We left Duck Creek Village early in the morning and arrived at Zion National Park well before 9am. Nevertheless, we found the place was already packed with people. It was a holiday weekend and I can only assume a lot of people had chosen to holiday at Zion. We drove through the park and occasionally pulled over and exited the car to admire the rock formations and the mesas. The younger boys loved it when we drove through a mile long tunnel that was pitch black except for the odd window cut out so as to showcase stunning vistas. Our plan had been to undertake a particular river hike but it was sadly and annoyingly not to be. There was nowhere to park anywhere near our intended hiking spot so the plan was to park up at the Visitor Centre, get our National Parks passport stamped, and hop on the shuttle bus to get us to where we needed to go. When we arrived in the vicinity of the Visitor Centre, however, and employee turned us away. The car parks were heaving. Even the overflow from the overflow car park was full and there was no remaining space to squeeze into on the adjacent roads. Our only option was to find a parking spot in the nearest town and then walk back into the National Park. The idea, however, of walking from town to the Visitor Centre, riding a shuttle bus for several miles, walking to a trail head, and then undertaking a hike through a river, to then do all of that in reverse, was anathema to our kids. I understood their perspective but still it was completely frustrating to not be able to fulfill one of our plans and to not feel as if we had properly experienced Zion. I also confess that it made me feel a bit anxious – often the corollary of my control freakery – that we had been in Zion but would not have a Zion stamp in our passport.
Not much further along the road, we decided to pull over in a place called Virgin so that we could regroup and decide how to portion out our day, given the massive and unexpected change of plans. The place we happened to pull off the road turned out to be a restaurant (though that was closed), gift shop, and petting zoo. The younger boys decided they wanted to visit. Well, why not? The gift shop was entertaining to poke around in. It reminded me a little bit of junk shops I used to visit as a child, sifting through the shelves in the hopes of uncovering treasure. After a bit of rummaging, we picked up our share of carrots and headed out to the petting zoo. There were llamas, ponies, and donkeys to feed and all of the animals were very friendly and allowed the boys to pet them. The whole outdoor area was set up like a wild west frontier town so the boys also enjoyed pretending to be in jail, barging through the swing doors of the saloon, and sitting in a covered wagon. It wasn’t remotely on the list of possibilities of things to do in the area but it was a little slice of Roadside America that perked up the boys’ moods after the frustrations of Zion. We could then proceed with the rest of our day’s travel and pit stops in brighter moods.