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Shuttles not so bad for trek up canyon

A large bug has just decided my computer screen is a terrific place to hang out. Joining him are several other winged critters that seem intent on turning my laptop into an insect nightclub. I suppose that’s the price to pay for trying to write in the outdoors when it’s 9:30 p.m. and the other campers have turned in for the night.

I have tried to wave off the bugs, but in the stifling heat and humidity, I manage only to build up a sweat. And being a wearer of prescription glasses — as many of you fellow glass wearers can attest — all that does is provide a nice sweat ball that eventually drops off my forehead and runs down the middle of my lens. (Please excuse me while I find the towel and try to clear things up.)

My intent was to write this column much earlier in the day, but sitting in front of the keyboard quickly took a backseat when some of the other adult volunteers forced me to catch the shuttle that eventually would take us to the Temple of Sinawava at the extreme upper end of Zion Canyon, centerpiece for the national park of the same name. Though I have to admit that it didn’t take much arm twisting to get me out of camp, I was somewhat skeptical of what such an experience might be. To say that thoughts of having to take a shuttle to visit various locations in the canyon caused me great consternation is an understatement.

Shuttles are a sure indicator that yet another chunk of freedom associated with outdoor life in the desert Southwest has been sliced away and that our Western lifestyle quickly is changing.

Fast disappearing are the opportunities we have to wander aimlessly through our wild lands without having to stay within the lines, so to speak. Not to mention that shuttles remind me of what one might find at a place such as Disneyland — crowds and claustrophobia.

We caught the shuttle at the park visitor center and settled in for the 80-minute round trip up the canyon. The tram, which includes a tractor and a trailer, was nearly full but not to the point that I began to feel crowded.

A recorded narrative detailed the history of the canyon and was timed to provide information about specific locations and scenic vistas. While I found that enjoyable, I couldn’t help but think of the days when we could drive our cars to these locations.

Stops along the tram route include the Human History Museum, Court of the Patriarchs, the old Zion Lodge, Weeping Rock and the Temple of Sinawava.

It’s here at the Temple of Sinawava that hikers embark on the popular hike through an area called The Narrows. For much of this hike, one must walk through water and sometimes swim. Though I didn’t come to Zion to hike The Narrows, more than two dozen members of our group did.

My companions and I hiked the lower portion of the trail to the point where the water hike begins. Along the way were hundreds of people from all over the world. I was amazed at how many people had come to visit the canyon.

This created bumper-to-bumper traffic in both directions on the trail. It was beginning to feel a lot like Disneyland, so I twisted my companion’s arms and we hiked back to the tram. By the time we arrived back at the visitor center, the tram was standing-room only, and someone had been standing on my toes for the last half of the ride.

As we walked back to camp, I couldn’t help but imagine what our visit would have been like had everyone been allowed to drive his vehicle into the canyon. I guess there are places where shuttles aren’t so bad after all.

Freelance writer Doug Nielsen is a conservation educator for the Nevada Department of Wildlife. His “In the Outdoors” column, published Thursday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, is not affiliated with or endorsed by the NDOW. Any opinions he states in his column are his own. He can be reached at intheoutdoorslv@gmail.com.

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