I didn't really sleep, Wednesday night. I've ended up on a night owl schedule staying with my friends Mark and Amy, and I had to get up very early to catch my flight, so I did what I often do when I'm facing the possibility of only a few hours of sleep: I just stayed up. Mark did too, and then he drove me to the airport at 520 am.
I flew via O'Hare, because I saved a lot of money on my last-minute ticket, that way. I arrived at Las Vegas around 11:45 in the morning. My friend Jay and his accomanying group were running late due to traffic out of L.A., so I killed about an hour in the Las Vegas airport. They picked me up at about 1 pm.
I met Shah and Kong again, two of Jay's friends with whom I've traveled to Zion before. In fact, when I came to Zion in 2006, Shah and I were the only ones, as that was the year that Jay was sick. Also joining us this year were Cameron and Kameron. Really. I learned a bit later that their nicknames were Old School (Cameron) and New School (Kameron), because the later was 16 and the former was 40's. I guess New School has been a kind of adoptive son (maybe a big-brother mentoring thing) for Old School, over the last several years, through their church.
So we all piled in and drove the last 3 hours up to Zion, after getting lost in the hellhole known as North Las Vegas looking for a fast food joint to eat lunch.
We arrived in Zion, with a few short stops, at exactly 6 pm. We checked in to the motel and made our dinner reservation at the Zion Park Lodge at 7 pm, exactly on schedule. The food's pretty good, especially the chicken bean southwesternish soup, the cranberry stuff for the turkey, the chocolate cake.
There was lots of interesting converastion: one thing that intrigued me was when Cameron was talking about a "World Banquet" (I guess a sort of charity event held by his church) wherein the guests would draw a world locale (e.g. U.S.A., China, Gambia, etc.) and then they would be seated a table and could eat what was served for that locale. All sounds very clever and interesting, but here's the catch: obviously, a lot of locales, the average diet is both boring and insufficient. So imagine sitting down at the Bangladesh table and being served only a small bowl of rice; while those at the USA table get many, many courses of meat, carbs, and fruits and vegetables from all over the world. See?
So, We ate and talked, and then we went on a 3 mile night-hike, up to a place called Watchtower.
We didn't practice very good trail etiquette, as we left Old School down at the vehicle parking area and didn't realize he wasn't along until 20 minutes up the hill. So Shah went back down and fetched him up. But hiking in the dark, by the three-quarters moon, was awesome. I always feel like I'm living out Tolkien's Silmarilion's "first age" when hiking in moonlight (Tolkien's "first age" was the age between the creation of the moon and the creation of the sun, and the elves had whole civilizations rise and fall in the moonlight of Middle Earth).
Unfortunately, it's hard to take pictures that capture the night-hike experience. But it was awesome.
And after that long, long day, I slept soundly.
[this is a "back-post" written 2009-11-30]