Lodge and Restaurant. Additionally more than 45 percent of their electricity for operations is derived from Wind Power. They have even posted their Sustainability Report online.
But it’s the colors in fall that are real stars of the trip. The green and gold water in the Virgin River runs sweetly between canyon walls and through trees of crimson and yellow. Sky reflects in the desert varnish on the rocks above illuminating coral and terra cotta cliffs with dabs of blue. But don’t take our word for it. See it for yourself.
Find these photos and more of Zion in the Rhizome Images Landscape collection.