The magnificence of Zion National Park does not end at its gates.
The crew and I drive from our creekside camp eastward toward the Park, and once again I’m awed by the massive rock formations. We are on our way to Sol Market in Springdale. I’m on a quest for more oat bran, an essential part of my new diet plan.
It’s the first of June and the Zion area is hot.
First I’m going to take Bridget and Spike to River Park for a respite from the heat. It’s a pretty little park with lots of shade, picnic tables, and two bridges that cross the Virgin River. The crew tumbles out of the Perfect Tow Vehicle, excited for a new adventure.
And what an adventure it turns out to be!
We slowly wander across the expanse of thick, very green grass. Every few feet Bridget and Spike have to stop and sniff the trace smells of previous canine visitors. The picnic tables overlook the river. This is the on-leash area. Hardly anyone is around.
We cross the bridge to the off-leash dog park.
I let go of the leashes. Bridget stays close by. Not Spike, of course. He runs ahead to see what he can see. Water! He immediately runs down the sandy embankment, across the narrow beach, and into the river. Quickly I zoom my camera lens so I can capture his first soak in the Virgin River. I love to record these quintessential Spike moments!
That’s when Spike is swept into another adventure!
A millisecond after I snap the photo, the current swirls Spike around so he’s facing the riverbank, and carries him downstream! “OH DEAR GOD! SPI-I-I-KE!”
I pitch my camera into the sand and crash through sticks and weeds down the embankment, racing in a beeline for Spike, who is floating down the river. I’m going in! Nothing can stop me from a valiant rescue of my precious boy!
I reach the river’s edge a few feet further downstream from Spike, and as I’m about to leap in, I realize Spike has regained his wits and is dog-paddling toward firm ground. He’s beating the current! “C’mon Spikey!”
He scrambles up onto the bank.
“Gee whiz, Spike.” I burst out laughing with relief and attempt to hug his wet body, but he’s not interested. A moment’s hesitation and he’s up the embankment. What a guy! He’s off looking for another adventure! Bridget and I tag along behind, me blowing the sand off my camera as we go.
After crossing the bridge that leads back to the on-leash area, we stop at a picnic table under a huge cottonwood tree leaning toward the river.
It’s a shady spot for the crew and me to rest a while. Bridget immediately plops belly down in the cool grass. She’s panting from our walk on this hot day. Spike is standing at attention, still wet and dirty, eyes alert. He’s scoping out a small, dust mop of a dog exiting a car in the parking lot. He starts to whine, tail wagging, as he strains on the leash.
“Spike. Haven’t you had enough excitement for one day?”
The memory of Spike’s head sticking out of the water with its perplexed expression, drifting downstream, makes me shake my head and laugh. “Oh Spike. You almost bought the farm today.”
I look at Bridget on the grass. No wonder she’s such a worry-wart, growing up witnessing Spike’s daredevil antics.
“C’mon, guys. Let’s go have a drink.”
We reach the PTV and I set up a bowl of water for the crew. They lap it up while I take a few swigs from my bottle of water. Refreshed, we pull away from the scene of Spike’s latest episode. I park at the market, crack the windows, and run into the store. Darn, no oat bran. I run back to the PTV. To heck with walking the town to window-shop. It’s too hot for that.
Shortly after we’re back at camp, a small station wagon parks along the creek.
A woman, about ten or eleven kids, and a dog climb out. The children scurry down to the water, shouting and squealing. Must be a summer camp outing. A girl screams, “Eee-e-e-k! A crawdad!” More shrieks follow. Boys throw rocks into the water.
I notice the children’s ages are in steps from about seventeen down to about three. Wait a minute. This is no camp outing. This is Mormon country! That’s a family! I try to wrap my mind around the life of a woman with eleven children (and probably counting). I can’t do it.
I go back inside the BLT and sit down at my laptop in front of the fan.
An hour or two passes and the excited sounds of happy children diminish. I hear a car engine and then I hear it revving. I lift up a slat of the blinds to see the tilted angle of the station wagon’s roof beyond the bushes. The children are circled around the car, staring at it. Uh-oh, they’re stuck in the sand.
I let go of the slat and consider getting my shovel and a few boards.
I lift the slat of the blind again. The children are gathered at the hood of the car, pushing hard, faces straining. The car obediently backs out of the sand. A minute later the mother drives by our camp with a few little ones inside. The older children follow the car on foot, shuffling their bare feet in the sand. Probably want to lessen the load until they’re off this sandy area. How do they all fit in that car?
Just for good measure, I pop out of the BLT and ask them if everything’s okay.
With sunny smiles they respond, “We’re fine. Thanks for asking!” I watch them continue down the lane. They’re a polite and happy lot. Right out of Mayberry.
The afternoon grows even hotter.
I’m wearing shorts and a tank top as I wade in the creek. The water invites me to sit down. I slip off my shoes and wedge them between two rocks. Ah, that’s better! I swoosh my feet around for a minute . . . Oh, what the heck! I reach over and hang my hat on a pointed rock, and then lower myself backward until only my ears and face are out of the water. Eyes closed against the relentless sun, I relax and let myself become part of the flowing stream.
The Virgin River Incident
The slideshow includes the photo of Spike taken the moment he begins to slip into the river’s channel. Unlike these photos would lead you to believe, the water of the Virgin River is about 4-5 feet deep in places and moves quickly.