Some of you may remember that I tried to go to Zion National Park last year for a backpacking trip that was complicated by the shutdown of the federal government. Chuck, Joe, and I camped only one night in Zion; the next day we were kicked out.
“Sorry, fellas. The park is closed.”
“Can’t we just do some hiking while we’re here?”
“No. Sorry. The park is closed to any kind of recreational use.”
“But what if we don’t enjoy ourselves?”
It was a good try, but it didn’t work. We found ourselves driving through most of Southern Utah over the next few days, enjoying spectacular beauty and camping in places most people never get to see. We spent one night sitting by a crackling juniper-wood campfire, getting stiff necks from staring up at a sky full of brilliant stars.
But as we left Utah we promised each other that we would return, so, here we are, a little more than a year later, traveling from Virginia, and from Central and South Texas, to reconvene in Zion.
Our plans will have to be altered just a bit to accommodate Chuck’s recent basketball injury–a broken foot suffered in a pickup game with his daughter on the driveway. None of us is getting younger. But he’s offered to stay in camp and cook while Joe and I explore the remote reaches of the Park and that sounds…delicious.
My outgoing email message this week says that I’m on a wilderness retreat and that’s what this feels like in so many ways. I’ve known Chuck and Joe most of my life. I trust them completely. In the wilderness we talk through everything that’s troubling us; we listen to each other and offer whatever advice we can give; ultimately we promise to pray for each other, and that’s about the best anybody can ask for.
Except for this: we also have fun.
We tell stories and laugh out loud and slap each other on the back. For a few days each year the worries of the world fall away and we feel like kids again. It’s a good thing, and I wish everyone could have that experience. They can’t, but for the next few days Chuck and Joe and I are going to try. It won’t be easy, what with that broken foot and all, but if anybody can do it we can.
I’ll let you know how it comes out, and if I can remember to take some pictures, I will. In the meantime, keep the faith and know that somewhere in Utah my soul is singing:
I’m marching to Zion,
Beautiful, beautiful Zion,
I’m marching upward to Zion,
the beautiful city of God.