Posted on July 09, 2011
Zion National Park


(Click to enlarge all images.)

By Matt Tonis

After a much needed sleep in an actual bed after our overnight drive to Salt Lake City, we started off for Zion National Park around 8:00 AM. Driving through the Salt Lake City area, I noticed both the metropolitan city, and the natural beauty of the surrounding mountains. These are not things that I am able to witness every day, being from a coastal town in Massachusetts, so this portion of driving through the western half of our country has been a treat for me. The scenery has varied in appearance, from wide open fields to mountain ranges, but have been just as entertaining to watch go by as we make our way across this great country. Being able to see a Karl Malone Toyota dealership and a mountain range in the same line of view is pretty cool to see civilization and nature coexisting without destruction.

On our way to lunch, we watched the movie “Food Inc.”, which details how the food we eat is created. Billy described it as, “one of the most influential movies to come out in the last two or three years,” and I can see why. The treatment of the animals that we eat is terrible and it is quite obvious why there are as many diseases and call-backs as there are. The message of the film is to get the American public to make better decisions in the food it creates and consumes. This can mean buying local ingredients or cutting back on the amount of meat you consume.

The beauty of the road continued all the way to the National Park. When we got there, all of us piled onto a tram which brought us to the last station on the route. The hike was tremendous with all of the rocks surrounding the walking path. There was also flowing water underneath us the entire time.

Along the way, Billy pulled us over to talk about water in America. When there is rain, it seeps through the rock and flows towards the bottom to the more dense rock. This is natures way of repairing itself. This segwayed into that the earth will always be able to repair itself, whether people are here for it or not remains to be seen. Billy also told us that experts say that the next major war will be fought over water, not oil. It is also said that, at the rate of use that is going on now, Las Vegas, since it is in a desert, will run out of water by the year 2019. That is a scary proposition seeing that we are in 2011 and that 2019 is within the foreseeable future (unless you believe the world  will end on December 21, 2012.) News to me during this discussion, however, is that the southern states are having a tougher time with water supply than the rest of the country. The US does take for granted how much of a water supply we have compared to other countries. We take for granted that we have running water coming out of our faucets everyday without fail.

Our hike continued down towards a beach-like area at the bottom of the canyon. Here, we hung out, took pictures, and some people went into the water. It was really cool to be playing around near the water at the bottom of a canyon in a national park. This experience is part of what makes this trip such a great experience. Not only do we go and meet with experts on social issues, but we also get to have experiences that we would must likely never otherwise have, like today or listening to your friends play in a blues club in Memphis.

We returned to the hotel and hung out for a little while, then went to the park in Hurricane, Utah. Here, Billy’s friend Scott told us about his life. He told us that “loneliness is necessary” and how everybody feels unloved and invisible sometimes. His talk was inspiring because as young people, most high schoolers feel that we are alone in the world at some points. He also talked to us about how he went from a high schooler who tried to please everyone to evolving into the person who he is today. This talk while sitting in the park represented our Reconstructionist service. Mordechai Kaplan, the leader of the Reconstructionist movement, said that we need to be able to find God in nature, each other, and ourselves. Sitting in the open air and listening to  Scott talk came together beautifully, in my opinion, in finding God.

After Scott spoke with us, we had a cookout in the park. The lightning in the distance made for beautiful light in the dark, Utah sky. I don’t think that will ever happen again for me, eating at a cookout during a lightning storm in Utah, and I’m glad I did it on this trip, with these people.