Zion National Park

Zion National Park

Father and son hit the trail in Zion National Park, Utah

June 30, 2009, 7:19 am

Peering down a cliff face at the valley floor several hundred feet below, I faltered and gulped. My son, Ian, probably fortified by the sense of immortality that often infects young men in their late teens, scrambled up the narrow trail like a mountain goat.

We'd already sloshed and waded through two remarkable slot canyons in Zion National Park, and in a few days would be about 160 miles away at Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, squeezing through two more that were so narrow my relaxed-fit waistline threatened to block our progress.

This was our last father-son vacation before Ian left for college, and he was calling the shots. We'd pinballed from one remarkable location to the next, across four states. But exploring southern Utah's canyons and gulches, carved into fantastic shapes and textures by wind and water over many millennia, was the highlight.

That involved a lot of climbing and hiking and being a human pack mule -- payback, of sorts, for the many backpacking trips, euphemistically known by friends and family as "death marches," that Ian and his younger sister had endured throughout their childhood at my instigation.