Red, Red Rocks

Note: Click here to check out photos from the C of I Outdoor Program trip to Zion's National Park.

When I was a kid, almost every break my dad took my brother, mom, and I camping. I didn’t appreciate it at the time. In fact, most of the car ride was spent playing Gameboy with big bro. So, when we got to wherever the heck we were going, it was met with a resounding “that’s neat”, and our noses went back to being buried in the 2x2 screens. Riveting childhood, I know. But when you’re young and dumb and ignorant, you don’t know how to appreciate things.

I’m not really young anymore. As to the dumb and ignorant, I plead the fifth. But I sure do appreciate going cool places now. And, would you look at that, we have an Outdoor Program. What a nice coincidence! This time around, the 4 lovely ladies of the OP dragged 6 of our lucky butts down to Utah, to do some backpacking in Bryce Canyon and car camping in Zion (which I thought was a completely different endeavor than normal camping, but it’s just a fancy name. It’s the camping that I grew up with).  Anyway, since we did a bunch of stuff day by day, this is going to be written like a set of journal entries.

Sunday, day one: Lots and lots of car time. 10 hours of driving plus 2.5 of miscellaneous stops. For the most part, everybody was really quiet, choosing to listen to music instead of getting to know everyone else. I’m fine with that, but I don’t know how it’s going to bode for the rest of the trip. We ended up near Bryce Canyon, camping in a partially wooded clearing, which actually turned out to be quite lovely.

Monday, day two: We stayed in Bryce today. Day hike, roughly 3 miles down and back. It wasn’t too terrible, and a great warm up day. I’ve never seen anything quite as spectacular as these rock formations. I felt like an ant wandering around through this giant canyon system. I have an aversion to tourism, maybe because I can be an elitist jackass from time to time. Even though there were a lot of people, and a lot of them being tourists, I feel like it’s okay. This place is gorgeous, and why should I be the one to ruin it for them? We walked through a lot of (potentially) natural tunnels, which was a pretty surreal experience. This was the back-up plan, too. We were originally supposed to go further south and start our 3 day backpacking adventure today, but evidently there was too much snow.

Tuesday, day three: Today was the start of our backpacking. We drove down to Yellow Point and embarked on our 2 day adventure, packed with enough food for 3. Just. In. Case. This was mostly downhill, so it was more or less simple. All the way down was a beautiful contrast of red, orange, green and blue. Demir and I got down first, and after setting up our tent, we were still bubbling with energy. We decided to take a walk down the riverbed, which at that point was a trickle. After about 20 minutes of yelling “Hey, Bear!” (because the only thing worse than a bear is a surprised bear) and looking at all of the river rocks, we saw a few snowflakes. We booked it back to the campsite as our view became whiter and our faces colder. At least the heavens were polite enough to wait until we had set up camp before opening up on us. It snowed pretty hard, especially considering nobody really expected it. We agreed to bunker down for a collective nap in our respective tents for 2 hours, and then start prepping dinner. As is the usual way of things, 2 hours turned into 4.5, and the snow sounded relentless as it pelted our tent. We cooked dinner in a flurry and turned in for the night. Nobody wanted to deal with the snow.

Wednesday, day 3: The possibility of impending digit loss really gets the brain churning. So does being in the middle of a 3 person tent and having to pee. Luckily, after an arduous night of tossing and turning and the thoughts of “Holy crap, I really like my fingers and toes, I hope they don’t leave me!”, the sun came up and shined its happy rays upon us. A quick breakfast and some much needed tea set us right; we basked in the sunshine for a bit to recharge, packed up our gear, and started the hike out of there. Luckily, our trip leaders did everything in their power to make sure that we’d leave with the same 100 fingers and toes that we came in with. The hike up was certainly an exercise in sheer determination.  It took us about 2 hours to go in, and about 3 hours to come out.

We drove from Bryce to Zion National Park after everybody made it up, arriving right around sunset. Zion might be the most beautiful place I’ve ever visited.

Thursday, day 4: Today, we took things slow. It was nice to sleep under a clear sky, and even though there was a full moon, we saw a crap ton of stars. Today we went bouldering. For those that don’t know, it’s in the same vein as rock climbing: You find a big ol’ boulder and try to climb it. In our case, ours was 20-30 feet tall with 4 distinct sides. My only experience was in Belfast, in a bouldering hall, an indoor rock wall with a bunch of pads on the ground. Nature’s ruthless. Unless there’s something I wasn’t told, this boulder was shaped mostly by the care and cultivation of rain, wind, and snow. (Shameless plug: Check out the open rock wall, 6-8 Friday in J.A.A.C.)

Friday, day 5: Our last day in the park. Today we woke up early to do Angel’s Landing. Basically: See that really narrow peak alllllll the way up there? Yeah, we’re going to climb that. And we did. This was a two-parter. The first bit involved a series of 41 switchbacks in total (Tyler and I counted, it’s how we stayed sane), on a moderate uphill climb. The second part, the Landing proper, was a 1,500 foot climb in the span of half a mile. Warning: not for the faint of heart.

Imagine this: You have about a shoulder width of distance (maybe 3 or 4 feet?) to play with, with a chain on one side and a sheer cliff face on the other. Oh yeah, remember the 1,500 foot ascent? That means lots and lots of natural stairs and steps. I’m sure that any of us could have died at any point.  

It. Was. A. Blast.  

We even did yoga at the top. College!

After our descent, which was like wading through the crowds of Disneyland (Seriously, there were more people on that little peak than anywhere else in the park), we went to take some day hikes. Emerald Pools, the Narrows, the Weeping Wall… All of these, gorgeous.

Saturday, day 6: We went home. We ate In-n-Out. We talked, took turns playing music, and slept. We were friends.

In these 1200+ words I can only tell you what we did, and even then, it’s just the bullet points. I’m not a good enough writer to tell you exactly what we felt, how we changed as people, and all of that stuff. It’s experiential. It’s wonderful. I highly suggest that whenever you see the OP advertising one of their trips, you take full advantage of it. We’re so incredibly blessed to have such a strong Outdoor Program, especially considering the beauty of our state.

Go run around outside,


Will Callahan is a junior literature and math-physics double major from Boise.