Utah Mighty 5 with Southwest Adventure Tours9:38 am
When Southwest Adventure Tours reached out about sending me to Utah on their Mighty 5 tour, I was thrilled. I had been to Utah before - two years ago when Alex and I first moved to the US and decided to visit a few national parks over Thanksgiving. I loved the parks the first time around, but driving 4+ hours a day left us exhausted that we often had to cut our hikes short. And when we did get around to hiking the parks, I only had Google Image search and TripAdvisor to help me decide which trails were worth hitting up.
My return to Utah would prove very different, not just because Southwest Adventure took over all the planning but I had a guide, Robin, who became my trusty source of information. After driving through Canyonlands, Arches, and Capitol Reef, we ended the tour with Bryce National Park and Zion National Park, my two favorites of the trip.
In Zion, the clouds hung low as thunderstorms loomed near. The mountains in Zion smoldered through the defense fog. Zion is picturesque at every turn, but if you want to know the best hikes and lookouts, then you need to ask someone who knows the park. At Robin’s counsel, some of us opted to hike Angel’s Landing despite the chance of rain. I had seen photos of the view from the top and was determined to reach it. After completing last mile using chains as we navigated the narrow, and rocky “fin” with thousand feet drops on each side, there was nothing more satisfying than standing at the summit when the rain started to pour.
While I often overhear people remarking that Zion was their favorite stop of the trip, I longed to spend more time in Bryce. I had been looking forward to the return to Bryce since my visit there 2 winters ago. There is something magical about the hoo doos in the park, and they looked even more surreal in the early sunlight when Robin took the group out to catch sunrise at Inspiration Point. As our small group cuddled together in the cool morning air, we would point out glimpses of glowing red light that each other had spotted against spires in the amphitheater. Anyone who has ventured on a guided tour knows the quality of the guide can make or break the experience. As a photographer, I want a guide who can answer my questions and give me an experience tailored to my perspective of a photographer. Later on in the day, Robin took us into the canyon for a hike, another activity I had missed out on when I visited Bryce during the winter and was glad to try. It’s one thing to stand at the top of a viewpoint and study the park below, but there’s something about being on the floor of the canyons that makes me feel at one with the place. The spires towered over us as we passed by “Thor’s Hammer” and circled around arches that had formed as the sedimentary rocks eroded. With every step, I remained in awe of Bryce.
Disclaimer: Southwest Adventure Tours invited me to join their Mighty 5 tour as their guest, but they did not request that I write a favorable review or spend way many hours running into the sunset in the Mighty 5.