Photocredit: John Marciano, Zion National Park
200 tons of rock.
400,000 pounds, or roughly 1150 Fat Elvis impersonators. Seriously fat Elvis impersonators. That is the estimated amount of rock that collapsed during a rockslide at Zion National Park this week covering Zion Canyon Scenic Road just past the Grotto and the Lodge. There were also slides that are currently blocking Lower Emerald Pools Trails and Sand Bench Trails.
According to reports in the St. George News the slide happened after 6:00 PM. 12 vehicles of people were trapped on the wrong side of the slide. All are accounted for and safe.
The news, and more so the photo of the slide gave me pause. I've been on that road. I've hiked the Lower Emerald Pools Trail. I've headed out towards Angel's Landing. Those rocks could have landed on me.
As campers, hikers and just generally being outdoors we see the signs: "Warning: Unstable Cliff" "Falling Rock Ahead" "Watch for Rattlesnakes," and dozens of others. In the U.S. we have signs and warnings for everything. Blame a litigious society. Blame Lawyers or a culture that encourages something for nothing if you want. The end result is that we see those warnings then forge ahead. And why not? Those signs aren't for me. They are for the tourists. The travelers with less than the normal amount of common-sense. Those that aren't prepared.
We've become immune to warnings because everything has a warning. I saw that rock slide and thought, "I could have been there." Despite the recent rain and snow, and just generally unpredictably and apocalyptic weather patterns I wouldn't have considered a wall at Zion could come down on me. Zion has been around longer than me or you. It is a site of incredible beauty and a reminder of how big our country is. Each time I am left awed by nature and by the audacity of Man in our attempts to tame it. That tunnel we built. Unbelievable.
The recent rockslide was a reminder for me that for all our efforts to tame it, nature still has a say in the outcome. The rocks of Zion don't care that we built a road or a hiking trail. If they want to fall or the heavens want to open we don't get to control that. All we can do is be prepared, be aware and be respectful of our environment.
That rock slide won't stop me from going out hiking this weekend. It won't prevent me from exploring a river or camping in the forest. It shouldn't stop you either. But before you blindly forge ahead take a moment to be aware. Aware of your surroundings, your impact on them and remember that places like Zion for all their beauty and unspoken elegance don't care if you're there to appreciate them or not.