The day began with the ever-dreaded 7:00 AM wakeup call. After the typical hour to prep for the day, we were set to hit the road at 8:00 for Zion National Park. However, a brief discussion about the civil unrest and violence in Dallas the previous night—as well as a minor obstacle in the bus getting stuck on a small hill—delayed our exit, meaning we actually pulled out of the parking lot at 8:24 after some quick heroics from Earle, our bus driver.
About 5 hours later, after a scenic drive through rural Utah and a viewing of the exposé film “Food Inc.”, we arrived at the beautiful Zion park. As a kid from the near-uniform suburbia that is Long Island, NY, I must say that the views from just about any point in the park were absolutely breathtaking, and something that few are lucky enough to see more than once in a lifetime.
When we got to the park, we double-checked that we had hats and plenty of water, and stepped onto the shuttle and waited for the last stop it made, the Temple of Sinawava, where we would hike a portion of the Virgin River appropriately titled “The Narrows”. Along this hike we made a couple of stops to connect the unique scenery to political topics, like water rights and nature conservation.
Our counselor Max gave a brief overview of the water crisis in the American Southwest and the growing problem of access to fresh water worldwide, which he led with an increasingly well known quote that says, “the next world war will not be over oil, but over water.” A few minutes of easy hiking later, we stopped again to discuss how America’s conservation and preservation policies and ideals came to be, including the efforts of President Theodore Roosevelt and the key roles of men like writers Henry David Thoreau and John Muir.
We continued along the path to our destination, a small wading area of the Virgin River.
Here, a few of us swam while others skipped rocks or just relaxed.
After spending time at Zion, we took a short bus ride to a local park, where we conducted a casual Reconstructionist Friday night Shabbat service. This included each member of the group sharing their views on spirituality and Judaism, which helped put perspective on how modern movements like Reconstructionist Judaism came to be.
While this was going on, Earle again worked his magic and grilled up some delicious burgers and hot dogs. After the meal, we all had time to unwind and relax at the park after a few rather intense days of travel and meetings. This was a much needed day of calmness and enjoyment.