Monday, December 28, 2009

Greetings from behind the Zion Curtain! I ordered two large beers at a restaurant last night and all I got out of it was a series of trips to the men's room. It was a nice men's room. Tidy and fresh. They must give them extra attention here from all the extended use, since 3.2 percent is the maximum alcohol content legally allowed in the beer, if you didn't know. This amounts to little more than mugs of carbonated, hop-flavored water, so if you thought you were in a state of inebriation, you're not. You're in the state of Utah. (Unless you drink twice the beer at twice the speed. Enjoy the men's room!)

Zion! We're actually in Zion, too, which has always been just a few hours from my sister's place, though we've never made the trip to get the coveted Visitor's Center stamp. Aside from our church retreat, the Ditchmans didn't get a vacation last year, so this is it. Original plans were for Yosemite, which I thought would've been a pleasant, wintry way to ring in the new year, but it turns out the whole family was going to be in Vegas for the 2010 event, so how could we miss out on that? Anyway, we're making good use of that nether week of days between Christmas and New Year's by visiting Zion. Nothing happens in those few days anyway.

And room rates are cheap. "You've got the best room in the house," the perky lady at the front desk said when she handed me the key cards. This was a surprise, and words I've only heard once before at the El Tovar when I asked Mrs. Ditchman to marry me, bear me children, and then drag them to National Parks seven years hence in the middle of winter -all sickly and complaining. Yes, we were up all night from the cold, dry, coughing, (dammit.)

It's no El Tovar, but the place is clean. It's got a magnificent view of the edge of the park, and a nice little balcony for drinking it all in, if you can handle the Utah chill. The kids are making a mess of the place, which is one of the reasons we're not staying here, aside from the fact that we can't afford those things anymore. We love old, historic lodges (who doesn't?) so we'll be stopping in for a Near Beer later. In Zion, you get drunk on the view.

It's my first time here, and I didn't know what to expect, but it's all truly lovely -in that breathtaking, grandiose, National Parks sort of way. We went for a little family hike when we arrived yesterday and hoofed it up a snowy sandstone cliff for the promise of an unrivaled canyon view. The Little Digger was in the REI utility papoose, and the Little Ditchman cheerfully bounced astride us, though we were a mile high on a sandy, icy cliff face, with a single frozen steel rail the only thing that stood between us and a busy night for local mountain rescue teams. Then, since we didn't fall, night did -as we hadn't properly gauged the length and breadth of the hike. Happy tunes gave way to whiny complaints. Fingers and faces froze, and I thought, "Yeah. This is about right."

We made it back to the car. Easily found, as it was the only one left in the lot. And it wasn't completely dark yet. Never go camping with a Ditchman, that is, if you prefer the safe, unstoried, boring vacations of anal-retentive homebodies. We're not like that. We prefer impulsive jaunts, the thrill of danger, peril 'round every bend! Indiana Jones carries our bags!

But we're gonna take it nice and easy today.