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Posted By Nathan Athlete & Friend Jason Henrie
I scanned the spectacular landmarks of Zion National Park from my lofty perch a top Deer Trap Mountain. The famous sandstone cliffs of Three Patriarchs, Mountain of the Sun, The Great White Throne and Angels Landing among endless other towering walls of stone all came into view. I stood mesmerized by the endless complexity and beauty as folds upon folds of canyons and peaks rolled into the distant horizon in vibrant reds, whites, yellows, blues, blacks, and grays below a crystal clear blue sky. The 10 mile climb from the canyon floor to this remote overlook was well worth the grueling effort.
Over the years, I have visited Zion many times, even ticking off the 'bucket list' wilderness ultra run, The Zion Traverse (a.k.a. Trans-Zion) twice, which traverses 48 miles between the park's East Entrance to Kolob Canyon in the far northwest section of the park. Due to the spectacular views, runnable trails, hugely diverse landscape and amazing solitude, both of those trips were unbelievably satisfying adventures and will hold a place in my memories as some of the most enjoyable wilderness runs I have completed. Yet, this current run to the top of Deer Trap Mountain was my first trip back to Zion National Park as a father and although I have seen views like the one from atop Deer Trap many times before something was different, more meaningful.
While taking my time to soak in the beauty of one of the most beautiful places on Earth, I could not help but contemplate how the small crooked Virgin River, among countless smaller perennial and seasonal waterways, carved their way slowly but surely through the massive Colorado Plateau to create the this natural wonder. I thought about my new baby daughter and how she was, and is still being, formed by the miracle of nature just as this canyon is. I though of how I am a part of forming my daughters life and seeing how, from something small like the first trickles of the Virgin River over the Colorado Plateau, she will grow and change and carve her path to someday become an adult woman living a life of her own, becoming a natural wonder just as beautiful and complex as the current Zion Canyon. This thought gave me great happiness and I meditated on it for some time.
My meditation drew me toward thoughts of exploring the sights, sounds and smells of Zion for the first time with my child after this morning run. I couldn't wait for the experience. It was time to return to my family. I left Deer Trap Mountain and began my descent. I floated along the rolling plateau of dreamy single track past the equally impressive Cable Mountain viewpoint and then down the steep slickrock and sandy trails of the East Rim Trail through Echo Canyon, one of the few weaknesses in the formidable walls of Zion Canyon. My adventure would end at Weeping Rock on the Zion Canyon floor where the Park Shuttle bus would take me back to my family.
There has always been clear reasons I run in remote and wild places. I run to find my place in them. I run to experience the beauty, joy, inspiration, solitude and self reliance that can only be found deep in the wilderness....a better connection with who I am and my perceived limits. Now I can add another reason I run...for my daughter. To be an example for her. To show her that she is the natural world, just as all of us are, she can have an intimate and lasting connection with it and that it can teach her everything she need to know about life if she listens closely. Running is one way to connect with nature and a very intense one, but of course, there are many other paths. Running is the path I have chosen. One day, she may explore running in wild places as her path or choose a completely different path than I. Whatever her path, I will enjoy supporting her while she finds her way.
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