Zion National Park – My Camping Trip Recap

I just got back from my latest camping trip, a three day trip to Zion National Park (official site) in the southwestern corner of Utah.

Zion National Park - The Watchman

This trip marks the return to my camping days for the first time in about 18 years. And, the first time I’ve been camping with my wife. We took this trip to celebrate our 15th anniversary and left the kids with the grandparents.

The weather in March can be kind of iffy, but everything aligned perfectly for our trip. Highs in the lower 80s with lows around 50 each day. We were very fortunate as the weather turned after we left and is currently seeing highs in the upper 50s to lower 60s.

Day One at Zion

We tent-camped in the South Campground and after setting up camp, immediately set out for our first hike – The Watchman Trail.

The Watchman Trail is about a 5.5 mile roundtrip hike with an elevation gain of about 500 feet. We completed the round trip in about 2.5 hours which included time at the top for a little picnic. The view from the top gives you a nice view of the valley below.

The Zion National Park valley from Watchman trail

Day Two at Zion

Day Two saw our attempt at Angels Landing, the most famous hike at the park. The Angels Landing hike is a 10 mile roundtrip with 1500 feet of elevation gain that take 4-5 hours to complete and is rated Strenuous. People have died on this hike, including someone earlier this month.

Unfortunately, I needed to turn back at about the halfway point due to some knee discomfort, but my wife kept going. She eventually reached Scouts Landing after Walter’s Wiggles. She turned back at that point due to the crowds waiting to get to the top.

Zion National Park from Angels Landing Trail

Day Three at Zion

On Day Three, we broke camp early, parked the truck, and hit up a few additional trails. First stop was the Weeping Rock Trail to see the natural spring that drips from the cliff face. Water slowly filters through the sandstone wall until it hits an impermeable layer of shale which forces it out the side. The water, which has been dated to 1200 years old, feeds the hanging gardens of ferns and moss before continuing in to the Virgin River

Weeping Rock at Zion National Park

After Weeping Rock, we took a quick hike up the Riverside Walk Trial to the entrance of The Narrows. The Narrows is another famous hike in Zion in which you can venture in the narrow slot canyon from which the Virgin River appears. The hike is seasonal and usually doesn’t open until very late spring and through the summer. The entire Narrows hike is about 16 miles, but most people opt for round trip of a much shorter distance. In the summer time when temps soar to 100 or more, this is popular as most of the hike is wet in the cool mountain runoff and the shade of the soaring canyon walls.

The Narrows trailhead

We then did the extremely short hike to the Patriarch observation point before leaving the park. We had a hotel room reserved for the third night in order to clean up and prep for our 16 hour drive home. In a fit of irony, after checking in and showering, the entire area lost power for about 2.5 hours.

I was disappointed in my attempt at Angels Landing and vow to conquer it the next time we visit. We also saved some hikes for future trips: Emerald Pool trails, Hidden Canyon Trail and the Observation Point Trail.

Year in Places – 2016 Edition

As the year draws to a close, it is time to recap my travels. This is an annual tradition going back a few years and the rules are simple: Catalog every city in which I spent at least one night.

2016 saw a record low for me in the 16 years I’ve been keeping track. While I didn’t move around a whole lot, I did have some seriously awesome travel experiences. A few days in Kansas City with my parents, my siblings and their families. A week in Breck with my wife’s side of the family. Capping it off was another trip to Disney World in October.

High quality relaxation time during a turbulent work environment.

Without further ado, my 2016 Year in Places (multiple trips indicated by an *):

  • Omaha* (home base)
  • Carroll, IA*
  • Kansas City, MO*
  • Scottsbluff, NE
  • Breckenridge, CO
  • Orlando, FL

“Nobody can discover the world for somebody else. Only when we discover it for ourselves does it become common ground and a common bond and we cease to be alone.”
– Wendell Berry

Previously: 2013 | 2014 | 2015

Viva La Taco Ride

I’m exhausted and my legs are jello. Getting back on the bike has been fun. Tonight, Marcus and I joined forces for the longest running weekly bike ride in the United States; the Taco Ride.


The ride starts at the Wabash Trace trailhead and ends up at Tobey Jack’s Mineola Steakhouse in Mineola, IA for their Thursday night taco special*. 10 miles each way, and relatively flat with a parking area about halfway affectionately called Margaritaville. Beers and margaritas are the refueling drink of choice.

A photo posted by Shawn (@shartley) on

We started back with about 20 minutes of daylight left. Luckily I was prepared with the headlight.

We both had GoPro cameras on, but I’ll have to save that for this weekend to see what kind of footage we captured. For now, my head is about to meet the pillow.

The Grand Canyon In Depth Video Series

Over the last couple of years, my family has taken a couple long road trips. First out West to Reno, Sacramento and beyond. Last year we ventured to Niagara Falls. There are currently 59 U.S. National Parks and we’ve traveled through a couple of them in our recent travels. It is easy to forget they are there, despite the magnitude of some of them, including Yellowstone, Rocky Mountain National Park and The Grand Canyon.

I just discovered that The Grand Canyon National Park Service has been publishing several video series over the last few years. All them in an easy to digest format of around 10 minutes. I started with episode 3 – Phantom Ranch, but here is the In Depth video series. I’d encourage you to click through and discover the other series topics as well.

Year in Places – 2015 Edition

There are only a couple of days left in 2015, but I think it is safe enough to say my Year in Places is complete with no more pending travel.

While I didn’t hit as many overnight stops as I did last year, It was a fantastic year travel-wise. Road trips with the family, a trip to Disney World, a Wold Championship by my beloved KC Royals and more.

Without further ado (multiple trips indicated by *):

Omaha* (home base)
Carroll, IA*
Kansas City, MO*
South Bend, IN
Niagara Falls, NY
Toledo, OH
Dubuque, IA
Orlando, FL

“Once a year, go someplace you’ve never been before.”
– Dalai Lama

Year In Places 2014 Edition

road trips

For the last few years, I’ve kept tabs on my out of town trips. To make the list, at least one night must be spent in a city for it to count. The crown jewel of 2014 was a 12 day road trip from Omaha to Sacramento for my sister’s wedding.

Kansas City, MO*
Denver, CO
Vacaville, CA
Laramie, WY
Salt Lake City, UT
Reno, NV
Sacramento, CA
Green River, WY
Carroll, IA*

“We must go beyond textbooks, go out into the bypaths and untrodden depths of the wilderness and travel and explore and tell the world the glories of our journey.” – John Hope Franklin