Lees Ferry to Zion

I’m sitting here at Oscar’s café at the base of Zion National Park. Life seems to be highlighting the fact that I’m alone. Apparently I booked my hotel room with two queen beds instead of one. “Please confirm here that it’s just two people staying in your room,” said the hotel clerk. “It’s just gonna be me, I replied.”

Then I walked over to the café this morning for breakfast and asked the host if it would be quicker to dine in or order to-go. He said he had seating available and took me to a table. He grabbed two menus, two thingamajiggers of silverware, and sat me down. He looked at me and said, “oh is it just you?” Yes… yes it’s just me.

I don’t mind being alone. I set out on this adventure with the intent of doing it alone, but it does feel like the universe is throwing it in my face a bit. “DO YOU LIKE BEING ALONE, JASON!? DO YOU!?” said the universe.

“Um… I guess? Sometimes. I guess it would be nice to have someone with m-“

“No! You’re doing this alone!”

“Okay. Jesus, you don’t have to be a dick about it.”

I do really enjoy the freedom of traveling alone. I like getting up in the morning and not knowing what I’ll be doing. I like being on whatever schedule I choose, moving at whatever pace suits me. I like the space I have to think about each place I’ve been, to wonder about the world, uninterrupted. I like the challenge. I like knowing that I don’t have anyone else available to solve whatever problems I encounter. There’s nobody to fall back on. I have to figure it out, and I need that. I feel myself getting stronger and more capable with each challenge and each new journey. I know by the end of this I’m going to be a completely different person, capable of so much more than I was before.

This adventure was designed to be fun, but I’m also taking it to test myself. I know if I’m going to be a successful stand-up comedian, there’s going to be a lot of time spent alone on the road and I need to be comfortable with that. Like anything, the more you do it the better you get at it.

I’ve realized that four nights in a location is ideal. It’s enough time to not have to hurry and try and squeeze everything in, and not too long to where you get bored. I only have two days here in Zion, and I wish I had a couple more. The regular shuttle service isn’t running because of COVID, so it varies day-to-day on whether you can enter the park with your own car or not. Today there was no personal vehicles allowed into the park, and a shuttle was only provided on a first-come first-serve basis. I wasn’t down to risk it, especially considering I didn’t have a plan for where exactly in the park I even wanted to go.

“Walk around and figure it out,” is usually my plan. It’s gone well so far, and I like it that way. It’s fun to let the day dictate where I go. Yesterday was a great example of that strategy working out. I woke up in Page, Arizona and felt like writing, so I went to a scenic lookout that I found a couple days prior. I sat there for a few hours with my notebook, wrote some poetry and yesterday’s blog post and just enjoyed the scenery.

Then I started driving towards Lees Ferry. I made it fifteen or twenty miles before I saw what looked like an amazing view, and I was right. In addition to the view, there were five or six natives selling Navajo jewelry and pottery. I saw a three-piece set that I thought would look good on someone I love, so I bought that and a cool mini canoe with a dream catcher on it. A full size canoe would have been a tough fit in the Subaru Crosstrek.

I hopped back into my all-new Subaru Crosstrek with four-wheel suspension and headed on over to Lees Ferry. Just before I got there, I stopped at Navajo Bridge and sweet mother mary of melted mushrooms what a view. Check out this jazz, Captain Clapass.

Justin Bieber Leaving a Coffee Shop in West LA
Sandra Bullock’s Back Tattoo

After I resisted the urge to pee off the bridge, I found a real restroom and finally bought some sunscreen. I had forgotten to buy sunscreen multiple times and was pleased to see they had some at the Visitor’s Center. It wasn’t Banana Boat, but it smelled like Banana. I thought that was interesting.

There was almost nobody at Lees Ferry in contrast to Zion, which has the feel of a theme park as much as a national park. I felt at home in Lees Ferry. I went on what was probably the most interesting hike of my life, through a canyon, over and under rocks. I actually had to do some moderate rock climbing and I wasn’t sure if I was even going to be able to climb back up the way I came. It was a little scary by myself, I’m not gonna lie, but I got through it. That’s a hike where I really wished I had friends with me. It would have been so much more fun.

Once I made it back to the all-new Subaru Crosstrek, I drove over to a small beach on the Colorado River and texted on my phone like the white boy I am. The rest of the beach was mostly natives hanging out with their families and fishing, which was the right call. I wish I had some waiters and a rod with me. It would have been fun to walk out into the river and cast a line for an evening.

I was enjoying Lees Ferry so much that I didn’t leave until dusk, even though I had about three hours to my Hotel in Zion. This was phenomenal at first because I was able to catch the most epic sunset of my life, a sprawling span of beauty over the North Rim of the Grand Canyon that had to be seen to be believed. I saw it while driving and audibly began screaming “Scenic View! Show me… scenic view!” (There is occasionally a sign on the highway that says “scenic view,” where you can pull over and catch… you guessed it, a scenic view.”) Only minutes after chanting the magic words, there it was: “Scenic view, 1 mile.” By the smooth skin of Grady Sizemore, I couldn’t believe my eyes. This picture doesn’t do it any justice, because seeing the scope of it in person is what was so phenomenal. It was like you could see forever.

A sea turtle in its natural habitat.

I stood up on a rock and looked out over the canyon for a few minutes in the cold. I only had shorts and a shirt on and it was 40 degrees and absolutely dead silent. There weren’t even any cars passing by for minutes. It was spooky and beautiful at the same time. I’ll never forget it. The feelings of sheer joy and wonder combined with the haunting nature of the desert at nightfall were indescribably potent.

I still had a couple hours left to get to Zion and I’ll be honest, driving through the desert at night by yourself is an eerie feeling and probably not the best idea. And then the deer signs start to hit. Oh good God of Gertrude’s gall bladder the deer signs. Before the first deer sign, I saw the first deer. A big son of a bitch named Ted. Okay, I don’t know if his name was Ted but he was large and he was limping across the road and thankfully I was paying attention or he would have had a lot more to deal with than a limp.

It made me immediately sad and anxious. I knew I had to pay careful attention because the last thing you want is to be adjusting your seat heater and then have a deer fly through your windshield and take your head off. Eyes on the road, Pacino. Eyes on the road.

The first deer sign had flashing lights around it, so I knew they meant business. There were serious deer around these parts. Fine. Okay. I keep driving. A couple minutes later, I come across a dead creature in the middle of the road. I assume it’s a deer, but it is not. It’s a boar. A big fat ugly boar dead on the desert road. I saw it in plenty of time, thank the crusty cream puffs. The guy behind me did not. I hope he was getting road dome, not adjusting his cup holder, but I have no idea. He swerved at the last second and very narrowly avoided a major disaster. There’s a lot of ways to die in this world, but I can’t think of one much worse than running over a dead boar.

So I avoided deer # 1, and the dead boar. But there’s no time to relax, because here’s another deer sign. And I’ll be damned and turned into a slice of ham because sure enough, minutes later, deer # 2 makes his presence known. And this one was almost a major fucking disaster. I was paying full attention but I did not see this deer. There were two cars coming the other direction, the front one with his brights on, so I couldn’t see the right side of Satan’s balls if they slapped me in the face. It wasn’t until the car coming towards me reached about 20 feet away from me when the deer became illuminated in the road, turned its head at me, and I kid you not we made definitive eye contact as I audibly screamed “Oh fuck!” and swerved to the right a bit. I was certain the car coming the other direction was going to impale this thing all the way to Salt Lake City, but something in this deer’s brain clicked just in time to turn around and scamper off the road. I don’t know if my eyes were especially demonic or what, but that was not a normal deer maneuver and I have no idea why it didn’t try to commit suicide like a normal deer but sweet mother of sugary breakfast cereal am I glad it didn’t.

So, I survived deer # 1, a dead boar, and deer # 2. And then what do I see? A sign for buffalo! Oh finger my silk socket if I see a buffalo I’m gonna LOSE IT. I began yelling in my car: “I BETTER NOT SEE A FUCKING BUFFALO IN THE ROAD RIGHT NOW!” By the grace of Tina Fey’s Anus Cream, I somehow did not see a buffalo in the middle of the road that night. And somehow, I made it to my hotel alive. What a day.

Jason Brendel
Jason Brendel

Jason Brendel is an author, poet, and comedian living in Austin, Texas. Navigate the buttons below to follow him on social media, make a donation, or purchase his collection of laugh-out-loud poetry on Amazon.

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